B12, or to give it its full name Cobalamin, is a water-soluble B-vitamin that plays a vital role in various areas of our health and wellbeing. It is primarily found in products including lean beef, fatty fish, dairy, eggs and fortified foods meaning that we can get a steady supply of it, provided that we eat the right foods.
B12, like most vitamins, plays a vital role in our health. Some of the main ways in which our body uses B12 include supporting red blood cell distribution, cognitive function, and neurological and cardiovascular health. While the vast majority of people absorb enough B12 through their regular, balanced diet, there are some patients for whom this is much more difficult. This includes the following patient groups:
- Those who follow a strictly vegan diet
- Those over the age of 50
- Those who take certain medications that are known to inhibit the absorption of B12
- Those who have an autoimmune disorder
- Those who have gastrointestinal disorders
- Those who have issues with stomach ulcers, atrophic gastritis, and other similar health problems
Whether you fall into any of the categories above or not, there are certain signs to be aware of that could mean that you are suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency. These include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Changes in your vision
- Problems maintaining your balance
- Frequent headaches
- Cognitive issues, particularly those affecting memory
If you experience any of these, it is important that you get your B12 levels checked as you may benefit from B12 therapies which include those we have listed below.
Vitamin B12 injections, also called shots, are one of the most common and effective ways to treat a deficiency. They contain high levels of a man-made version of B12 called cyanocobalamin. The injections are only available on prescription and are usually administered by your provider, directly into the muscle. In some instances, it may be possible to self-administer these shots.
One of the biggest benefits of receiving B12 in this way is that it enables your natural levels of B12 to be boosted very quickly and you know exactly how much your body has received. It is also particularly valuable for patients who may have issues with their digestive system that may make other forms of increasing their B12 levels, such as pills and food, less effective. This includes patients who have problems related to the ileum which is the final section of the small intestine, such as Crohn’s disease.
Additional B12 is also available as an orally-swallowed supplement. These pass into the digestive system in the same way as food and are broken down to release the additional vitamin. Although some multivitamins contain B12, there is rarely enough to restore the body’s B12 levels. Instead, experts recommend that you take specific B12 pills which contain around 1,000 micrograms of B12 each day, as opposed to the approximate 250mg in regular supplements.
Orally-swallowed B12 tablets are just as effective as injections in the vast majority of patients, except those with digestive issues that may hamper absorption. However, the rate at which the B12 is released can be a little slower meaning that if you need B12 quickly, injections will be the better option.
Of course, there is no need to take any artificial supplement if you can get a sufficient amount of B12 through your diet. As we know, B12 can be found in a variety of different animal-based products including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy products. If you are not a vegetarian or vegan, it may be fairly simple to naturally boost your B12 levels by changing your diet to include as many of these products as possible. However, it isn’t possible to know exactly how much B12 you are receiving this way. The increase in your B12 levels will also be fairly slow, meaning that it isn’t a great option for those patients who need to see them boosted fairly quickly.
If you think that you may be suffering from low B12 levels and would benefit from supplements, or if you have further questions about B12, please don’t hesitate to contact our knowledgeable team.