When it comes to achieving maximum health and wellness, you need a variety of vitamins and minerals in your diet. For instance, vitamin C helps bolster your immune system and can protect you against cardiovascular disease, and vitamin A is important for eye health and protecting your cells from oxidative damage.
However, another vitamin that you need for proper functioning is vitamin B12. And, as it turns out, intrinsic factor plays a key role in its absorption.
Intrinsic factor and vitamin B12
Essentially, when you eat foods that contain vitamin B12, your stomach must first separate this nutrient from the food itself, which it does with the help of hydrochloric acid. From there, it combines the B12 with a new protein made by the cells in your stomach lining called intrinsic factor, which ultimately aids your intestines with the absorption of the B12.1
Why is B12 so important?
Vitamin B12 aids your body in the prevention and treatment of major medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, inflammatory bowel disease, AIDS, skin infection, and various cancers.2 It is essential for other reasons, as well, some of which include:
- Enhanced cognitive function (memory and focus);
- Improved mood;
- Higher levels of energy; and
- Stronger immune function.2
Vitamin B12 also assists with the growth and formation of red blood cells, the cells responsible for carrying oxygen rich blood from your lungs to the rest of your body. Therefore, if your body doesn’t make intrinsic factor, you may not adequately absorb vitamin B12, thus putting you at risk for a B12 deficiency.3
Negative effects of vitamin B12 deficiency
First and foremost, if you don’t absorb enough vitamin B12, it can affect your nervous system, which can cause balance issues or a tingling sensation in your hands and feet. And, as mentioned above, it can also reduce your cognitive function, making it harder to remember things or to concentrate on a task. Left untreated, this type of damage can be permanent.1
A vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to a condition called pernicious anemia, which is when your body doesn’t make enough red blood cells due to the fact that it cannot absorb this key nutrient. The result is feelings of weakness and fatigue, and it can even harm your heart, brain, and various other organs if the deficiency continues over any length of time.3
Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Irregular heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
- Pale or yellow skin
- Personality changes4
These symptoms may be barely noticeable at the onset of the deficiency but often become more apparent as the vitamin B12 becomes more depleted in your body. To know for sure whether you are deficient, blood tests should be conducted to test levels of B12 and the number and appearance of red blood cells.
In the event that you don’t make intrinsic factor and are therefore deficient in vitamin B12, your doctor may suggest dietary changes and vitamin B12 supplements via a pill or nasal spray. In cases of severe deficiencies, B12 injections may be necessary, which may mean that you need to get them every other day until your levels of B12 increase, eventually reducing their frequency once your levels stabilize.1
It may also help to eat more foods high in vitamin B12 such as eggs, vitamin fortified breakfast cereals, dairy products, shellfish, and red meat. The goal should be to take in 2.4 micrograms of B12 daily.1
Dee Cee Laboratories Inc. offers BIOTRINSIC, which provides Intrinsic Factor, folate, and methylcobalamin B-12 for enhanced absorption and utilization of orally administered vitamin B-12.*
1 National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. “Vitamin B12: Fact Sheet for Consumers.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-Consumer/. Reviewed June 2011. Accessed February 2015.
2 Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. “Vitamin B12.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-926-vitamin%20b12.aspx?activeingredientid=926&activeingredientname=vitamin%20b12. Accessed February 2015.
3 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “What is pernicious anemia?” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/prnanmia. Published April 2011. Accessed February 2015.
4 Mayo Clinic Staff. “Vitamin deficiency anemia.” Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vitamin-deficiency-anemia/basics/symptoms/con-20019550. Published January 2014. Accessed February 2015.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.