Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

Posted by on Dec 14, 2016

Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

 

is very common in people over 50, and in people who use drugs that reduce stomach acid, and also that take the antidiabetes drug Metforman.

I find Vitamin B-12 supplementation very valuable in the treatment of neurological disorders, even when there is not a frank deficiency, especially when they are aggravated by stress. I have one patient who I treat with Chinese Herbal Medicine for peripheral neuropathy that is secondary to multiple back surgeries for herniated discs, in which the sciatic nerve pain improved but neurological pains and allydynia appeared.

This 60 year old man noticed in his late 40s, after his third surgery,  that under great stress his neuropathy worsened no matter what herbal medicines he was taking. We added sublingual Vitamin B-12 to the mix, and he has been pain free for one year. Before that, he would periodically spend a whole night struggling with excruciating shooting, burning, stabbing, electrical shocks, along with annoying pins, needles, and numbness on the dorsal portion of his left foot.

I also recommend B-12 to some of my patients who are “stress cases” with high anxiety levels that make it impossible for them to relax, especially if they like to drink to excess.

Now comes this from the Harvard Health Letter letter:

What harm can having too little of a vitamin do? Consider this: Over the course of two months, a 62-year-old man developed numbness and a “pins and needles” sensation in his hands, had trouble walking, experienced severe joint pain, began turning yellow, and became progressively short of breath. The cause was lack of vitamin B12 in his bloodstream, according to a case report from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Who is at risk for developing Vitamin B-12 Deficiency and should consider Supplementation?

According to the article

1)Strict vegetarians and vegans are at high risk for developing a B12 deficiency if they don’t eat grains that have been fortified with the vitamin or take a vitamin supplement.
2) People who have stomach stapling or other form of weight-loss surgery are also more likely to be low in vitamin B12 because the operation interferes with the body’s ability to extract vitamin B12 from food.

3) Conditions that interfere with food absorption, such celiac or Crohn’s disease, can cause B12trouble.

4) Commonly prescribed heartburn drugs, which reduce acid production in the stomach (acid is needed to absorb vitamin B12), can cause Vitamin B-12 deficiency

5) Older people can suffer from vitamin deficiencys due to the slow down in stomach acid production that often occurs with aging.

6) The widely prescribed anti-diabetes drug, Metforman, can regulate your blood sugar, but also impair absorption of Vitamin B-12

 

The good news is its so easy to supplement B-12.

 

You can get inexpensive sublingual B-12 at Trader Joe’s, any health food store, or online from Amazon or VitaCost.com. Take them daily, at a high dose.

Its a simple blood test to confirm if you are deficient in B-12. Even if you are not a vegan, if you are over 50, or on either Metforman to regulate your blood sugar. or PPI’s, or H2 blockers, like Nexium, Zantac, Prevacid, or Pepcid,  which half the country is, then get your blood checked.

Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine in  Vitamin b-12 deficiency due to Ageing.

 

People over 50 tend to have a poorer absorption of nutrients from food. But this is what Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine are all about–living with the aging process by adjusting diet to the natural  weaking of Agni digestive fire, (which is how Ayurveda describe the ability to break down and absorb the food and liquid you “cook” in your gut, Chinese medicine calls it the hun hua function of the Spleen Qi)  that begins around 36, and worsens more dramatically after 50 or 60.

Our medicine is rich in the use of churna spice mixtures to promote Agni,  in dietary wisdom, such as eating lighter food and warming food as you enter the stage of life dominated by Vatta dosha,  and also rich in digestives eaten after a meal like Chinese dried orange peel with salt and sugar, or Haw Flakes, or dried Amla fruit with cumin, salt, and long pepper, to improve absorption. Drinking small amounts of green or black or Pu Er tea with meals definitely improves absorption of foodstuffs.

 

Symptoms of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

 

While severe B-12 deficiency can cause  symptoms like jaundice and paranoia, less severe symptoms such as

fatigue
difficulty thinking
memory loss
weakness
balance issues, difficulty walking
strange sensations like numbness and tingling in your hands, feet, or legs
can also be due to Vitamin B-12 deficiency.  Of course they can also be due to other problems, such as peripheral neuropathy, or other serious problems. So please do check with your M.D. first. If you have the money you can try B-12 injections which bypass the gut. But sub-lingual B-12 is typically well absorbed, and both safe and easy to take at high doses, so one way to proceed is to take sublingual B-12 and see if symptoms improve, while at the same time discussing any of the above symptoms with your primary care doc.

 

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