Feeling Blue: Get Your Vitamin B-12 Levels Checked

Kara Bauer Health Guide
  • Most people these days don’t relate their mood or psychological health to their diet. However, as I’ve written about in previous postings, brain health can and is affected by what you put into your physical body on a daily basis.  It’s extremely important that you are getting enough of the vital nutrients your body needs to keep you healthy both physically and mentally. In particular, psychological problems such as depression are often treated with prescription drugs without looking into nutritional deficiencies that could be at the root cause. One such deficiency that I’d like to talk about in detail, based on my own experience and subsequently increased knowledge of, is Vitamin B-12.

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    As many who read my postings know, I am primarily vegan and at a higher risk for deficiency in B-12. However, because I live in Argentina where I can’t obtain good quality, absorbable supplement forms of B-12, I was not surprised to find out that I was deficient in this vital nutrient. In retrospect and since getting my B-12 levels back to normal through intramuscular injections, I realize that my energy and mood have improved dramatically and that the deficiency was likely contributing to an uncharacteristic “blue” state of being I noticed within myself over the past year. I also believe that it was impacting my ability to quickly heal from upper respiratory infections that I developed during the Argentinean winter months. Even as a health expert who knows better than to let something like this go unaddressed, I believe that our own experiences are our best lessons for sharing and educating others.


    One expert I turned to for my own education was David Rainoshek M.A., the author and co-author of several books including a webinar called B-12 Exposed[1], someone I believe has done some of the most comprehensive research on this topic. He shares with us that it doesn’t matter whether we are vegan or consume animal products on a regular basis; deficiency is a problem that is potentially impacting 80 to 90% of us without even knowing it. One of the first signs is usually low energy with accompanying signs of depression. However, he also informs us that low B-12 levels often coincide with low iron, hypothyroidism, low stomach acid and bloating, conditions that can and do lead to a number of serious health problems.


    Our primary sources for B-12 include animal foods, plant sources and probiotics in the human gut that naturally produce B-12. Even though those who eat animal foods have higher levels of B-12 then those who don’t, both groups have been shown to be deficient in research studies, due to improper absorption and assimilation. This could be due to a number of underlying health conditions, poor dietary habits, toxins, low stomach acid and age related assimilation difficulties.


    Additionally, plant food sources have been found to contain primarily a non-human analog form of B-12 that appears to block the absorption of the human active form that our bodies need. Until recently, there was no way to identify the concentration of active versus inactive forms in a blood serum test, but the new GOLD standard test which I’ll share with you in a minute, has successfully measured the active form of B-12 required for optimal health. In regards to probiotic sources in the human gut, naturally produced B-12 unfortunately does not get absorbed across the colon wall.


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    Considering that all sorts of neurological, psychiatric and hematologic symptoms may have B-12 deficiency as an underlying cause, you’ll want to make sure your B-12 levels are where they need to be and if not, choose a way to get them up to normal levels quickly. There are essentially three types of B-12 supplementation, methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin and cyanocobalamin, the first being the best and the last being the worst. Cyanocobalamin, the most common form found in oral supplements and prescribed by doctors in an injection form, has been shown to be ineffective for improving conditions related to B-12 deficiency. Methylcobalamin, the best form found in food has been shown to be effective with neurological diseases and the elimination of toxins in the body and is said to be the best choice, followed by hydroxocobalamin.


    If the only test available to you is the lead standard blood serum test, as is the case here in Argentina, B-12 levels should be above 450 pg/ml, some saying even higher. However, the more accurate test measures methylmalonic acid (MMA), also called the GOLD standard test, either through a urine or blood serum test. Urine levels should be .07 - .27 ųmole/L and blood levels .58 to 3.56 ųg MMA/mg creatinine.


    If you do find that you need to supplement, your best bet is to not rely on oral supplementation as your primary B-12 source.  Instead of or in addition to oral supplements of methylcobalamin, you can utilize a much more effective transdermal B-12 methylcobalamin patch or get intramuscular injections of either hydroxocobalamin or methylcobalamin. These two methods enter directly into your bloodstream and are the fastest way to increase B-12 in the body. The right combination and frequency of your supplementation protocol depends on your individual situation and level of deficiency.


    Again, whether you are a meat eater or vegan, you are at risk for B-12 deficiency so it’s important to consider this information carefully and take the right steps to ensure that your B-12 levels are optimal for life.


    [1] Juicefeasting.com (No date). B-12 exposed. Retrieved from http://www.juicefeasting.com/

Published On: October 10, 2012