What is the #1 Vitamin you need to stay healthy and strong?
Did you know that a Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause: anemia, confusion, constipation, dementia, depression, fatigue, loss of appetite, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, poor memory, vertigo, weakness, weight loss, and soreness of the mouth or tongue?
With all of the problems a lack of Vitamin B12 can cause, is it any wonder why it is so important to make sure you get plenty of it?
Vitamin B12 is the largest and most complex of the vitamins. It is also, perhaps, the most misunderstood of all the vitamins.
Your body needs Vitamin B12, which is also known as cobalamin, for many vital bodily functions.
- It helps your body convert the food you eat into energy.
- It helps in supporting the health of your nervous system.
- It is needed for the formation and health of red blood cells.
- It is critical for the replication of DNA and RNA, allowing the generation of new, healthy cells.
- It helps to form a protective covering, called the myelin sheath, of all nerve cells in your body.
Where Does It Come From?
There seems to be a wide variety of opinions on where Vitamin B12 comes from.
One popular belief is that animals produce it. However, there is no real proof that animals can produce Vitamin B12. There is also no solid data showing that plants can produce it. Molds, seaweed, spirulina, and certain yeasts, can produce it, but the small amounts they produce have not been shown to have many benefits. Root nodules of certain legumes contain small quantities of Vitamin B12.
Only bacteria and archea have the enzymes required to make it in any substantial measurable quantity. This means that, other than supplementation, the only real way to get it is from foods that have been bacterially fermented or from the intestinal tract of animals if that animal has the bacteria present to make it.
Vitamin B12 has been found in the tissues of animals, but this does not mean that they make the vitamin or that it is naturally occurring in their tissues. Since it is only made by bacteria, the animals can only store it in their tissues if they get the vitamin from their gastrointestinal microflora or get it from their diets.
Animal products such as beef, poultry, and seafood are known sources of Vitamin B12, but if you are Vegan or Vegetarian, where can you get it?
Some Vegan/Vegetarian food sources of this vital nutrient include:
- Nutritional yeast fortified with it
- Blackstrap molasses
Small amounts can be found in potatoes and mushrooms.
Vitamin B12 is unlike other water-soluble vitamins in that your body has the ability to store it. Your body stores the vitamin mainly in your liver, but your body can also store it in your kidneys, heart, spleen, and brain. Your body can draw from those stores when your levels get low.
A Vitamin B12 deficiency can take several years to develop. When it does, it can be severe and even life threatening.
A deficiency usually results from a restricted diet or poor digestion. Some people will be able to correct a deficiency by simply changing their diets or taking a supplement.
There are times, though, that a deficiency can be caused by conditions other than diet. If your body cannot absorb it properly, you will need a doctor’s help to boost your Vitamin B12 to safe levels. You can describe your symptoms to your doctor, and this may help to diagnose low levels of Vitamin B12. However, the only real way to confirm a deficiency is through a blood test.
A Vitamin B12 deficiency is most common in the elderly, alcoholics, and individuals who consume caffeine, tobacco, and laxatives. It can affect those who take birth control pills or antibiotics, as well.
Vitamin B12 supplements are generally very effective for preventing deficiencies.
There are many types of Vitamin B12 supplements available:
- Sublingual (tablets you can place under your tongue)
- Foods, like coconut yogurt and coconut milk, fortified with it
- Pill or capsule form alone or included in a multivitamin
- Transdermal patch
- Oral spray
- Nasal spray
I like to eat coconut yogurt and drink unsweetened coconut milk and occasionally add nutrtional yeast to my recipes. However, I also like the oral spray from MyKind Organics, and I sometimes use the sublingual tablets.
Humans can tolerate large amounts of Vitamin B12, so an overdose is rare.
If you do take a Vitamin B12 supplement, there are a few things you should know:
- Vitamin C stops the absorption of Vitamin B12.
- Vitamin B12 can be enhanced by the other B Vitamins, calcium, cobalt, and potassium.
- Vitamin B12 can be enhanced by having ideal thyroid levels.
- Excess dietary protein increases the Vitamin B12 requirement.
A Vitamin B12 deficiency can be deadly or cause irreversible damage to your body. This makes it the most important vitamin you can consume. It is fairly easy to get as long as you eat the right foods or take a supplement. An overdose is rare, so don’t worry about getting too much.
Are you getting enough Vitamin B12? How to you get yours? Please share in the comments below.