Vitamin B12 Brain: Is it a deficiency or an absorption problem?

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There are many health problems that are linked to Vitamin B12 levels but most doctors assume that it’s a matter of deficiency. In reality, at least in North America, it is much more likely an issue with absorption. It’s thought that about 30% of people over-60 are affected by low B12 levels (aka hypo-cobalaminemia).
B12 is vital for proper brain and nerve health and so it’s linked to many brain and energy maladies like memory loss, anemia, cardiovascular disease and numbness, tingling, depression and loss of cognition that can be the beginnings of dementia.
Years ago it was believed that B12 deficiency was due to dietary intake because of the predictable deficiencies that can occur with vegetarian/vegan diets and the problems in developing countries. While it is true that this presents a problem, we find that even people with adequate meat in the diet are prone to this condition.

Contrary to popular belief, not only strict vegetarians (vegans) are at high risk of vitamin B-12 deficiencyAm J Clin Nutr February 2009 vol. 89 no. 2 693S-696S

Since dietary intake is usually adequate, that leaves poor absorption as the major reason for B12 deficiency. This is by far the most common reason for low B12 and the subsequent declining brain dysfunction and anemia.

Stomach Acid and Vitamin B12

Absorption of B12 occurs in the intestines but must have a healthy stomach that produces stomach acid and intrinsic factor to make this happen. Unfortunately, stomach acid declines with age which affects the level of intrinsic factor and B12 levels begin to plummet. This can be helped and actually reversed with supplemental hydrochloric acid (HCL).

Intrinsic factor can also be lowered with condition called Pernicious Anemia resulting fatigue, lethargy and weakness. This is an auto-immune condition where the body attacks the cells that make intrinsic factor. In this case, treatment must include the immune system as well as the low levels of hydrochloric acid.

How about Inflammation?

There are other reasons for decreased B12 absorption, like bacterial overgrowth, intestinal inflammation and gluten sensitivity. Inflammation can make it difficult for micronutrients like B12 to pass through an inflamed and damaged gut lining into the bloodstream.

These conditions can be treated successfully by testing for the cause of the inflammation and then treating with proper gut repair and restoration.

Should I Take Extra B12?

B12 has low toxicity but it’s not wise to take B12 without testing to see if you are deficient. You should also work with a qualified health care practitioner to determine the correct dose. The best and most absorbable form of B12 is called methyl 12 or methylcobalamin. This form is more active neurologically to help the brain, and helps in the liver detoxification process reducing inflammation.

B12 isn’t something that we can ignore. Studies show less brain shrinkage and cognitive decline when B12 is at high levels. So, make sure that you know your B12 levels and find a doctor that can help you with the possible causes of low B12.

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