Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for good health. Not only is B12 is necessary for normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, it also assists with the formulation of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency is believed to be one of the most common nutrient deficiencies throughout the world, with almost two-fifths of American adults suffering from it. Although it is available from food sources such as meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, cheese, milk, and poultry, your body’s ability to absorb B12 from food begins to decline as you grow older. Taking certain medications, such as antibiotics, and heartburn medications can also reduce B12 absorption. For this reason, vitamin B12 injections or B12 shots are sometimes used to replenish levels of this vital vitamin.
B12 Deficiency Signs and SymptomsUnfortunately, vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms can take several years to manifest, which makes diagnosis complex. Furthermore, it may sometimes be mistaken for folate deficiency. B12 deficiency signs and symptoms include:
- Pale or jaundiced skin
- Tingling in hands and feet
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Loss of balance
- Swollen tongue
- Mouth ulcers
- Breathlessness and dizziness
- Disturbed vision
- Mood swings
Without enough B12, your body will have difficulty synthesizing red blood cells which carry oxygen to the rest of the body. This will affect energy level, mood and concentration.
What are B12 Injections?
If your physician thinks you have a B12 deficiency, he or she will administer a blood serum test. A value below 170–250 picograms per milliliter (in adults) in an indication that you have a deficiency. You should be aware that sometimes, a blood test may reveal an inaccurate reading of B12.
B12 shots contain high doses of the vitamin and are used to rapidly boost levels of B12 in someone who has a deficiency. A B12 injection usually takes the form of cyanocobalamin, which is a synthetic form of B12. It is only available as prescribed by your physician and is usually reserved for the inpatient setting. B12 shots are usually administered if a patient urgently needs B12.
Who Should Take B12 ShotsB12 injections should only be taken by people who have a B12 deficiency or are at risk. This at-risk group includes:
- People who have had a previous B12 deficiency
- People who have altered gastrointestinal anatomy that prevents them from absorbing B12
- Older people who have signs of B12 deficiency including neurologic problems and anemia
- Vegetarians and vegans not taking a B12 supplement because B12 comes from animal sources
People suffering from pernicious anemia (an autoimmune disease) which prevents absorption of B12 taken orally
B12 Shots Potential Benefits and RisksFor people who have a diagnosed vitamin B12 deficiency, B12 shots can have a number of benefits including:
- Supporting the healthy balance of moods and reducing the risk of dementia
- Boosting stamina and reducing fatigue and weakness
- Improving a sluggish metabolism
Taking B12 injections may also have a number of side effects and risks.
Mild side effects include:
- Swelling and redness at the site of the injection
- Mild diarrhea
- More serious side effects include:
- Muscle cramps
- Swelling of feet and ankles
- Irregular heartbeat
- Weakness and fatigue
Vitamin B12 Shots Interaction with Other MedicationsPossible interactions include:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Colchicine: This drug is used to treat gout; it may decrease your absorption of vitamin B12.
- Aminosalicylic acid: This drug is used to treat digestive problems and may also decrease your absorption of vitamin B12.
- Proton pump inhibitors: These drugs are taken to reduce stomach acid. Examples are lansoprazole (Prevacid), and omeprazole (Prilosec). They may decrease your absorption of B12.
- Vitamin C: Taking a combination of vitamin C and vitamin B12, may reduce the availability of B12 stored in your body. You should not take vitamin C until at least two hours after taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
Diabetes drugs: Taking the diabetes drug Metformin, may decrease your absorption of B12.
Natural Treatments for B12 Deficiency
Fortified foods: Vitamin B12 is not the only way to treat a B12 deficiency. As well as natural food sources of vitamin B12, a good way to enhance your diet is with foods which are fortified with this vitamin. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12 for adults is 2 micrograms per day. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the RDA is increased to 2.2 mcg per day. The foods with the highest vitamin b12 content are:
- Organic dairy products like probiotic rich yogurt, swiss cheese
- Grass fed lamb and beef
- Wild caught fish like salmon, trout, sardines, herrings
- Pasture raised poultry like turkey or chicken
- Seafood like Mussels, clams and Shrimps
- Fortified Cereal
Dietary Vitamin B12 supplements: An oral supplement is a good way to ensure you are getting enough vitamin B12, especially if you maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet. These may take the form of sublingual tablets, vegan gel caps or chewable gummies.
People usually take vitamin B12 supplements for memory loss, Alzheimer, boost mood, energy, concentration, mental function and immune system.
Prescription Vitamin B12: This form of vitamin B12 is available as a nasal gel. It is only to be used in the nose. It should only be used as directed and at least one hour before or after hot foods or liquids. If you have a runny nose at the time of use, you may not be getting the full dose of this medicine.
Whenever possible, the best way to get enough vitamin B12 is through a balanced diet. Even if you have a healthy diet, this may not be possible if you are vegan or vegetarian, elderly or suffer from a digestive disorder. In these cases, you may want to consider taking a daily B12 supplement. If you think you have a B12 deficiency, discuss your symptoms with your physician. He or she may recommend vitamin B12 injections to raise your B12 level.