As with all supplements, I’m very much of the mindset that, unless you have a specific suspicion (resulting from a specific health complaint) that you’re deficient in something then it’s not a good idea to be adding anything artificially into your daily regime as a pre-emotive strike. Chances are most of us have an adequate amount of the major vitamins and minerals that they need and, despite what you may read online, there is no real benefit to taking anything extra (in some cases this could perhaps even cause more harm than good). Of course, this is just my own personal opinion and is certainly by no means sound medical advice.
Wherever possible, I’d certainly advise prior to taking supplements that you arrange to be tested to ascertain if you are in fact low in whatever you’re planning to take. Ok, so there are times when this may not be necessary. You may feel now and then for instance that your immune system could use a little boost and begin taking a temporary course of Vitamin C. I don’t think that this relatively harmless vitamin, taken within the recommended daily allowance is likely to do anyone any harm. Again though, I am no doctor. By ensuring you get tested and checked for your suspected deficiency you may get an insight into more than just whether you are lacking. You may become alerted to a possible question mark over whether the vitamin in question is interacting in the best way with other complimentary or antagonistic vitamins and minerals. You may also be guided to other deficiencies or health issues that can be flagged up coincidentally within the same test. You may even become inspired after receiving the results and getting drawn in by their complex numbers to learn more about what they mean and consequently discover other more general ways in which you can help improve your health by yourself. There’s a fine line between research and paranoia when it comes to Googling your own health and well being but I firmly believe that a greater understanding into your own body and it’s workings is a valuable empowerment tool in day to day life. Not to mention, it’s fascinating.
For me, further research into what my B12 blood tests actually meant was what led me into supplementing my levels in the first place as the results themselves only confirmed that they were NOT actually formally “low” (more on this later).
A key fact to note on Vitamin B12; unlike its counterparts – such as the likes of vitamins D and E, B12 cannot be produced by the human body. We therefore need to source our requirement dietarily, either through foods where it is naturally derived or that have been fortified. It’s a water soluble nutrient which means that it does not require dietary fat to aid it’s absorption. This effectively means that it is vastly difficult (but not impossible) to overdose on with some individuals, particularly those suffering from an illness known as Pernicious Anemia (a type of B12 deficiency where the body is unable to adequately absorb the it) being prescribed doses of anything up to 1,000(!) micrograms a month. Absolutely under no circumstances however should this be self-prescribed not least because, whether or not a dose this high has negative consequences on your health, the interactions that it could have with other medications, vitamins or electrolytes could render them to become dangerously low or high as a reaction.
The family of B Vitamins are integral to cell metabolism with B12 being especially involved in the production of bone marrow, nerve sheaths and proteins. A deficiency in this can present itself in the form of weakness/tiredness, confusion, heart palpitations, pale skin, digestive problems, muscle tingles, weaknesses and mental problems.
In supplementary terms, as far as I’m aware, you usually find that B12 tablets or liquids are sold as a combination B Vitamin complex including Biotin, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pyridoxine and Folic Acid. The body needs B6 (Pyridoxine) in order to absorb B12. Both B12 and B9 (Folic Acid) can also have an indirect effect on Iron levels. Long term insufficiency in these can, so I understand, lead to Iron Deficiency Anemia.
I’m currently taking 0.5ml of Sublingual B Vitamin Complex a day. I’ve been taking this for many, many months now and have played around with the dosage but, particularly in light of my erratic sleep patterns of late, have settled on this dose as it seems to bestow me with just enough energy to get through the day after a night of fitful to no sleep. Whether or not this is psychological and the dosage would actually make no odds to how lethargic I feel is a valid consideration but hey, if it seems to work for me then I’m chuffed.
So here are some of the key takeaways I’ve learnt based on my own experiences and research. REMEMBER here, I’m NOT an expert.
1)I was concerned about the length of time I’ve been taking the B12 and B Vitamin Complex supplement (at least for the past six months but probably more like nine) and had upcoming intentions of “weaning myself off.” This will still remain my intention but, having spoken to my doctor, I’m reassured that in the dosage I’m taking both B12 and its partner B vitamins will be harmless over long periods of time. The usual caveat applies here however which is: talk to your own doctor about what works for you. They may have a different opinion depending on your own individual circumstances.
2)I should’ve discussed further earlier the TYPE of supplement that I’m taking each day and why. With my frequent and peculiar digestive issues the option of tablets, as I learnt from my research, may be inadequately digested. A better form of the supplent and one which allows for a far greater absorption is that of sublingual liquid. Perhaps it could be argued too of other vitamins that pills in themselves may not be the best way to get what’s needed into the body but this is particularly relevant with B12 where a high fat intake may interfere with its absorption into the gastrointestinal tract and subsequent circulation.
Here are some images of the Sublingual B Vitamin Complex that I’m currently taking – apologies for the well used packaging! It cost me £7.99 and I purchased it from Holland & Barrett. You use the pipette to soak up the measurement required, place the drops under your tongue, take a time out for 30 seconds whilst letting it sit there (I recommend you don’t have a go at bursting into song at this point – it can get a little messy) then swallow it down. The flavour’s not bad once you get used to it.
3)Some excellent advice here from labdoor.com:- B12 is best taken on an empty stomach. Personally, I find it easiest to take it first thing(ish) between an hour or so after breakfast and before your mid morning snack just as you’re about to get REALLY hungry (or is it only me that gets super ravenous around about 10.30am?!)
4)I mentioned earlier that some people opt, or perhaps have no choice but to, take a really high level of B12, usually on a monthly basis. Frequently this is administered through an intravenous injection carried out by a medical professional. There is some debate as to whether or not this should be made readily available to all those who are plagued with fatigue related symptoms as there has been good, solid evidence that this can significantly help reduce tiredness. I suspect of course that there is still a great deal of research to be done on the topic before we see this type of service offered out to one and all on the NHS. I’m personally on the fence as to whether this should be made available – I can see how it COULD help so many individuals but I have read a lot about the kind of “come-down” that many people experience towards the end of the month after their last shot and just before the next is due. I certainly think a decent form of oral supplement should be anyone’s starting point prior to injections.
5)Interestingly, for a person to be considered B12 insufficient in Japan, their blood tests should reflect a level of 500 pg/mL or higher (max 1300 pg/mL). In the UK it’s 180 pg/mL and in the US it’s 200 pg/mL. I came across some research (which I now cannot find!) undertaken by an Oxford University that indicates anything below 300 pg/mL can lead to symptoms of a deficiency. I also discovered the following comment when I was looking into Thyroid information which is ultimately the reason I commenced with B12 supplements;
“Ask your doctor to check your B12, folate, ferritin and Vitamin D levels as deficiencies of any one of these could be a reason for your ill health. The symptoms for Pernicious Anaemia are very similar to those of hypothyroidism. The range for B12 is quite wide and some patients feel much better at the upper end of the range.”
6)If you’re plagued by fatigue but your results have come back suggesting you to NOT be B12 deficient, it may be worth requesting a more specific form of analysis, an “Active B12” test. More info on this can be found here;
7)Weight loss claims have been banded about in relation to taking B12 on a regular basis. It’s worth a mention purely for the amount of noise that’s being made online about this possible theory. It seems to me however that there’s not strong enough scientific evidence behind the claim to back this up so I’m extremely dubious and would never supplement it primarily for a weight loss goal alone.
9)It wouldn’t be one of my health articles If I didn’t wang back to the Copper IUD. Interestingly, several women experiencing peculiar symptoms attributed rightly or wrongly to their contraceptive coil (which I have spoken about here) have supplemented with B12, often reportedly to good effect. I didn’t notice it having any great improvement on my brain fog but I certainly noticed an improvement in my general all over body fatigue just weeks after taking it. Coincidence? Yes of course it could have been. I will always keep in mind however what I read online again and again about how deficiencies in B Vitamins can cause Copper to over-accumulate and Zinc to deplete. Vice versa, it has also been suggested that Copper excess can ultimately cause these Vitamin deficiencies so whether or not this will ever be a proven medical certainty, I’ll potentially always wonder (chicken and egg style) whether an IUD Copper toxicity reaction came first and led to a slight B12 deficiency or if I could have had a B12 deficiency BECAUSE of the Copper coil
10)There are a number of medications that, as I understand it, should NOT be taken alongside B12 supplements including some antibiotics, anticonvulsants and Proton Pump Inhibitors.
I hope this information proves useful to someone.
As always, me = not a doctor (you won’t have missed me stressing this point throughout repeatedly I’m sure!) so please take advice from the medical experts prior to making any decisions on what to/what not to supplement.
What has been your experience of Vitamin B12?