Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B vitamins. Also called cobalamin, it is water soluble and stored in the body. It plays a key role in helping the brain and nervous system function normally and is also used by the body to make red blood cells. The name comes from the fact that the vitamins contains cobalt. Most children and adults in the U.S. obtain sufficient vitamin B12 from the diet.
Vitamin B12 levels are rarely too low in healthy adults. However, an inability to absorb the vitamin from food may cause vitamin B12 deficiency. This can lead to pernicious anemia (low red blood cell count), fatigue and weakness. Vitamin B12 deficiency may also cause neurological symptoms like pins and needles, difficulty walking or balance problems. It may also affect mental abilities and may cause a swollen, inflamed tongue and yellowed skin (jaundice).
Although most people are able to absorb vitamin B12 from the food they eat, and the liver stores several years' worth of the vitamin, several things can affect vitamin B12 levels. Hydrochloric (HCL) acid is required to obtain vitamin B12 from food; if HCL levels are low, vitamin B levels may also be low. The intestines must be healthy as well, and inadequate amounts of beneficial bacteria in the gut can decrease absorption. Vegans and those who have had gastric surgery may be at risk of low vitamin B, the first because they don't eat animal products, and the second because of absorption problems.
Low HCL levels may be corrected with apple cider vinegar and digestive enzymes. If the problem is absorption, however, neither these strategies nor taking oral supplements will solve it. Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) injections bypass the need to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestines. Most patients need about six injections — one every two to four days — to restore normal vitamin B12 levels, plus booster injections every three months. The patient should have blood drawn annually.
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