NUTRIENTS A-Z: Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

Vitamin B12, otherwise known as cobalamin, is an essential water-soluble vitamin that is commonly found in a variety of foods such as fish, shellfish, meat, eggs, and dairy products. B12 is bound to the protein in food and our stomach acid releases it during digestion. Therefore, low stomach acid can play a role in a B12 deficiency.  Once B12 is released from the protein, it combines with a substance called intrinsic factor (IF) before it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Inability to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract can cause a type of anemia called pernicious anemia because if there is not enough B12 in the body, the blood cannot hang onto the iron.

Vitamin B12 is important in DNA synthesis. It is needed for the formation and maturation of red blood cells and is necessary for normal nerve function. Some people don’t consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs, while others can’t absorb enough, no matter how much they take in.  Therefore, sometimes injections are needed. Plants don’t make vitamin B12. 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. Commonly prescribed heartburn drugs, which reduce acid production in the stomach can interfere with B12 absorption. 

Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include: 

  • Excessive sweating 

  • Sore, beefy red tongue

  • Numbness, tingling, soreness, weakness in hands/feet

  • Jerking of limbs

  • Memory loss

  • Stammer

  • Apathy, feel as if have lost incentive in life

  • Depression, moodiness

  • Anxiety, irritability, nervousness, agitation

  • Anemia

  • Hallucinations, delusions

  • Loss of appetite

  • Confusion, disorientation

  • Back pains

  • Dizziness

  • Dimmed vision

  • Poor stomach digestion, low stomach acid

  • FEMALE:  Menstrual disturbances

Supplementary range:  300 - 5000 mcg daily




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