The Importance of B12 and its role in Neuropathy and Anemia.

The stars have aligned on this post. The topic of B12 keeps coming up lately, and it was a sign that I had to put something up on the blog. The thing about writing is that it’s almost like a personal journal (…here’s what’s on my mind at this point in time and how I feel about it.)

In this case, Vitamin B12 is on my mind!

It’s involved in every metabolic cellular process in our body, DNA production and nerve function to name a few.

A good balance of all b-vitamins is important but B12 tends to get most of the attention because it is not absorbed into the blood stream the same way the other b’s are. B12 is usually more deficient than the other b-vitamins due to a deficiency in Intrinsic Factor. It also binds with “intrinsic factor” (It’s a specialized type of protein produced in the stomach). B12 must be bound to Intrinsic Factor. Then it is absorbed in to the small intestine (There are receptor sites for B12). You need to produce HCL in order to produce intrinsic factor. You also need to produce enough HCL to produce pepsin. Intrinsic (IF) is internally produced. On the other hand, B12 is the extrinsic (outside) factor produced.

Ok Marc. Tell me why B12 vitamins are important.

1.    It prevents Peripheral Neuropathy: The myelin sheath acts as an insulating cover over a nerve fiber. It’s through this nerve fiber that conduction impulses are produced and electrical signals are sent and received. Think of it this way, you touch something hot, once the sensation is felt, your nerves send a signal to your brain. This signal works on these conduction impulses. If you don’t know, now you know ***Biggie Voice***. 


Well B12 prevents the breakdown of the myelin sheath that covers our nerve fibers (also known as “demyelination”). When we hear myelin sheath, we usually associate this with the brain (MS). But, the myelin is also very important for your spinal cord’s nerve fibers. This damage leads to a condition known as peripheral neuropathy, in which symptoms include loss of coordination, sensory touch and eventual decreased muscle mass.  


It’s shown that B12 intake from food and supplementation can improve neuropathy conditions. With issues like tingling, muscular dysfunction and especially neuropathy, it’s best to have a specialist (Chiropractor, Physiotherapist) look at you and make a proper diagnosis. As a nutritional practitioner, my job is to support the physical intervention through nutrition once a person is diagnosed.


2.    The effects of B12 deficiency can cause irreversible symptoms: This is seen in Multiple Sclerosis (a degenerative disease of the nervous system). As with any tissue in the body, once it’s damaged, scar tissue forms (also known as Sclerosis).


3.    A lack of B12 can lead to Pernicious Anemia: This is a form of anemia caused by a lack of absorption of B12 due to a deficiency in Intrinsic Factor. B12 binds with “intrinsic factor” as I had mentioned earlier. Without B12 and Intrinsic factor, the membranes of immature red blood cells rupture, disintegration of the stomach lining can occur which can lead to autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease.


4.    It makes us happy: B12 plays an important role in supporting and assisting with the formation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine production. And this, make us happy…


5.    B12 helps us recycle Homocysteine: Anyone out there with a history of cardiovascular disease will have some knowledge of homocysteine levels. If you don’t, then just know that homocysteine is created as a by-product of our body’s metabolism of methionine and cysteine.


Homocysteine isn’t all bad, it still gives us things like Cysteine, which is a precursor to glutathione (an amino acid known for its detoxification capabilities) and is important to the synthesis of Neurotransmitters. The only problem is that high levels of homocysteine are indicative of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. B12 is important in taking homocysteine and converting it back to methionine.


Ok…What do I do?


Before we get into the details of B12 intake, it’s important to note that all b vitamins including B12 are depleted in the body by things like stress, birth control pills and high intake of sugars.


1.     Some people can’t produce Intrinsic Factor. If this is the case, B12 shots are available. You’ll want to buy Methylcobalamin (the active form), not Cyanocobalamin.

2.     HCL (stomach acid) is required in order to take B12 from its protein carrier Intrinsic Factor. Refrain from antacids and supplement with Hydrochloric acid with betaine to improve stomach pH.

3.     If you’re simply deficient and looking for the next best thing to a shot, then a sublingual (under the tongue) is another alternative option. This skips the digestion process and gets right into the bloodstream. People looking to simply optimize or increase B12 intake can take a Vitamin B complex with a higher B12 content.

4.     B12 food sources: Liver, Meat Protein, Dairy, and Seafood (particularly shellfish).

5.     The liver has to activate B-vitamins. If you have an under functioning liver, then B-vitamins are not being absorbed. Support the liver, and the b-vitamins will follow!

6.     Supplements and B12 aside, it’s important to look at the root cause of demyelination (breakdown of the nerve fiber). In some cases, autoimmune conditions cause the self-destruction of the myelin sheath. Eliminating triggers that cause chronic inflammation (high sugar, poor diet etc.…) can prove to be your best prevention and early treatment. The entry of pathogens through the blood brain barrier affects the CNS, which in turn affects the peripheral system. Boosting your immune system can also be a great way to properly limit the amount of sclerotic tissue that forms.