Ask our Naturopaths: What is Vitamin B12?

Ask our Naturopaths: What is Vitamin B12?

Author -  Good Health

2.  How much Vitamin B12 do you need?

The recommended dietary allowance for B12 is between 0.4 - 1.8mcg for children and between 1.8mcg - 2.8mcg for adults. A higher amount is often needed for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin B12.jpg

3.  What is the therapeutic dose?

The above recommendations are the amount necessary for an adequate dose only. It is important to remember that when the body is under stress, it uses more nutrients. Therapeutically, naturopaths often recommend up to 1000mcg of B12 daily if there is a deficiency present. 

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4.  Which foods contain Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is manufactured exclusively by micro-organisms therefore the best sources are animal-based, as animals produce B12 in their cells. Organ meat, beef, poultry and eggs are the highest sources. Fish, shellfish and sea vegetables such as nori also contain Vitamin B12

5.  I am vegetarian – do I have enough Vitamin B12? 

Some fermented products such as tempeh contain Vitamin B12, as does nutritional yeast. There is some evidence however that B12 from these forms is not utilised in the body in the same way as animal-based sources. Sea vegetables such as nori however are well absorbed. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, is a good idea to supplement your diet with B12 and regularly get your serum B12 levels checked. 

6.  What are the signs of B12 deficiency?

Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with impaired nerve function. Commonly seen deficiency signs are numbness, pins and needles, burning feet, tinnitus (ringing of the ears) or impaired cognitive function often seen in the elderly. Shortness of breath, lethargy, diarrhoea and glossitis (a beefy, red tongue) are also indications of deficiency. The body may take several years to show signs of a B12 deficiency but if left untreated, a deficiency can result in a unique type of anaemia called megaloblastic anaemia which may cause damage to the nervous system. If you think you may have a Vitamin B12 deficiency, you can discuss this with one of our naturopaths, or talk to your local health care profession.

B12 Deficiency can show in numbness and pins and needles.jpg

7.  I eat red meat; can I still be Vitamin B12 deficient?

While most Vitamin B12 deficiencies are caused from lack of nutrient intake, many are also caused through poor absorption. For B12 to be utilised by the body it must be extracted from ingested food. This is done with the help of hydrochloric acid, or stomach acid as well as other substances found within the digestive tract. If you suffer from digestive issues, are on medication such as the oral contraceptive pill or have a genetic defect, you may not have enough vitamin B12. Some people have pernicious anaemia, a condition in which they have trouble absorbing vitamin B12.

8.  Can you have too much B12?

As vitamin B12 is considered a micronutrient, it is only needed in very small quantities. Fortunately, all B vitamins are water-soluble therefore you don’t need to worry about overdosing on B12 - your body will simply flush out the excess. 

Vitamin B12 is essential for making red blood cells.jpg

Vitamin B12 is not only essential for making DNA and red blood cells, but also for providing lasting energy, immune support and assisting proper metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and lipids. Although one of the smaller dosing nutrients, vitamin B12 is just as essential for a state of healthy well-being in the body as the well-known larger dose vitamins. If you don’t think you are getting enough Vitamin B12, or are showing signs of deficiency, consider supplementation.

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