Vitamin B12 is one of the essential nutrients that human requires to sustain normal function.
The only way that you can get the vitamin is through the diet. The body cannot synthesize vitamin B12 on its own so we have to get the vitamin from our diet. What’s important to understand is that the only valuable source of vitamin B12 is meat and animal products. So we may be busting a lot of vegetarian bubbles out there but without meat, you cannot really get adequate, bioavailable vitamin B12 in your diet thus suffers from vitamin B12 deficiency.
There are a number of different things that can cause vitamin B12 deficiency. One of the biggest factors is gluten sensitivity. One of the ways that gluten can impact or affect vitamin B 12 is through the stomach. Your stomach is lined with a type of cell called the parietal cells. The parietal cell’s job is to make acid and a chemical known as intrinsic factor.
What’s important to know is that when you eat meat to get your vitamin B12, the acid in your stomach that is produced breaks the vitamin B12 off of the meat. Once the vitamin is freed up, it binds to the intrinsic factor. The intrinsic factor then carries vitamin B12 down through your small intestines where it gets absorbed by the blood stream.
Causes of Vitamin B12 deficiency
If we do not have adequate acid or intrinsic factor, we actually can develop vitamin B12 deficiency, even when we are eating plenty of meat.
Parietal cells can actually be damaged by gluten. Once the parietal cells are affected, the acid levels can drop in the stomach and the intrinsic factor levels can also drop as well. When this happens, an autoimmune disease called pernicious anemia can result. Pernicious anemia happens when your immune system starts to attack the intrinsic factors. As gluten is highly related, or highly associated with induction of autoimmune disease, there is also a correlation where gluten can impact the immune system’s attack.
There are two mechanisms that gluten sensitivity can induce in terms of creating a vitamin B12 deficiency in the stomach alone. If we talk about the small intestine, those atrophies are associated with celiac disease that can also lead to mal-absorption of vitamin B12. There are really three mechanisms from an absorption standpoint that gluten can impact with vitamin B12 in both the stomach and small intestines. That is one mechanism of how vitamin B12 can become deficient.
One of the most common side effects of gluten sensitivity is heartburn. Sometimes, when someone develops heartburn, they go see their doctor who prescribes them a heartburn medication that reduces acid. When acid is reduce in the stomach, as stated above the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 gets also reduced. Medications such as Rolaids, Tums, or other over-the-counter antacid medications, can also contribute to vitamin B12 deficiency. We have to be really careful. If you have heartburn, instead of just accepting it and saying that you need to take medications, you may want to ask yourself why the heartburn is there in the first place. There are a number of reasons why that can happen. The things to investigate are infections, food allergies, and food intolerances. You may want to rule those out instead of going out to buy an antacid as this can impact the acid level in your stomach which can subsequently impact vitamin B12.
Chemo Treatments for cancer
If you are undergoing chemo or cancer therapy, one of the primary nutrients you want to make sure that you are getting and high enough doses of is vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 has a very important function as it relates to cancer. One of the things that happen with chemotherapy are the stomach and the intestines becomes very irritated and very upset. Basically, the lining erodes away because of the mechanisms of chemo medication and that it actually inhibits vitamin B12 and folic acid. With chemo patients, one of the things that’s very safe to do and will not interfere with the medication is to take high doses of vitamin B12.
There are other factors that cause vitamin B12 deficiency such as high levels of sugar in the diet, eating foods that are hard to digest, and pancreatic insufficiencies amongst other components that can cause vitamin B12 deficiencies.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency symptoms
When looking at vitamin B12 deficiencies and the symptoms that can come out of it, one of the main symptoms is depression. A person will tend to feel lethargic; will have brain fog, depressed, lack of energy, and lack of motivation.
Another symptom that can occur is neuropathy. Neuropathy is nerve damage and vitamin B12 deficiency can cause that. If you suspect that you are vitaminB12 deficient, have your doctor run a vibration sensation test on you. It is a little vibration fork that he can put on your toes to detect early loss of vibration sensation. That is one of the first neuropathic sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Another symptom is anemia. When people think of anemia, most often they think of iron deficiency. Well vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause anemia. There are three types of anemia that B12 can cause: low white blood cells, low red blood cells, and low levels of platelets. These are all just different types of anemia.
If there is a low level of white blood cells in the body, then the immune function becomes suppressed.
If there is a low level of red blood cells in the body, then adequate oxygen doesn’t get delivered to the brain or muscle tissues. This type of anemia can cause mental lethargy and mental or brain fog as well as muscle pain or spasms.
If there is a low level of platelets in the body, that can be quite a clinical dangerous situation. Platelets are responsible for clotting your blood so if you are not producing adequate amount of platelets, you can get a cut and bleed profusely because your body is not making enough platelets to stop the bleeding. That can be quite a dangerous situation.
It is very important to understand that if you are having any of these symptoms associated with any of these conditions, to ask your doctor to look at whether you are deficient in vitamin B12. There are a few tests that your doctor can perform on you to determine your vitamin B12 levels. Methyl/Malomic acid and Homocysteine is two tests that can measure whether you are deficient of the vitamin.
If you are vitamin B12 deficient, one simple solution is to eat more meat, eggs, poultry, milk, and cheese. You can also take vitamin B12 supplements, or cereals fortified with vitamin B12 if you don’t eat meat.