Vitamin B12 can be stored in the body because it is water soluble. Every expectant mother would do well to provide her liver with good reserves of this essential nutrient, since pregnancy makes unusual demands on those stores. A woman has two strikes against her in regard to B12 reserves if she has been on the Pill. A research team from Ohio State University College of Medicine found that healthy women who were taking contraceptives experienced a rapid fall in serum B12 values by an average of 40 percent lower than the control group who had not taken contraceptives. The stress of pregnancy on the top of this reduction caused by the Pill can put both mother and the baby in risk as far as B12 reserves are concerned, unless the mother takes more of this vitamin than many prenatal vitamin supplements provide.
Next time we will discuss the special need of vitamin B12 for vegetarians.
A review in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition supports the conclusion that B12 exerts a “growth-promoting” effect when given as a dietary supplement to children suffering from growth failure. With the increase in growth came other signs of improved health. Classroom teachers became aware that some of their pupils were improving in behavior, attitude, and school work. At the same time, they displayed less tension and fatigue, greater interest and concentration , and demonstrated better all-around progress. Parents, also, concurred in these findings. After administering vitamin B12, the children showed a change in growth rate and had more physical energy . They were more alert, better behaved, and their appetites improved notably .
Next time, we’ll discuss pregnancy’s affect on B12 demand.
Pernicious anemia is a serious condition, but it may not be the most momentous problem created by a B12 deficiency. Odel Abramsky, M.D. wrote in the “Journal of the American Geriatrics Society” that from his case studies he concluded the results from a B12 deficiency can be devastating – and irreversible. Dr. Abramsky concluded his article by stating that “mental or psychiatric manifestations such as mental apathy, fluctuations in mood, memory disturbance, paranoia, or frank psychosis may more often precede the blood changes (of anemia) by a number of years”.
The New York Herald Tribune newspaper quoted the highly respected hematologist, Victor Herbert, M.D. of New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. He attributed the blame for many patients being committed to mental hospitals to brain damage that resulted from a lack of B12. The British Medical Journal editorial staff dramatically stated, “It is true that vitamin B12 deficiency may cause severe psychotic symptoms which may vary in severity from mild disorders of mood, mental slowness, and memory defect to severe psychotic symptoms – Occasionally, these mental disturbances may be the first manifestations of B12 deficiency”. Do you possibly have friends and acquaintances who have been similarly misdiagnosed on account of a lack of understanding of the devastation a B12 deficiency can create?
Adverse changes can occur in the nervous system due to a B12 deficiency. Changes can include such problems as soreness and weakness of the limbs, diminished reflexes and sensory perception, poor body temperature regulation, walking difficulties, stammering and tremors, depression, paranoia, listlessness, an acute state of confusion, hallucinations, delusions, insomnia, anxiety, psychosis, lack of mental alertness, mania, panic attacks, personality change and suicide.
A B12 deficiency is something even a doctor might not think of looking for, or not find even if he did look. He could easily check the patient’s blood, find the blood levels of B12 relatively normal and presume there is no sign of anemia, and misdiagnose the problem. An early diagnosis of a B12 deficiency might not occur because the relationship of vitamin blood levels to the symptoms the patient is experiencing is not grasped . This is a serious matter, because the end result of untreated cerebral or spinal lesions created by B12 deficiency may be severe dementia and paraplegia. These may be irreversible when treatment is delayed by failure in diagnosis.
Next time, we will discuss vitamin B12 as a growth and ADHD factor and patient’s response to sublingual B12.
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.
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.