Archive for August, 2010

B12 Deficiency Can Be Subtle, And Devastating

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

My last post discussed how intrinsic factor affects B12 absorption. This was an important discussion because many people believe they are getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet if they have not been diagnosed with pernicious anemia. The truth is that unless they have developed anemia, most people haven’t even thought about B12.

You need to know that problems associated with a B12 deficiency may occur long before a diagnosable case of pernicious anemia occurs. Pernicious anemia does not just affect the blood. The gastrointestinal tract and the peripheral and central nervous systems are affected as well. The first indications of anemia are a sore tongue and numbness and/or tingling or burning sensation in the hands or feet. Sufferers tend to be pale and white-lipped. A variety of abdominal difficulties include: gas, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, pain, and poor appetite.

Other signs include ringing in the ears, spots before the eyes, chronic fatigue, drowsiness, and irritability.  Vital organs become starved for oxygen because not enough red blood cells are being formed. The liver and spleen often become enlarged, and neurological damage increases as the disease progresses.  Severe anemia may lead to heart failure.

Next time, we will discuss psychiatric abnormalities associated with B12 deficiency.

What Does Intrinsic Factor Have to Do With B12?

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

When we talk about B12, we need to discuss “intrinsic factor.”

Several causes may lead to a B12 deficiency, but the usual reason one develops pernicious anemia is the inability to absorb the vitamin. The natural means of obtaining vitamin B12 is by way of the foods we eat, but B12 is not found in plants. You must eat protein foods such as liver, whole milk, eggs, oysters, pork or chicken, and its complex structure makes it much more difficult to absorb in comparison to other nutrients. In addition, the stomach secretes a substance known as “intrinsic factor” which binds to the B12 allowing it to be absorbed through the intestinal walls.


 An absence of vitamin B12 in the diet is seldom the cause of a vitamin B12 deficiency. It is much more common to find deficiencies in individuals who fail to absorb the vitamin from the intestine. This failure to absorb the vitamin results in pernicious anemia. The gastric parietal cells are responsible for the synthesis of a glycoprotein (a combination of carbohydrate and protein), called the “intrinsic factor”. When these cells are destroyed, the intrinsic factor is no longer produced and absorption of vitamin B12 is no longer possible.  Furthermore, as we reach the age of 50 and beyond, the stomach begins to produce less hydrochloric acid as well as less “intrinsic factor.” This is the condition that causes the elderly to have the inability to completely break down the protein in their diet, thus they are unable to free the protein-bound B12. This in turn creates the B12 deficiency.


 If an individual is missing or under producing “intrinsic factor,” it is not possible to absorb B12 regardless of how much one eats. The availability of “intrinsic factor” can also be affected by any type of stomach surgery, iron deficiency, pregnancy, aging, and intestinal disorders (like Crohn’s disease). Because of all these factors, many more people than generally recognized suffer from some level of B12 deficiency. 


 The “good news” to this is that when taking a sublingual B12 supplement, it does not matter whether or not you have any “intrinsic factor”, or even Crohn’s disease for that matter. The B12 will be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, thus by-passing any dependency on stomach hydrochloric acid or the production of the “intrinsic factor”.


 Next time, we’ll discuss how devastating a B12 deficiency can be.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency And Why Sublingual B12 Is So Important

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

I’m sometimes asked if vitamin B12 is really that important and if there is any difference between sublingual B12 and a regular B12 supplement. So, in the next few posts, we’ll look into these questions.


Not too long ago in the United States, a diagnosis of pernicious anemia was like a death sentence. Now, picture this, the first therapy for pernicious anemia was the eating of repulsive amounts of raw liver! Patients had to eat a half pound or more per day just to continue living. The thought of that makes me gag!  Fortunately, that is no longer required because in 1947 vitamin B12 was isolated from liver and found to be the factor that alleviated pernicious anemia.


The discovery of vitamin B12 led to the knowledge of both the cause of and the cure for pernicious anemia. This form of anemia develops due to a shortage or lack of B12 in the body. It will cause damage to both the blood-forming process and the nervous system.  As a result of the B12 deficiency, the bone marrow produces abnormally large red blood cells. The life span of these affected blood cells is only one-half that of normal cells.


 The bone marrow turns red and jelly-like. This results in a decrease of both the red and white blood cell count. The normal count for red blood cells is 5,000,000.  One suffering from pernicious anemia may experience a red blood cell count of only 1,000.  The white blood cell count may fall to 3,000 as compared to a normal range of 5,000 to 10,000.  Blood cells suffer from both arrested development and rapid destruction. These two factors prevent many blood cells from ever reaching the bloodstream.  Harm to the nervous system can range from a tingling sensation in the fingers to permanent impairment to the nerves; 40 to 95 percent of pernicious anemia victims suffer some degree of neurological damage.


Next time, we will look into “intrinsic factor”, another significant factor involved with B12 anemia.