Were you aware that vitamin B12 plays a major role in protecting your nervous system, building your genes and maintaining your metabolism? However, vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin and it must be absorbed and consumed properly in order for it to function the right way in the body. The recommendation for adult women is 2.5 micrograms every day. Women who are pregnant need around 2.6 micrograms every day and women who are nursing need around 2.8 micrograms a day.
Most women who live in the United States will more than likely receive enough vitamin B12, but there are several factors that must be considered to ensure the body absorbs enough of this vital nutrient.
Vitamin B12 Absorption
When vitamin B12 is in food, it is attached to the protein, and it must be removed when it enters into the stomach with the help of a gastric acid and an enzyme that is called pepsin. Once the vitamin is free from the food, another binding protein becomes attached to it. This binding protein helps to aid and protect the vitamin while it is in on its way to the small intestine.
Intrinsic factors remove B12 from the binding protein so it can be absorbed into the blood.
What Factors Affect Absorption?
In order for your body to adequately absorb vitamin B12, it is important that you have a healthy digestive system. Your body must also produce enough intrinsic factor. Inadequate B12 consumption and consuming too much alcohol can cause inflammation in the stomach or lower the levels of stomach acid secretion. This means that the absorption of the vitamin also decreases. As people age, these stomach acids also decrease.
How To Improve Vitamin B12 Absorption
The best way to begin improving absorption of vitamin B12 in the body is to consume protein including:
- B12 fortified products
The vitamin is typically only found naturally in animal products. This means that vegans will need to supplement super B complex. Supplements are not bound by proteins, so less stomach acid is required for the vitamin to be absorbed. If you consume more than the recommended amounts of alcohol, try to reduce consumption so the body will be able to readily absorb more vitamin B12.
What Leads To Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
If your body does not receive enough vitamin B12, it may lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. This deficiency could be the result of small secretions of the intrinsic factor, surgery that affected part of the small intestine or low consumption of the vitamin. The symptoms related to deficiency can include:
- Tingling of the feet
- Burning of the feet
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty walking
Anemia can also be caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. Although methylated folic acid can aid in improving hemoglobin levels, it cannot help a B12 deficiency. This type of deficiency can lead to nerve damage that is irreversible. Folic acid can however disguise this deficiency. Folic acid intake should not exceed 1000 micrograms a day.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that must be absorbed properly by the body so it can function normally. Be sure to eat an adequate amount of animal protein or select a reputable supplement if you are a vegan.