Unfortunately, I’ve become very aware of B-12 deficiency because an elderly family member has been hospitalized 3 times in the last 6 months from falling and weakness due to this. In her case, it is the Metformin aka Glucophage that she’s been on for Type 2 Diabetes that is causing the B-12 deficiency and secondary anemia. It’s so sad, because her family doctor seems oblivious to the cause of the anemia, and keeps trying to supplement iron when it’s the B-12 deficiency that is causing the red blood cells to not mature or function properly. So, why is this important to me and ALL people with Lyme disease?
There are many reasons why someone can have B-12 deficiency. Diet (low in meat or nutrition in general- in my relative’s case, not having an appetite and not wanting to cook- so malnourishment also played a role, as it does with many seniors), genetics (some family lines could be prone to B-12 deficiency or maybe physiologically need more than others), adrenal burnout (which all of us with chronic illness have some degree of, Lyme and coinfections for sure!!!), stress and trauma (again, triggers adrenals which utilize B-12 to make cortisol at a higher rate, also disrupts absorption because stress interferes with normal digestive processes), taking antacids (lack of HCl in the stomach prevents proper absorbtion of B-12, especially acid blockers), drinking more than 4 cups of coffee per day (many people who are chronically fatigued and have lack of energy do this just to get by- me, if I drank coffee at ANY time of day/night, I’d NEVER sleep, LOL!), as well as taking other medications that deplete the levels of B-12 (including Metformin/Glucophage for diabetes as mentioned above, ***birth control pills***, STATINS to lower cholesterol, antibiotics such as the “-CYLINES” like Doxycycline, Tetracycline, etc… interfere with absorption if taken together, and medications for treating cancer and controlling seizures).
Even eating enough meat isn’t a foolproof way these days to get enough dietary B12 since the livestock are fed B12 deficient grains in most cases of modern farming practices. Grass-fed organic meat has more B12 than the factory-farmed meat most people eat by default. Another important point- even if there is enough B12 in the diet (vegetarians can get B12 from animal sources such as milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese, whey powder and yeast extract spreads such as “Marmite”- vegans, it would have to be supplemented and not sure there is a reliable non-animal source for B12?), having taken many rounds of antibiotics can wipe out the gut flora and disrupt absorption of natural B12. This applies to me, and most people who have been diagnosed with Lyme and/or other tick-borne co-infections. I’ll write more on this later, because there are entire BOOKS written on B12 deficiency- such as “Could It Be B12?: An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses.” Substitute “B12” with “Lyme Disease”, hmmm… Ring any bells?
B12 is SO important for over 100 chemical reactions to occur within the human body. It is VITAL for proper functioning of the immune AND the nervous system- the 2 areas that Lyme hits the hardest. B12 is imperative for proper energy levels & strength, cognitive functioning, emotionally stability and mental health, healthy nerves, cardiovascular health, proper adrenal function (which affects ALL hormones)- and the list goes on and on… In researching B12 deficiency to try and help my family member, I have run across something my family AND Lyme MD have never tested or mentioned, despite so many of my symptoms that overlapped from Lyme to B12 deficiency. Migraines, insomnia, depression, allergies, asthma, aches and pains (especially in the cervical spine), memory and concentration problems, fatigue and low endurance- again, the list goes on and on.
So- I ran out to the local health food store today and got a bottle of sublingual B12, with B-complex (they all work synergistically), today. The ongoing stress caused by having a sick family member has been taking it’s toll- many sleepless nights or waking up worrying. Even though I had been taking a B-complex AND P5P (the active form of B6, mentioned in my earlier Pyroluria posts), the amount of B12 in the B-complex was only 50 mcg: just a fraction of what I read is necessary for someone who has probably had a B12 deficiency for years, if not decades (yes, you can be born with it, if your mother is also deficient- my mom most likely is, as well). For all I know the B-complex I’ve been taking isn’t even bioavailable!?!!! 😦 Sigh.
So, the supplement I got and took 2x today is: Solgar Sublingual Liquid B-12 with B-complex, 2000 mcg, Gluten/Wheat/Dairy free, and suitable for vegetarians ***I no longer can recommend this product, edit 3/21/15, SEE NOTE***, (I am not a vegetarian, but have been in the past, for 6 years as a teenager- and I never felt worse until I started eating meat, again- now I know why, at least partly!). It got very good reviews on Amazon, but the reason I purchased this type of B12 (cyanocobalamin- there are at least 4 other forms I have read about) is because of the delivery- sublingual, meaning it will be absorbed in the mouth if held under the tongue. This bypasses the digestive system, in case there is an absorption problem in my gut. Since treating Lyme and taking probiotics, as well as going off of dairy, gluten, GMO foods (soy, wheat, corn, etc…), and sugar, my digestion is 90% better than it was 5 years ago, but I wanted to be sure the B12 would become bioavailable ASAP. I will research the different forms and delivery systems more, but for now, this seemed to be the quickest way to see results, apart from B-12 injections.
One of the first things I noticed within an hour of taking the first 2000mcg under my tongue was that I started yawning and feeling more relaxed than I had in days! B-vitamins in general help with this, because they are so essential in helping the nervous system and body deal with stress, but I was astonished at how much relief I felt within 30-60 minutes. A few hours later, I took another 2000mcg, and experienced another wave of stress-relief and relaxation… Best $12 I’ve spent in a long time! What I’m hoping is that taking B12 will help me resolve my most persistent symptom that predates Lyme (unless I was born with it, no way to know- but I was a pretty sick baby and kid)- the dreaded chronic INSOMNIA. It’s gotten a LOT better, since treating Lyme, BUT- any amount of stress can cause me to be up all night, or fall asleep and then wake up 2 hrs later, not able to go back to sleep… I will keep you all posted as time goes on and I have a chance to keep taking this new supplement. I am hopeful because… (drumroll, please)… B12 is necessary for the body to produce melatonin!!! It also helps the body turn off melatonin production in the morning, to help increase wakefulness and boost energy levels. Low levels of melatonin and low levels of B12 often go hand-in-hand.
B-vitamins can also increase energy levels and help combat fatigue, so I will NOT be taking my last dose right before bed! 😉 As I gain more experience taking B12 and do more research, I will report back with what I learn. One more symptom I have had that predates Lyme/Babesia is SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. B12 is also supposed to be helpful for this as well! MANY people in my geographical area have SAD. I am seriously eager to see this mood disorder resolve itself. Interestingly, my relative w/the B12 deficit also has suffered from sleep trouble and SAD! As much as I hate my dear 90 year old relative suffering from B12 deficiency, it has caused me to realize that I am most likely dealing with it, myself- but definitely to a lesser extent. Over time, B12 deficiency can cause irreversible damage to the body, along with the pernicious anemia it causes- and can even be fatal (causing heart attacks and strokes, to name a few ways it can lead to death)!
Blood tests aren’t always accurate in diagnosing the deficiency (hmmmm… sound familiar?), so I’m choosing to supplement now and see how my symptoms improve. Lab tests haven’t done much for me, but I know they do help some people. In my life, time and money are of the essence, and I don’t have any surplus of either to waste on tests that may or may not be helpful… Being sick has wasted enough of my time and other resources. Also, my MD is backlogged from a personal injury and having to take many months off work for therapy, so it would take months to get in to see him. Of course, I suggest that you do your own research on B-12 and go talk to your doctor about it.
A lot of Lyme patients are already getting B-12 injections or taking B-12 supplements. If you are- you’re ahead of the game!!! Let me know what works for you! From everything I’ve read so far, B12 is water soluble (like Vitamin C) and therefore, if my body has a surplus, it will be excreted through urine. The Linus Pauling Institute says that B12 is non-toxic even in high doses, so there is no upper limit of non-intravenous (oral, sublingual, etc…) supplementation. Good to know! 😉
***NOTE: This product has several preservatives and also “Natural Flavor” which can cause histamine reactions in some sensitive individuals, including one of my family members. Click here to read post about “Lyme, B12, MTHFR & Allergies”, 3/21. I can no longer recommend this product!