B12 Deficiency and Absorption

Published on: Modified on:

How does Vitamin B12 deficiency occur? What are my options if I need B12 supplementation? What will happen to me? These are the questions over 99 % of individuals with B12 deficiency ask themselves. This blog is designed to answer these and other questions concerning vitamin B12, its’ deficiency and its’ supplementation. With instructions concerning lifestyle and dietary changes, as well as information from scientific studies about this specific physiological problem, we hope you will feel 100% well again.

The human physiology of vitamin B12 is very complicated, and due to this is prone to problems leading to vitamin B12 deficiency. Unlike most nutrients, absorption of vitamin B12 actually begins in the mouth where small amounts of unbound crystalline B12 can be absorbed through the mucosa membrane. In the stomach a specific gastric enzyme is needed to separate B12 from the food ingested, and a protein must bind with it for it to be absorbed and processed through the body. Proper absorption of vitamin B12 requires an intact and functioning stomach, exocrine pancreas, intrinsic factor, and small bowel. Problems with any one of these organs makes a vitamin B12 deficiency possible and likely.

However, there can be some genetic aspects in the problems associated with malabsorption, and due to the complexity of B12 assimilation in the body, geriatric patients, many of whom are hypo-acidic due to reduced GI tract cell function, have an increased risk of B12 deficiency. For these individuals supplementation becomes a necessary step, otherwise their life quality and life expectancy can plummet.

B12 supplements come in a few forms, most commonly though in an ingestible pill, sublingual pill or spray and the injection. With malabsorption in the GI tract, swallowing vitamin pills equals to flushing them down the toilet, as around 80%-90% of hard vitamins will not get absorbed. The sublingual B12 becomes the next possible step in supplementation; however this too is a fairly poor choice. Although researchers are not fully sure why this occurs, in most cases of sublingual use, only around 5% of the vitamin is absorbed by the body. The only truly viable choice in this case is to begin B12 injections, which unfortunately are not the most pleasant of experiences, and can be expensive.