The Importance of vitamin B12 in your diet

vitamin b12 - thrive magazine

In any discussion about vitamins, it is important to understand that nutrition is a full symphony, involving a careful balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals; it is not just a solo performance.

In any discussion about vitamins, it is important to understand that nutrition is a full symphony, involving a careful balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals; it is not just a solo performance.

Usually, nature has this balance pretty well covered by providing multiple nutrients in natural, whole foods, including millions of phyto-nutrients that each have a role in optimising the bio-availability of other nutrients.

A rich diet, full of a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, legumes, wholegrains and (if you so choose) organic, pasture-raised animal protein will provide the full spectrum of nutrition that you need in order to thrive.

An essential nutrient
Having said that, there are certain nutrients that are absolutely crucial. And one of those is Vitamin B12. An essential, water-soluble vitamin which we obtain from the foods we consume, such as liver, red meat, fish, shellfish, dairy and eggs. Vitamin B12 is also made in the small intestine, when the bacterial balance is optimal. Vegetarians and, in particular, vegans, sometimes have a problem consuming enough of this essential vitamin. For them, the main food sources of Vitamin B12 are fortified grain and soy products and nutritional yeast.

For everyone, though, it is a sad fact that modern food and industrial farming production practices have meant that cheap, non-organic animal protein products have lost an estimated 75% of the B12 available over the last 40 years.

Symptoms of B12 insufficiency
The early symptoms of Vitamin B12 insufficiency are both debilitating and very prevalent today.

They include:
• Eczema or dermatitis
• Lack of energy/chronic fatigue
• Tender or sore muscles and joints
• Irritability
• Anxiety
• Depression
• Tension
• Constipation
• Anaemia

All vitamins and nutrients work in combination with each other, Vitamin B12 in particular works synergistically with all other B vitamins, but particularly with Vitamin B6 and folate (Vitamin B9), which work together to facilitate the absorption of each other and amplify their effects.

The role of Vitamin B12 in the body
The reason that B12 is so essential is that it is one of the key nutrients used in the methylation cycle; the fundamental process by which we move nutrients into our cells, convert them into energy and then metabolise (de-tox) waste products. It is a vital metabolic process that happens in every cell and every organ of our body.

Breakdown of the methylation process is the main cause of systemic inflammation in the body. Inflammation at a cellular level can cause symptoms anywhere in the body (depending on the individual). Symtoms can include the symptoms listed above, or (if allowed to continue un-checked) the more serious expressions of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological degeneration and auto-immune diseases.

Why you could be lacking Vitamin B12
if you are deficient in Vitamin B12 and its essential vitamin cofactors (B6 and B9). There could be a number of reasons why your body isn’t getting enough:

1. A nutrient poor diet with insufficient foods that supply B12 naturally.
2. Impaired nutrient absorption in the gastrointestinal tract caused by age (we tend to struggle with B12 absorption as we get older).
3. Certain prescription medications notably Proton Pump Inhibitor [PPI] medications for acid reflux which dramatically reduce stomach acid and therefore impair nutrient digestion, can deplete levels of B12.4. Microbial imbalances in the gut can impair nutrient absorption in the intestines.
5. Over exposure to toxins and contaminants which overload the body’s de-tox pathways.
6. A relatively rare genetic variant in the methylation cycle called MTHFR which requires extremely high levels of folate (B9) in order to methylate efficiently.

Get your levels checked
Low Vitamin B12 has become commonplace more recently, and it’s always worth having your levels checked by your GP. Being a water soluble vitamin, it is very hard to over-dose on B12 as any excess is easily flushed out.

When considering supplementing with B12 it is important to read the labels and ensure that you are taking the form that is most easily absorbed by the body – methylcobalamin (not cyanocobalamin). B12 works in synergy with its co-factors Folate and Vitamin B6. It is therefore worth taking it alongside a full spectrum B-Vitamin supplement. The best way to fully nourish the body is through a rich and varied diet, full of plant-based foods and sustainably produced, organic, grass-fed animal products.

As featured inside Thrive Magazine Spring 2020 issue. Thanks to for this feature article.