The Link Between Vitamin B12 and Gluten Sensitivity
One of the biggest problems seen in chronically sick people with a gluten sensitivity is a lack of Vitamin B12. This is in part due to the area of the small intestines and stomach that gluten can damage. Both areas are critical for vitamin B12 absorption. In that regard, if you are gluten sensitive, it is important to work with your doctor so that you can be properly evaluated for vitamin B12 deficiency. Nutritional testing and evaluation is extremely important and should be a primary focus with any doctor you choose to work with. In the following video, Dr. Osborne breaks down everything you need to know about vitamin B12. Don’t like video? Scroll down to read a summary.
The Function of Vitamin B12
While all vitamins are important, Vitamin B12 is crucial to the functioning of your body. This is because it is responsible for rapid DNA and RNA production or replication. Once replicated, these are used to create new cells in the body, which is especially critical in the gut where cells reproduce every two days.
It is also important in allowing the brain and nervous system to function normally. It aids in the formation of red blood cells and plays a part in the metabolism of every cell of the body through energy production and synthesis of fatty acids.
It is primarily found in animal protein, which must be broken down in the stomach for adequate absorption. When someone eats meat or eggs, the hydrochloric acid, or HCL, contained in the stomach separates out the Vitamin B12. Intrinsic factor, also found in the stomach, grabs the vitamin and transports it through the small intestine to the ilium, where it will be absorbed into the body.
Causes of Deficiencies
While there are many causes of a deficiency, one of the most obvious is a diet low in animal protein. Since this is how one can obtain more of this nutrient, other than supplements, not eating meat or not eating enough of it is one of the easiest ways to end up with a deficiency. Additionally, taking medication like antacids limits the amount of acid in your stomach, prohibiting the digestion of the meat and access to Vitamin B12.
Other medications like Metformin, taken by diabetics, chemotherapy drugs, and even antibiotics found in meat can block the absorption of the nutrient.
If a person has an infection or pernicious anemia which affects the Intrinsic Factor, they too can become deficient. Lastly, a large intake of sugar, which requires a great supply of nutrients to metabolize, can also cause a deficiency.
Symptoms of Deficiency
The work that vitamins and nutrients are doing within our bodies can’t always be seen, therefore, it’s easy to overlook their value. However, when one is deficient in even one of these important components, there can be severe reactions. Below are just some of the issues you may experience if you are not obtaining enough Vitamin B12:
- Anemia, which leads to severe fatigue, shortness of breath, and brain fog
- Neuropathy in the form of numbness, pain, or muscle weakness (often mimicking Multiple Sclerosis)
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Joint pain
- Hair loss, glossitis (a red swollen tongue), and swollen gums
Those At Risk
One of the most obvious groups of individuals who are at risk for a Vitamin B12 deficiency is vegans or vegetarians. Because they don’t eat animal protein, they are likely not getting the recommended amount of Vitamin B12 and should consider taking a supplement. Those with gluten sensitivity also have a hard time absorbing Vitamin B12 and are at greater risk, as well.
Although surprising, athletes are at a greater risk of deficiency. This is due to the fact that they produce higher levels of red blood cells. As mentioned, Vitamin B12 plays a major role in cell reproduction. If an athlete’s red blood cell production is too great, it could deplete the stores of Vitamin B12 in the body. It is important for all of these groups to be regularly tested to make sure they are receiving and maintaining adequate supplies of Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 Tests
If you are concerned about your Vitamin B12 levels, there are several tests that can be performed. While they don’t all say for certain that you have a Vitamin B12 deficiency, they are good indicators of it.
Homocysteine and MCH Tests
One test your doctor can run is a homocysteine test. Homocysteine is a normal product of metabolism and one that Vitamin B12 itself metabolizes and helps get rid of. Therefore, if your homocysteine level is over 11, then you may be lacking enough Vitamin B12 to handle it.
Another test your doctor can run is the MCH or mean corpuscular hemoglobin test. This is performed in most blood count testing and if shown to be high means that you have a form of macrocytic anemia. While this could indicate a Vitamin B12 deficiency, it may not be the only reason for macrocytic anemia. This s why it is not the best indicator.
The Best Test
Ultimately, the best test your doctor can perform is one at the intracellular level. While blood tests may indicate some issues with Vitamin B12, the definitive answer will come with tests performed at the intracellular level. Vitamin B12 does most of its work within the cell itself. That’s why this is a sure way to discover if your levels are where they should be.
Foods High in Vitamin B12
Avoid Getting Too Much
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, it is easily flushed out of the body, making it hard to reach toxic levels. However, a large amount of it can cause you to feel awake, alert, and in some cases even anxious. If taking a supplement, it’s recommended that you do it in the morning. This is preferred to taking it at night before bedtime.
Everything in Moderation (Except Gluten)
What a person ingests can have a significant impact on how their body functions and survives. It can be easy to get engrossed with every item consumed. However, it’s important to remember that a well-rounded diet with clean, natural foods is best.
If you start to feel bad or are dealing with symptoms you can’t pinpoint, take a look at your diet. Figure out what you may or may not be lacking. Switch things up and discover for yourself how obtaining the right vitamins and nutrients can change your life for the better!
Always looking out for you,
Dr. Osborne- The Gluten Free Warrior