Benefits of Vitamin B12

As we wade-through the winter months, many people get tired and bogged down. Energy and mood can be low, and stress levels can become more difficult to manage. Vitamin B12 injections are something that I love to use to help my patients (and myself!) cope with stress, low energy, and a whole host of other concerns.

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient called cobalamin that your body cannot produce on its own. Typically we get B12 from foods; the richest sources being clams, mussels, salmon, beef and eggs. Vitamin B12 is necessary for many crucial functions in our bodies. It is used to convert food to energy, make red blood cells to carry oxygen around our bodies, make DNA and nerve cells, balance hormones, detoxify, and fight infection. It’s amazing to think that this little nutrient is so important, and yet many of us are deficient.

Who benefits from B12 injections?

B12 deficiency causes fatigue, depression, mood swings, poor circulation, poor memory, brain fog, muscle weakness, and/or tingling in the fingers and toes. People with a B12 deficiency often have difficulty coping with stress, have low energy, and have symptoms of excess estrogen. Most people with these symptoms can benefit from B12 injections, and it’s not toxic at moderately high levels.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is very common, especially in people under stress, people over 50 years of age, and vegetarians or vegans. We often don’t get enough B12 from our diet, so B12 injections provide a boost of B12 into the body, and then in most cases you can take a supplement to keep your levels high.

Some people have a condition called pernicious anemia. These people produce less intrinsic factor, which is needed in the stomach to absorb B12. Moreover, if you are over 50, or taking proton pump inhibitors or antacids, you are also likely not absorbing B12. For these people, B12 injections are necessary to ensure your body is getting enough of this essential nutrient.

Energy Production and Stress Management

Vitamin B12 is an essential for converting food into energy, or ATP, and without it the process slows down dramatically. People who feel sluggish, or low in energy even with adequate sleep and a good diet, would likely benefit from B12 injections. The injection gets that pathway working efficiently and gives you a boost of energy.

Stress takes both an emotional and a physical toll on our bodies. Vitamin B12 helps us to cope with stress by balancing our brain chemistry, sharpening our cognitive abilities, and improving our memory. It also reduces physical stress in the liver by methylating and detoxifying hormones and toxins.

Brain Function – Depression and Alzheimer’s disease

Vitamin B12 is necessary for the production of monoamine transmitters, which are deficient in people suffering from depression. Research shows that B12 injections improve mood in some depressed patients without the use of antidepressants.

Symptoms of B12 deficiency such as memory loss and reduced mental state are also found in dementia. There is growing evidence that many people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia are actually overlooked cases of B12 deficiency. Studies show that the progression of Alzheimer’s can be prevented if treated early with B12.

Infertility and Hormone Health

B12 deficiency is also often overlooked in cases of infertility and irregular hormone patterns. Vitamin B12 it is used to break down estrogen so that it can be excreted from the body. As a result, women with B12 deficiency may experience infertility or irregular cycles because high estrogen levels can cause lack of ovulation, embryo implantation failure, and difficulty maintaining pregnancy. Low B12 can also cause hypercoagulability, which is a cause of early recurrent miscarriage.

Testing and Treatment

I recommend annual B12 testing every 6-12 months, with regular monitoring of your levels if you are receiving B12 injections to improve your mood, memory, energy, immune system or balance hormones.

If you and your ND decide that vitamin B12 injections would be beneficial for you, we are pleased to provide B12 injections at our clinic. Please contact our office for more information.

References

Bennett M. Vitamin B12 deficiency, infertility and recurrent fetal loss. J Reprod Med. 2001;46(3):209-12.

Dubey RK, Jackson EK, Gilespie DG, Zacharia LC, Imthurn B. Catecholamines block the antimitogenic effect of estradiol on human coronary artery smooth muscle cells.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004;89(8):3922-31.

Ellinson M, Thomas J, Patterson A. A critical evaluation of the relationship between serum vitamin B, folate and total homocysteine with cognitive impairment in the elderly. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2004;17(4):371-83.

Quadri P, Fragiacomo C, Pezzati R, Zanda E, Forloni G, Tettamanti M, Lucca U. Homocysteine, folate, and vitamin B-12 in mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer disease, and vascular dementia. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80(1):114-22.

Reznikoff-Etievant MF, Zittoun J, Vaylet C, Pernet P, Milliez J. Low Vitamin B12 level as a risk factor for very early recurrent abortion. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Repord Biol. 2002;104(2):156-9.

Tiemeir H, Ruud van Tuijl H, Hofman A, Meijer J, Killaan AJ, Breteler M. Vitamin B12, Folate, and Homocysteine in Depression: The Rotterdam Study. Am J Psychiatry 2002;159:2099-2101.

 

 

Curb Your Sugar Cravings

Do you have a sweet tooth? There are lots of physiological reasons that we might crave sugar. When patients come in asking about curbing their sugar cravings, my first goal is to understand why they might be experiencing cravings in the first place. Then we can take a targeted approach to make those sugar cravings stop for good.

Reason #1: Low energy levels

When we’re tired, our bodies seek out ways of boosting energy. The fastest way to make energy (ATP) is by using sugars in the blood stream (glucose), and the fastest way to get them there is by eating simple sugars. This is why at 3pm, when we’re running low on energy, we often crave a sweet treat.

Solution #1: Understand why you’re tired, and fix it.

This often means improving your sleep quality and or sleep quantity. It also means researching other common underlying causes of fatigue, like dehydration (so simple, but so true!), nutrient deficiencies, or having an under-active thyroid.

Reason #2: Emotional eating and boredom

When we eat sugar, our brain releases a hormone called dopamine, which is our reward hormone. Dopamine makes us feel good! However, research shows that over time this response becomes worn-down, so that we need more and more sugar to get the same dopamine “feel good” response.

Sometimes we’ve also learned to eat sugar out of habit or boredom. We don’t even notice it’s happening until the bag or bar is empty, and we’re not even enjoying the deliciousness of the treat.

Many of us have also learned to use sugar as a coping mechanism for stress. Treats may have been used to reward us as children (or bribe us…), or are associated with happy memories, like getting ice cream after winning your soccer game. For myself, once I finished my dinner I was always allowed to eat two cookies. This isn’t bad parenting at all – but to this day, I don’t feel as if dinner is complete without that hit of sweetness at the end.

Solution #2: Mindfulness

The key lies in recognizing these patterns so that they no longer have a hold over us. In the example of my own life, I can cognitively say to myself “I know I have eaten enough food, I know that I’m full, and I don’t need a cookie to finish off a meal”. For the person who eats for comfort, it might be recognizing that and then engaging in positive self-talk, or finding another activity to release dopamine like going for a walk or hugging your partner/child/pet. For the person who reaches for sugar out of habit or boredom, use a small bowl and eat one bite at a time, trying to savour each bite, and see how you feel.

Reason #3: Candida (yeast) overgrowth

Candida is a yeast that occurs as part of our gut flora. Like all molds, if given too much fuel it can over-grow, and yeast feasts on sugar. As a result, an overgrowth of yeast can actually make us crave sugar, because it wants to keep growing. Candida overgrowth can cause bloating, low energy, brain fog, and lots more. Read about it in this article for the full lesson on Candida.

Solution #3: Kill off the excess Candida and replace it with healthy bacteria.

This should always be done under the care of an experienced healthcare practitioner, as many “online guides” can be either ineffective or dangerous and detrimental to our digestive system.

Reason #4: Blood sugar crashes

When we eat simple carbohydrates (foods that are easily broken down into sugars), our bodies digest them quickly and then dump a large amount of glucose (sugar) into the system all at once for fuel. This causes a spike in blood sugar, and a big release of insulin to help metabolize the circulating sugars. When the dust settles, we get a blood sugar crash and our bodies crave sugar again to boost these low blood sugar levels. The higher the high, the lower the low, and the stronger the cravings.

Solution #4: Balance blood sugar

My mantra for keeping blood sugar stable is: fat, fibre, and protein with every meal and every snack. These three macronutrients are harder for the body to break down, so they slow down what’s called our “gastric emptying time”. All this means that instead of a quick spike and subsequent crash, it’s a slow-release of fuel into the blood stream, with a lower insulin release. This prevents the crash from happening, and we avoid the subsequent sugar craving all together. Added bonus: These nutrients also keep us fuller for longer, which doesn’t hurt the sugar cravings, either.

Reason #5: Eating artificial sweeteners

Research shows that people who use artificial sweeteners actually end up eating more sugar during their day than people who don’t. Artificial sweeteners pack a lot of sweetness per tastebud; even a small amount tastes very sweet. As a result, they send a very strong message to the brain, and to the rest of our digestive tract that says. “We’re about to be hit with a BOAT LOAD of sugar, so get ready!” … and then our stomach doesn’t receive the corresponding expected amount of fuel (whomp whomp). As a result, a signal is sent to the brain to tell us to crave more sugar.

Solution #5: If you’re going to eat something sweet, just do it.

Focus on sugars with a lower glycemic index, like maple syrup, honey, sugars found in fruit (dates and bananas are often in recipes as sweeteners) and raw organic coconut sugar. These are the “healthiest” sources of sugar, but still count as sugar, so please continue to practice mindfulness around eating them.

If you go by the “knowledge is power” rule, and you know you can have stevia in your coffee and not give into the corresponding sugar cravings later in the day, then go ahead. Please continue to avoid all other types of artificial sweeteners for reasons I will write about another time.

Other quick tips for curbing sugar cravings:

  • Brush your teeth right after dinner
  • Plan, plan, plan! Have readily available snacks that are full of fat + fibre + protein (nuts and seeds, dried chickpeas, nut butter with celery or an apple, greek yogurt with pumpkin seeds or hemp hearts, or my amazing protein bars.
  • If you haven’t the mastered self control (like me + cookies), then don’t bring it into the house.
  • Treats should be a treat! Save it for once a week – date night, dinner at a friend’s, holidays, etc.
  • Be confident with saying no at work. Ask for peoples’ support in your health choices if they chide you, and realize they’re projecting their own sugar-relationship onto you if they’re not being supportive (circle back to Reason #2).
  • When you do eat sugar, ENJOY IT! No guilt, no rushing, just savour the deliciousness and enjoy the hit of dopamine :).

Book an appointment with Dr. Hilary Chambers, ND to develop healthy sugar-free habits and address the underlying causes of your sugar addiction.