Vitamin B12, officially called Cobalamin, is the collective name for several vitamins which exist in various natural and synthetic forms.
It is the only water-soluble vitamin that the body can store and it normally keeps a small supply in the liver. That’s why, if you run out you don’t notice it immediately while the body uses up any it has stored in the liver. B12 can also be produced by some intestinal bacteria provided they have not been disturbed for one reason or another.
The indispensable Intrinsic Factor
When you consume vitamin B12, it is in a form which is bound to a protein. In the stomach, the stomach acid separates this protein from the vitamin B12. At the end of the small intestine, it recombines B12 with a different protein called Intrinsic Factor. Intrinsic factor enables the B12 to be absorbed by the body. However, it is very delicate and many people therefore have a deficiency, especially when they consume a lot of coffee, alcohol and food additives.
Estimates by natural practitioners see the deficiency as prominent as affecting half the population. This is difficult to demonstrate with a blood test because the established medical standards for B12 in the blood are too low. As a result, doctors do not detect a relatively low level of B12, even though it can already be low enough to have major consequences for the body. Because the production and absorption of vitamin B12 is a delicate matter, it can be disturbed by many factors and it is not inconceivable that one or more of those factors could be present in a large part of the population. That’s why it’s a good idea to take B12 supplements.
Problems caused by a shortage of B12
A shortage of B12 can lead to anemia. It can also adversely affect the nervous system and cause complaints such as depression, worry, apathy and a general feeling of malaise as well as tingling in the hands and feet and muscle weakness.
There are further complaints which are not often directly associated with a B12 shortage. These can include muscle pain and loss of strength, glossitis (inflamed tongue), burning, painful or irritating tongue, sensitive mouth, tiredness, drowsiness, weakness, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, menstrual complaints, such as no menstruation, heavy periods, menstrual periods that are too long, aggravated menstrual pain, joint complaints, shortness of breath, chest tightness, palpitations, dizziness, paleness of the skin, feeling cold, impotence, infertility, hair loss, visual field changes, blurred vision, intestinal complaints, incontinence and / or frequent urination, headache, abnormal reflexes, muscle cramps and ringing in the ears.
What does vitamin B12 do for the body?
As you can infer from the above list of complaints, we need vitamin B12 for a large number of our bodily processes. It is required for the proper functioning of the nervous system, the production of red blood cells and DNA, the proper functioning of our energy system and keeping eyesight, skin, hair and nails healthy. We also need it to maintain a good mental outlook.
Vegetarian or vegan food
Vegetarian and vegan diets do not naturally contain vitamin B12. There are also people with specific genetic abnormalities who can’t easily convert B12 into a form which the tissues can use. In such cases, it is imperative that enough of the correct form of B12 reaches the body on a daily basis by using the right supplement.
Choosing a B12 supplement
Methylcobalamin and Adenosylcobalamin are two active forms of B12 and are more effective than the inactive forms Cyanocobalamin and Hydroxocobalamin. However, because the inactive forms are cheaper to produce they are more often found on the market. Pay close attention, therefore, to the ingredients on the label of your supplement.
Even with the active form of the B12, there is still a chance of not absorbing it properly because of the lack or reduction of the intrinsic factor, as mentioned earlier.
Bypassing Intrinsic Factor with Liposomal B12
Liposomal supplements pack the B12 in a kind of fat globule, ensuring that the B12 is absorbed much more smoothly. This actually bypasses the need for Intrinsic Factor. Moreover, liposomal supplements in general are characterized by a high degree of absorption in the body’s cells, so that high doses are no longer needed.