You’ve more than likely overheard your coworker, cousin, or friend talking about getting their weekly or monthly B12 shots. Once you dig a little deeper, you find out that they don’t really know that much about why they are receiving that injection, other than the fact that their doctor said it was low, and that they feel like it gives them more energy. So what is B12 and why is it so important?
Vitamin B12 (aka cobalamin) is found naturally in meat products, and most abundantly in red meat. For this reason, those following a vegetarian or vegan diet are often deficient in B12.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency include:
Peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain)
Memory and mood changes
B12 levels can also be altered in people with compromised digestion or absorption. For example, the elderly, those with bowel diseases (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, etc.), cancer patients, and those who are frequently treated with antibiotics will tend to have suboptimal B12 levels.
Besides treating B12 deficiency related anemia and those with suboptimal digestion, B12 can also be useful in:
Patients on drugs that deplete B12 levels (ie. some anticonvulsants)
So why injections? It’s true that oral supplementation of B12 is cost effective and readily available—many of my patients do choose to take B12 orally. However, oral supplementation is not always the best option, particularly when digestion is impaired.
B12 injections are not for everyone. If you are interested in B12 injections, please check with your primary care provider or contact Dr. Cho.
Christine Cho, Toronto naturopath, north york naturopath, chronic pain, naturopathic doctor