Are you curious about your vitamin B12 status? Learn why you may have a deficiency, how to evaluate it, and why vitamin B12 is so important in your body.
Vitamin B12, i.e., cobalamin, is essential in nutrient metabolism and energy production. If you are somebody that’s experiencing mood issues or chronic fatigue, this is something you absolutely want to evaluate.
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Why is vitamin b12 important?
B12 is essential for metabolizing homocysteine (an amino acid), DNA synthesis, and preventing anemia. Without enough red blood cells, you don’t have enough oxygen and so what can happen is your heart rate may increase, you can have neurological symptoms, you can have chronic fatigue, and have trouble walking.
Understanding the digestion of B12 is very important because that can be one of the drivers of vitamin B12 deficiency.
First, we want to understand that when we’re breaking down foods that contain B12, such as meats or higher protein foods, that digestion begins in the stomach—we have hydrochloric acid and pepsin to help break down vitamin B12. Then that moves into the small intestine, and it will bind to an intrinsic factor, which is a glycoprotein. As that continues to move down into the intestine, where we have the absorption of our vitamin B12.
You can appreciate that if you have any kind of maldigestion, perhaps low stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes, or you have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), or leaky gut, they all can impair digestion and absorption of B12.
It can be difficult to diagnose a B12 deficiency, so it is very important to look at a lot of different factors. We can’t simply look at serum B12 alone because, unfortunately, that will not be the best marker. We have to actually assess homocysteine and, ideally, methylmalonic acid, as well, when we’re looking for B12 status.
If either one of those is elevated and you see a low vitamin B12 status, then it will be more indicative of a deficiency. When we’re looking for a general range of the serum value, we’re looking for around 800, but again we want to ensure that we’re looking at a full picture, not simply the serum value. You also want to look for other signs, such as anemia, paleness, shortness of breath, and other factors indicative of a potential deficiency.
It’s important, as always, to look at the full clinical picture; you want to match your testing with how you’re your symptoms. Make sure that you have a qualified professional to be able to help you navigate that process and to be able to make sure that you’re making the best decisions for your own health.
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