I feel like a parent who has a favourite child. It’s not always the same vitamin... sometimes it’s magnesium, vitamin D can be pretty special too, and who can forget the amazing antioxidant and healing properties of vitamin C. But right now, vitamin B12 is jumping to the forefront because it is so important to healthy body function. Yet not all B12 is created equal. Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding if B12 is right for you:
Who needs it? Some people who are at the greatest risk of deficiency are vegetarians, take heart burn medications such as Nexium and Zantac, take Metformin to regulate their blood sugars, have had weight loss surgery or anyone who is having trouble with their digestive systems.
Deficiency can appear in the body in many different ways. It may be issues with your nerves. Feelings of pins and needles, numbness, or shooting pain may appear because it helps to form the myelin sheath which is the protective covering of the nerve. A general feeling of low energy can also indicate low B12 because it is vital in forming red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to tissues and B vitamins are essential to the mitochondria- the energy epicentres of each and every one of our cells. Low levels of B12 are also associated with depression, foggy brain and anxiety.
The three most common types of B12 are cyanocobalamin (the cheapest and most commonly found over the counter), hydroxocobalamin, and methylcobalamin. The active form of B12 is methylcobalamin so it is the most absorbable. Cyanocobalamin, on the other hand has to undergo two conversions to become methylcobalamin, so it isn’t as effective.
There are several ways that you can increase your B12 levels. First of all, by food. Eggs, milk, cheese, other milk products, meat, fish, shellfish and poultry are the best sources. The only significant vegan source of B12 is nutritional yeast. As far as supplementation goes, you can take it by mouth, injection, or by IV. By mouth is the cheapest and the easiest, but takes the longest to see results and if you have digestive issues, you may not be absorbing it. Injections go into the muscle and the results are quicker, plus it avoids any digestive issues. IV is only recommended if you have other nutritional deficiencies and can benefit from a combo of vitamins which makes it the most expensive.
Best of all it is a relatively safe vitamin. It is water soluble so most of the time, if you have too much you will pee it out. Just a warning, because it is low toxicity, it doesn’t mean that you can not take too much. The safest way to take any supplements is always through a healthcare practitioner so that you can monitor your symptoms and your blood work.