Hi guys! ♥
Since I’m really interested in nutrition and how it affects the human body I thought it would be a good idea to share some posts once in a while when it comes to health and nutrition.
Ofcourse I am starting with the well known.. vitamin B12!
A small, but very important vitamin for our well-being and survival.
There are lots of misconceptions when it comes to how we, humans, get our B12 in.
If you think you have to be vegan to worry about it, sorry to say it, but that’s not true.
There’s a lot more to it then just not getting in enough B12..
Sorry if all the information in this post is overwhelming, but it’s not a shallow topic!
I came across complex information and words, but I tried to put it as accessible and clear as possible for all of you.
First I want to debunk 1 myth:
We get told that B12 comes from animal products when in fact B12 is solely bacteria-based.
It is true that B12 is found in animal products, but hear me out..
B12 is created by bacteria found in soil and dirt!
For over thousands of years humans got in their B12 by eating plants with bits of soil on them.
Now a days we wash our veggies so well (understandable with all the pesticides used) that we no longer consume dirt with B12 in it.
That’s why taking a B12 supplement is a no-brainer for me.
Now you might think: doesn’t that make veganism unnatural? You have to take a supplement to get in your B12.
Whether you get your B12 from supplements or animal products, it’s all a supplement anyway.
Animal flesh (and animal secretions) have B12 in them, because it is created in their gut after eating plants with soil on them.
The soil is (supposed to be) rich in B12.
So when you eat animal flesh or animal secretion you are getting in the B12 produced in their body’s, but also everything else stored inside of it (antibiotics, hormones, cholesterol, ‘bad’ fats, toxins).
BUT.. today’s meat industry has animals locked up(even some which are labeled ‘free-range’, ‘grass fed’,’organic’) which means they are not getting in any natural B12. They are fed mixtures of corn, soy, hormones and what not which contain no natural B12.
These animals need B12 to survive like we do. The B12 ends up in their milk, eggs and flesh.
Wouldn’t it be easier for all of us to just take a supplement? The B12 is easily produced through bacteria fermentation.
When I was about 16/17 years old they found out I was B12 deficient.
The first questions the doctor asked me where: Are you eating enough meat? Eating enough overall?
Yes I was eating more than enough meat, more than once a day.
What they told me was that my stomach didn’t have enough intrinsic factor which is necessary in the absorption process of this vitamin. So that meant that eating lots of B12 ‘rich’ food wouldn’t help’my situation’ at all.
I needed injections. It was the only solution according to the doctor.
After a while I didn’t want the injections anymore, because god knows what more is in that pink fluid..
I did some research and found sublingual tablets. The idea is that you put the tablet under your tongue, let it ‘melt’ and it gets absorbed into the bloodstream!
I’m still taking those exact tablets. They are vegan, easy, tasty and pink.
I understand if this story doesn’t really make sense, especially about the intrinsic factor.
That’s why I will be covering everything about it in this post! Using easy language instead of the ‘medical’ words and what not 😉
I will explain what B12 is, what it does, the absorption process, symptoms of deficiency and which other factors are highly important in the whole absorption process
What is B12 exactly and what does it do in your body?
B12 is also called Cobalamin and it is one of the 8 B-vitamins.
All B-vitamins help the body to convert ‘food’ into fuel! (carbohydrates into glucose)
B-vitamins also help the body to use fats and protein and they help our nervous system to function properly.
They are needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes and liver.
Especially B12 is important for maintaining healthy nerve cells and it helps in the production of DNA and RNA(our body’s genetic material).
B12 works together with B9(folate/folic acid) to help make your red blood cells and to help iron work better in your body.
What’s intrinsic factor?
Intrinsic factor is a protein that helps your intestines absorb vitamin B12.
It is made by cells in the stomach lining and it helps with the absorption later on in the small intestine.
But for this to happen the B12 needs protection for the acidic environment in your stomach!
B12 is very acid sensitive so without protection it will get destroyed before even entering your intestines, where the absorption happens. Transcobalamin-1 is another protein made by the lining in your stomach and it binds to the B12 giving it a safe passage through the stomach.
What might cause B12 deficiency?
Well, there are many things playing together in the whole process so there are several causes to take in consideration.
-An auto-immune disease called Addison-Biermer where the antibody’s in your own body turn against the intrinsic factor or the cells in your stomach lining. This leads to insufficient capacity to create intrinsic factor, which leads to malabsorption of B12.
–Inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract also leads to intrinsic factor deficiency.
-When you have a condition that affects the way your body digests food, for example: crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth or a parasite.
-You’ve had surgery where a part of the stomach or the last part of your intestine has been removed.
-When you don’t have ANY condition what might cause B12 deficiency you’ll have to look at your diet.
-Certain medication you might be taking, like metformin.
-Alcoholism might play a part in the deficiency.
What happens when you’re B12 deficient?
Since B12 is important for maintaining healthy nerve cells AND helps with the production of red blood cells and also helps iron work better in your body, you might (this is different for everyone and it depends on how bad the deficiency is!) experience some ‘nasty’ symptoms..
-Pernicious anemia (which causes tiredness, breathelessness, headaches, pale skin, loss of appetite and weightloss)
-Gastrointestinal problems like: mild diarrhea or constipation, loss of bladder or bowel control
-Neurological symptoms: changes in the way that you walk and move around (less balanced), memory problems, disturbed vision, depression and much more. Even dementia when the deficiency is really bad over a longer period of time.
-A pale yellow tinge to your skin
-Decrease in fertility
The symptoms I experienced were a yellow skin, disturbed vision(Still have to live with this), changes in the way I walked, hair loss, memory problems, tiredness, headaches, depression.. maybe more, but it’s hard to exactly know what was causes by the deficiency.
How do I meet the daily requirement?
While B12 is found in some fantastic plant foods, it’s not recommended to solely depend on this since your body only absorbs 50% of the B12. AND it has to go through the stomach and intestines, where intrinsic factor and transcobalamin come to play.
B12 is found in products like tempeh, nori, spirulina, barley grass, kombucha and nutritional yeast.
Also most plant milks and fake ‘meats’ are fortified with B12.
The daily requirement of B12 depends on your age and body size(has to do with the amount of red blood cells being produced).
Adults, male and female, require 2.4 mcg of B12 daily.
For pregnant women this increases to 2.6 mcg and for lactating women even higher; 2.6 mcg. Since B12 is excreted into milk!
The body can store B12 for years in the liver so that means you don’t have to take an exact amount of B12 daily.
The sublingual tablet I take is 1000 mcg and I have it once or twice a week.
A few months ago I had my blood tested and the amount of B12 in my blood was too high(I was taking those tablets daily..oops!), so I stopped taking them for a little while until I felt I needed to up my intake again.
What happens when the amount of B12 is too high?
Vitamin B12 is water soluble, which means ‘leftover’ amounts leave your body through urine.
The human body is smart and knows how much to absorb or excrete.
This makes it hard to overdose on B12. However, there are some side-effects to be on the lookout for:
-If you have an eye disease called Leber’s disease, B12 supplements can damage your optic nerve badly.
-B12 supplements might interact with other medications you are taking. So it’s important to always check with your doctor.
Always check with your doctor before taking any kind of supplement, especially high amounts.
The human body is complex and over time we unlearned how to listen to our body and give it what it needs..
Lots of outer influences affect what happens on the inside, starting when we are still growing in our mother’s womb.
I think it’s really important to eat healthy and balanced so your body is able to thrive on a daily basis.
Taking a supplement where necessary is not saying your diet is bad, but it’s admitting that hings are not going as they should in the whole food industry and society.
I truly hope this information was helpful and interesting for you, always feel free to leave a question or any other comment ♥
(English is not my native language so I don’t mind if you point out any mistakes!)