Do you feel weak and tired? Maybe you need more B12.
Vitamin B12 plays a tremendous role in our physiology. It helps create our DNA, blood cells, and the protective layers that surround each nerve. B12 is also needed for the metabolic action in every cell.
If we don’t have enough of this vitamin to fuel these critical functions, we quickly run out of steam.
Red blood cells carry life-giving oxygen to every part of our body. But a lack of B12 means there are less of these cells available for oxygen transport. The result is fatigue. Getting enough sleep can’t shake this kind of exhaustion, because it’s hard to recoup when your cells are starved for oxygen.
Muscles need oxygen to thrive, but a lack of B12 means they can’t recover from even a little exertion. B12 is also necessary for metabolizing protein and fat—two vital ingredients for building muscle tissue. Without this vitamin, muscles slowly deteriorate.
Some people have a naturally fair complexion. But if you look corpse-like—as if all the blood has been drained from your face—you may be missing a vital nutrient.
Other skin conditions linked to B12 deficiency.
One of B12’s many duties is to help produce digestive enzymes. If your B12 is low, it may impact digestive health, so it’s another reason to take B12 as you age.
A lack of B12 can result in constipation, low appetite, inflammatory bowel disease, and candida (yeast overgrowth).
B12 not only helps form red blood cells, but also white blood cells, thus B12 supports immune health.
Finding A Source
Like all other vitamins, we must consume a food or supplement source of B12 because our body can’t make it on its own. We don’t need much—only a few micrograms per day—but it can be difficult to obtain. The richest sources of this nutrient are found in foods few of us ever eat: liver, kidney, and clams. Meat, fish, and dairy offer moderate amounts; eggs even less.
Vegans are known to be at greatest risk of B12 deficiency, because this vitamin is scarce in plant-based foods unless they are fortified with synthetic vitamins.
Although some insist that our nutritional needs can be met exclusively from plants, they may not realize that plant-based B12 is often inaccessible to our body. While animal sources of this vitamin come in a form which is active B12—which means your body can utilize the nutrient right after you consume it— most plant based B12 is in the inactive form. This means that while foods like seaweed, spirulina and nutritional yeast may contain an analog of B12, your body may not be able to absorb much of it.
In fact, consuming inactive B12 may even interfere with our absorption of active B12. Researchers have shown that when subjects eat inactive B12 together with active B12, levels of this vitamin actually decline in the body. This has led some researchers to conclude that inactive forms of B12 are “useless.”
Chlorella to the Rescue
A daily, synthetic B12 supplement can help meet your nutritional needs. But if you prefer a natural, food-based source, consider chlorella—a freshwater algae. In addition to containing protein, fiber, and chlorophyll, chlorella has been proven to contain an absorbable form of active B12. In one study, chlorella was shown to improve vitamin B12 levels in vegans and vegetarians.
Published in The Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers observed otherwise healthy vegans and vegetarians who had low B12 levels. Participants were given nine grams of chlorella granules a day. After 60 days they had significant reduction in their homocysteine levels and MMA levels—both of which indicate a B12 deficiency when elevated.
But not all chlorella supplements are created equally. In order to get at the nutrition inside the algae, you need a strategy to bust open its tough, indigestible cell well. Some manufacturers use heat or chemicals to do the job. Unfortunately, these methods can destroy some of chlorella’s delicate nutrients and contaminate the supplement.
Sun Chlorella is superior, because it is produced by pulverizing the algae’s cell wall without the use of heat or chemicals. The result is a product that is more digestible and more nutritious.
Another obstacle our bodies face in its quest for the elusive B12 is the state of our stomach acid—the weaker it is, the harder a time our body has digesting this nutrient. Stomach acid can lose its punch with age, or with drugs. That’s why chronic drinkers or those who are on an acid blocking medication long term often have trouble absorbing B12, even the active form.
If your digestion is compromised, you may need to consume more B12 to meet your body’s needs. An important step to raising your B12 level is to improve your microbiome—the vast colony of bacteria that reside in your colon. Eating more fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha that contain probiotics, and reducing your intake of things that cause gut inflammation, such as processed foods, excess sugar, and anything deep fried, will ensure that your body can adequately absorb the B12 you feed it. Bonus points if you eat prebiotic foods like chlorella, to help the probiotics thrive.
By improving your diet, and consuming more active forms of B12, you can support your overall health and well-being.