Breaking Down B Vitamins & Understanding B12

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So you know you need to get enough vitamins and minerals, but aren’t quite sure what they all do? Christina Grace, FNP-C, breaks dow the B vitamins for us and answers some of your frequently asked questions!

What are B vitamins, and why do I need them?

The vitamins referred to as your “B vitamins” are actually a group of vitamins made up of eight separate B vitamins: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5) pyridoxine (B6), Biotin (B7), Folic Acid (B9) and, the most well-known B vitamin, B12.  B12 and the other B vitamins are found mostly in animal products such as poultry, fish, milk and eggs. They are important for the creation of red blood cells and DNA in your body. They play a large role in neurological function and are an important component to detoxification, the breakdown of carbohydrates and the creation of neurotransmitters.  They also impact many other physiological processes in the body.

What are the signs of B12 deficiency?

Signs of Vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue, irritability, mood swings, tingling or numbness in your hands and feet, depression and difficulty concentrating.

If you are feeling any of these symptoms, a deficiency in B12 may be playing a role.  Ask your health care provider to test your B12 levels to determine if you have a deficiency.

How is B12 absorbed and why would I be deficient?

B12 is absorbed mostly through gut using the intrinsic factor after ingestion.  Your body does not create its own B 12 or the other B vitamins so it is dependent on the proper ingestion and absorption the have adequate numbers. There are several reasons why you may not have enough B 12.

  • One common reason you may be deficient in B12 is by not eating foods rich in B vitamins, like meat, fish, eggs and dairy. People with vegetarian or vegan diets may not ingest enough through food and could need supplementation. Make sure you include
  • Additionally, many people who have gastrointestinal issues, such as Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Disease, infection, long term food allergies or other issues with gut health, may have difficulty absorbing nutrients such as vitamin B12. To help heal the bowel, try adding in the amino acid glutamine, taking daily probiotics, include digestive enzymes and really work on reducing inflammation.
  • Some medications can drive down B 12 levels. Using medicines like Metformin, proton pump inhibitors and Methotrexate can lower your B12 absorption and be a cause for deficiencies.
  • The intrinsic factor is the way your body absorbs B12 through the gut. Pernicious anemia, or a decrease or loss of secretion of the intrinsic factor, is another way you may be deficient in B12. If you are diagnosed with pernicious anemia, oral supplementation of B12 will not increase your blood levels.  You will need to bypass the gut and receive injections of B12 in order to increase your levels.
  • Another genetic component which may cause deficiencies in the way your body uses B vitamins is difficulty with methylation. Methylation is a complex process in your body important for detoxification and SamE (neurotransmitter) production.  If you have a genetic alteration in this process your body may not be able to activate the B vitamins into a form that your body can use such as methyl cobalamin.  The way to bypass this process is to take already active B vitamins.

B vitamins and weight loss, can it help?

There are mixed studies and results when it comes to supplementing B vitamins and their weight loss benefits.  B vitamins do play a role in the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose which is a major form of fuel for your body.  In an indirect way, if B vitamins increase your energy and muscle function this could promote the ability to achieve a healthier lifestyle leading to weight loss.

B vitamins on their own will not cause dramatic weight loss; however, in cases of deficiency, supplementation could help promote weight loss.

Is a B12 shot right for me?

Intramuscular injections of B12 may not be for everyone.  There are a few reasons why an injection might be more beneficial to you than an oral supplement:

In the case of malabsorption, pernicious anemia, or other issues with the gut preventing proper B12 absorption, an injection would be more beneficial.  This allows you to absorb the B vitamins through the muscle and bypass the gut.

Also, if your levels of B 12 are very low, an injection may be beneficial.  This will allow the levels to increase much more rapidly than oral absorption.

Injections versus oral supplementation depends on your individual needs.  I encourage you to discuss your options with your health care provider to ensure you receive the most appropriate form for you.


Centrespringmd, medicine, mood, Vitamins, weight

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.
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