Dangers Of B-12 Deficiency : Are You B-12 Deficient ?

B-12 deficiencyWhat is Vitamin B-12?

Vitamin B is a group of 8 B -Vitamins that are water soluble, which means that these vitamins are soluble in water and the body only takes up the needed amount of these B vitamins and any excess amount is excreted through urine. Vitamin B-12, also known as Cobalamin, is one of them. Vitamin B-12 plays a very important role in the formation of red blood cells, DNA replication, and the formation of an insulating material around the nerve cells and proper functioning of the nerve cells.

What is different about the absorption of B-12 vitamins?

This very important vitamin is absorbed by the body from the food in a very complex series of events:

Mouth: Vitamin-B-12, which is not bounded by protein, gets absorbed under the tongue.

Stomach: Hydrocloric acid in the stomach separates B-12 from the protein to which it is attached in the food. B-12 then gets attached to R-protein, which is produced by the salivary gland of the oral cavity. This is necessary in order to protect the vitamin from stomach acid. The intrinsic factor, or IF, is secreted into the stomach.

Small Intestine: In the small intestine, the R-protein releases B-12 which is then picked up by IF and then carried into the bloodstream to the cells where it can be used and then stored in the liver.

What causes B-12 deficiency?

A person can be deficient in Vitamin B-12 under following conditions:

  1. Being a vegetarian can put a person at risk of having B-12 deficiency. This is due to the fact that B-12 is not found in any plant food. 
  2. Taking an antacid, diabetic drugs like Metformin, anesthetics used for sedation in dental, and surgical procedures like Nitrous-oxide can cause B-12 deficiency. Antacid medications usually work on reducing the acid in the stomach. Stomach acid is required to separate B-12 from the protein to which it is attached. In the absence of this acid, B-12 is not absorbed by the body, resulting in B-12 deficiency.
  3. People with various gastro-intestinal diseases like Chron’s, colitis, diverticulitis, celiac disease, and the presence of worms in the intestine can cause B-12 deficiencies.
  4. People who have weight-loss surgeries to have part of the stomach or small intestine removed may develop B-12 deficiencies.
  5. Production of stomach acid reduces as we age, making older people more susceptible to a condition called atrophic gastritis. This condition causes thinning of stomach lining.
  6. Bacteria like H. pylori damages the lining of the stomach and its ability to produce the intrinsic factor also known as the stomach acid. Sometimes a person may have this bacteria present in the gut and have no symptoms at all. Presence of H. pylori can affect the absorption of B-12 vitamin.
  7. People with eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia.

Symptoms of Severe B12 Deficiency:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tingling sensations or numbness in arms, toes or fingers
  • Cognitive dysfunction including confusion, forgetfulness, brain fog.
  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling unmotivated
  • Sleeplessness
  • Migraines
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Weight-loss
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Red, inflamed and sore tongue
  • Bruising easily
  • Decreased blood clotting
  • Gum bleeding
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Trouble maintaining balance while walking
Foods High in B12:
  • Dairy products
  • Fish
  • Crab
  • Lobster
  • Octopus
  • Lamb
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Ham
  • Tuna
  • Fortified Cereals and Energy bars
  • Whey protien
  • Fortified Tofu and soy milk
  • Supplements like nutritional yeast. Do note that though brewers yeast contain other B vitamins, it does not contain vitamin B-12.
How do you know if you have B-12 deficiency?

Because the body stores up to 6 years of B-12 and 3 to 6 months of folate in the liver, deficiency of Vitamin B-12 might not show up until after several years. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above or the conditions which might make you susceptible to lowered B-12 levels, it is always better to talk to your healthcare provider and get tested for B-12 levels in the blood. Early detection and treatment are the keys to prevent irreversible damage to brain and nervous system. Two tests that are commonly done to find the B-12 deficiency are  homocysteine (Hcy) and methylmalonic acid (MMA). MMA is considered a more specific test of B-12 deficiency. If the reason for B-12 deficiency is not obvious, other tests may be required such as, intrinsic factor anti-body measurement to detect pernicious anemia, and B-12 malabsorption and deficiency. Pernicious anemia is an auto-immune disease that destroys the cells in the stomach lining that produces  the intrinsic factor. High levels of folate can also mask B-12 deficiency. To prevent this from happening, NIH recommends that the folic acid intake from foods and supplements should not exceed 1000 mg daily for healthy individuals. In the U.S normal range of B-12 vitamin is between 200 pg/mL and 350 pg/mL. But some experts consider that this reference range is too low and people with less the 450 pg/ml should be treated with B-12. At the same time in Japan and Europe, the lower limit for B12 is between 500-550 pg/mL which according to some experts explains the low rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s in these countries.

Treatment for people with B-12 deficiency:

Treatment of B-12 deficiency greatly depends on the cause of the deficiency. This treatment may include supplements which is available in the form of pills, sub-lingual orally disintegrating tables, oral spray, shots, and also metered nasal spray which might be available through a physician’s office. Some people may need a lifetime supplementation of Vitamin B-12.  People who are in need daily supplement of vitamin B-12 are:

  • Vegan and vegetarians
  • People with pernicious anemia
  • People over the age of 50
  • People with digestive problems like low stomach acid or celiac or Chron’s disease
  • Women who are pregnant or nursing
  • People with dementia or Alzheimer’s
  • People on certain prescription medications like PPI or diabetic drugs.
  • Children with autism
  • People taking too much folate.
  • People with liver disease.

B-12 deficiency is very common and often misdiagnosed as pre-existing diseases and co-morbid conditions. At the same time, current B-12 serum levels for normal is too low. So if you suspect that you may have any of the above discussed conditions, talk to your doctor and get tested for B-12 levels.






 Image credit: conceptw / 123RF Stock Photo

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this website is provided for informational purpose only and is not intended as a substitute for professional or medical advice. Do not use the information on this website to diagnose or treat any medical or health condition. If you suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your professional healthcare provider.

10 Tips On Staying Young And Healthy As You Age!

staying young healthy aging
“Old age is clearly a case of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Mark Twain.

Though aging is inevitable, we are all in search of this “Fountain Of Youth” that can keep us younger. But is it really possible? Can we reverse cell degeneration that occurs with aging and turn back the clock ? Though it might not be possible to reverse aging, we can slow down the process. Here are some health tips for staying young and healthy!

1. Eat Healthy :

Diet is an important part of staying healthy. Eating leafy greens helps sooth inflammation and the phyto-nutrients in these foods can help protect against age-related illness. Foods high in vitamin C are anti-oxidants that boosts immunity. Drink plenty of water for hydrating the skin, as the skin is the largest organ on the body. Eating the foods from all food groups ensures that your body is getting proper nutrition.

2. Manage Stress:

Stress can have a variety of negative effects on the body. High levels of stress can make you look older and worsen acne. Stress can also lead to many digestive problems.  Dr. Elissa Epel, a psychiatrist at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), conducted research on how stress affects aging.The research linked stress with aging and have confirmed that stress can lead to deterioration of cells and reduce life-span.

3. Exercise:

Ernestine Shepherd was 74 years old when she was declared the oldest body builder by the Guinness Book of World Records. According to Shepherd, Age is nothing but a number and she also goes on to say that if there was ever an anti-aging pill, it was exercise! Exercise reduces inflammation throughout the body, keeps the blood pumping, and slows the aging process.

4. Take your supplements:

With our nutrient depleted foods, it is extremely important to take vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidant supplements. As we age our body, it is not as efficient as it used to be in the production of certain vitamins and minerals. For example Coq10 is an anti-oxidant produced by cells in our body, but as we age the body, it becomes less and less efficient for our body to make Coq10. These supplements not only slow aging, but also help reduce inflammation which is the cause of neurological and cardiovascular diseases.

5. Having A Positive Outlook

Having a positive outlook is very important when it comes to aging. Anthony Ong, an Associate Professor of Human Development at Cornell University, says, “We all age. It is how we age, however, that determines the quality of our lives”. A positive outlook is an antidote to combat stress, pain, and age related illnesses.

6. Eat Your Omega-3

Taking a daily dose of Omega-3 helps keep the nerve cells in the brain healthy, which is especially important as you age. Other benefits of Omega-3 that help as we age are protection against Alzheimer’s, dementia, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and depression. As with any medicine or supplement, it is very important to consult a family practitioner before starting a supplement regiment. Supplements should never be used as a replacement for conventional medicine but should be used to complement your current medicine as prescribed by your doctor.

7. Get Enough Sleep

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have found a link between aging and the deterioration of brain cells and memory loss due to a lack of adequate sleep. It is imperative to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Getting deep sleep is important, as it is during the REM sleep that the brain can store and retain information.

8. Drink Plenty Of Water

It may surprise you, but drinking water has anti-aging benefits that can help you stay young. Even though wrinkles are a part of the normal aging process, we still like to have younger looking skin. Collagen in our body holds the cells of our body together. As we age, our body loses its water content. As a result, the production of collagen in our body slows down, and the skin begins to wrinkle and dry out. Because the weight of collagen is 60% to 70% water, it is very important to keep your body hydrated especially as you age.

9. Exercise Your Brain

The thing we fear the most as we age is the decline in cognitive function. But there are ways that we can exercise our brain and techniques that can regenerate new brain cells and thus protect us against declining cognitive function. Stimulate the brain by taking up any of the following activity:

  • Learning a new language or a new skill
  • Taking music lessons
  • Solving a puzzle
  • Solving math problems
  • Playing challenging games like chess and scrabble.
  • Reading
10. Know Your Numbers

It is very important to stay informed about the below mentioned numbers to stay healthy as you age:

  • Your BMI which is your body mass index( between 25-18)
  • Blood Pressure (between 120/80)
  • Total Cholesterol ( below 200 mg/dL)
  • HDL ( below 40 mg/dl and LDL less than 100 mg/dL)
  • Fasting glucose (below 100 mg/dL)
  • Hemoglobin A1C (below 7%)
  • Triglycerides (below 150 mg/dL)

In addition, it is also imperative to have an annual physical done at the doctor’s office .

“There is a fountain of youth; it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
― Sophia Loren







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Metabolic Syndrome: Are You At Risk?

Metabolic syndromeWhat is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome, also called Syndrome X or insulin resistance, is comprised of four different conditions in a person:

1). Obesity: In men, with a waistline of 40 inches or more, and in women, with waistline of 35 inches or more, is considered a risk factor.

2). High Blood Pressure: People who are on blood pressure medication, or whose blood pressure is 130/85 mm Hg or more.

3). Type 2 Diabetes: People with fasting blood sugar of more than 100 mg/ DL , or are on medication for controlling type 2 diabetes.

4). High Cholesterol : Men with a HDL of less than 40 mg/dl and women with less than 50 mg/dl.

Metabolic syndrome is basically the combination of these factors present in a person, that can put him or her at risk of developing  heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

What are the causes of Metabolic Syndrome?

The main causes of metabolic syndrome are:

  • Insulin Resistance 
  • Obesity
  • Inactive lifestyle

What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas which makes it possible for the body’s cells to use and store glucose from the food. When we eat food, it is broken down into glucose and eventually absorbed into the bloodstream. When the pancreas detects a rise in blood glucose levels, it is the signal for them to release insulin. The job of insulin is to remove that glucose from the bloodstream and to bind to the cell membrane for that glucose to be used by the cells for energy. This results in the dropping of blood sugar and at the same time is a signal for the pancreas to stop producing insulin. Insulin resistance can be explained as a malfunction that occurs when the cells cannot take up the insulin in the bloodstream. This causes an increase in the blood sugar levels, due to which the pancreas never gets the signal to switch off the insulin production and as a result they make more insulin. Over time, the pancreas becomes overworked and less efficient and after some time completely stops producing insulin and the person will then have to take a daily dose of insulin. Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome are often used interchangeably.

What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Insulin Resistance?
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • High blood glucose levels.
  • Presence of protein in the urine, which is the sign of kidney damage.
  • Increased risk of  blood clots.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Sleepiness after eating a meal.
  • Sugar cravings after meal.
  • Mood swings and irritability due to fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which can get better with eating.
  •  Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in women.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Belly fat
  • Intestinal bloating
  • Depression
Can We Reverse Insulin Resistance Or Metabolic Syndrome?

There are steps that we can take to reverse insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome.

Diet: Diet plays a very important role in reversing insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome. DASH diet also known as Dietary Approach To Stop Hypertension was developed by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to treat and prevent high blood pressure, also helps with insulin resistance. Eating on time every 3 to 4 hours is very important in balancing your blood glucose levels ; at the same time eating foods with low glycemic index helps you feel full for longer period of time and lower insulin levels which reduces the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. Eat foods that are whole grains and avoid processed or junk foods. Avoid alcohol consumption and high fructose corn syrup or any artificial sweeteners which can negatively impact blood glucose levels. Eating protein and fiber at every meal will also help stabilize blood sugar.

Exercise: 30 minutes of exercise every day can reverse insulin resistance. Taking a walk after dinner is one of the most powerful way to lower your blood sugar levels. Exercising is important as you age, this is because aging increases the risk of metabolic syndrome. High Intensity workout releases growth hormone HGH and slow down the aging process.

Managing Stress: Stress can cause weight gain, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. It becomes very important to manage stress for both the mind and the body. Meditation, yoga and deep breathing exercises are very powerful in managing stress.

Losing Weigh :  Weight loss is a key to reverse insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. If you exercise and eat healthy, losing weigh will be a side effect of your new changed lifestyle.

Supplements : There are certain supplements that improve blood sugar levels. Caution should be used while taking these supplements. It is always best to talk to your health care provider before starting any kind of supplement regime specially if you are on any prescription medicine or have any serious health conditions as some of these supplements if taken without supervision may dangerously lower blood sugar levels or cause hypoglycemia. Some supplements used are :

  • Gymnema Sylvestre
  • Chromium
  • Magnesium
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Bitter melon
  • Freeze dried okra
  • Standardized Bilberry extract
  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid
  • Omega-3
  • High quality fiber like Glucomannan.

Working with your healthcare practitioner: It is very important to talk about metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance with your health care practitioner if you have any of the above mentioned symptoms. For some people diet and exercise may not be enough and they might have to take prescription medication to improve insulin sensitivity or improve the uptake of glucose by the cells. Metabolic syndrome is reversible so be in charge of your health today, and take the necessary steps  to lose weight and eat healthy; and reduce your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.









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Dash Diet for Metabolic Syndrome

Is Bird Flu (Avian influenza) The Next Pandemic?

bird fluWhat is Avian influenza or Bird flu?

The influenza virus has many strains, and one of the adaptations of this virus to its host and in this case, the birds is called the bird flu. In simple words, bird flu is the infection in bird with an influenza virus. This disease is typically found in wild birds but somehow has found its way to domestic poultry like chicken, ducks and turkey. H5N1 is the most dangerous strain and a highly pathogenic (capable of causing disease) form of bird flu.

Why is Avian flu called H5N1?

Flu virus is a genetic material (DNA) surrounded by a protective coating. and it is named after the protein that is found on the virus. H5N1 get its name from H for Hemagglutinin is a protein substance that determines the ability of the viruses to attach and enter to cells so that the immune system in your body cannot detect the virus; and N for Neuraminidase is a protein substance that determines the ability of the virus to spread infection. There are 16 different types of hemagglutinin and 9 different types of neuraminidase and because these proteins mutate over time , there are different version of these proteins. So H5N1 virus is the 5th type of H gene and 1st type of N gene.

How can a person get infected with Avian flu?

Even though it is rare for a person to get bird flu, it can be transmitted on to people who have worked with infected poultry or have eaten under-cooked meat from the infected poultry. People can also be infected from exposure to contaminated surfaces of bird feces or respiratory secretions.

What are the Bird flu symptoms?

Bird flu in humans can cause flu-like symptoms like fever, sore throat, body aches, chills, conjunctivitis and cough. More severe symptoms include pneumonia, multiple organ failure, and sepsis leading to death. The incubation period is anywhere from 3 to 7 days and can last for up-to a week.

How is the Bird flu diagnosed?

Bird flu is diagnosed at the doctor’s office where a test can be performed to identify the type of flu virus. This test is called the PCR testing which detects the nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) of the flu virus. In addition to the test, it is also important to let your doctor know if you have travelled to the country where avian flu is common or visited an open market having live birds.

Can Bird flu become the next pandemic?

In the beginning scientists thought that it is not possible for the bird flu to spread to people but the genetic mutation in the virus has proved otherwise. So far the cases of bird flu has infected the people who have been in close contact with infected bird i.e. bird to human transmission of the virus. But so far human to human transmission is not heard of. The fear now is that this virus has the capability to mutate to the extent that it can spread from person to person and become the next pandemic. According to an article in National Geography, this adaptation can occur at any time thru what is called the re-assortment of the genes of the avian strain and the human strain. Re-assortment can happen if the person has been infected by human flu and bird flu at the same time, these two viruses can swap genes, leading to an emergence of human version of bird flu. The pandemic flu of 1957 and 1968 is the result of this re-assortment. When Klaus Stohr , project leader at WHO influenza programme was asked if the bird flu pandemic is imminent he replied, “With this virus we have had very many surprises; we have had a very steep learning curve, We are seeing that it is changing very rapidly. We have also seen that it is not re-assorting as everybody thought 18 months ago. So we do not know if a pandemic can occur next week or next year, or perhaps if another virus is going to cause a pandemic. We should simply continue with our pandemic preparedness.” ( Source Web MD.)

 Treatment of Bird Flu:

Because of the mutations in the influenza virus, anti-viral drugs such as amantadine and rimantadine do not work for flu anymore. But the treatment with antiviral medication oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) will make the disease less severe if they are taken within two days of the appearance of the symptoms of the flu. A person diagnosed with bird flu should be put in isolation. It is usually recommended by the doctors to get a flu shot to reduce the chance of the mixing of the bird and human flu virus which can create a new virus that can easily be spread from person to person.


According to Mayo clinic FDA has one approved vaccine for one of the stain of H5N1 virus, but it will be made available to the public only in event of an outbreak. Researchers are also working on vaccines that can be used against other stains of Bird flu virus. People can take certain precautionary measures to prevent getting  bird flu. Some precautions are:

  • Washing hands.
  • Cooking poultry thoroughly.
  • Avoid eating raw or under-cooked eggs.
  • Avoid open air market and domesticated birds
  • Never touch dead or sick birds.
  • Watch wildlife from a distance.
  • Report to a health care official if you see dead or sick bird.
  • Before travelling talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot specially if you have weak immune system.
Chinese remedy used in China for Bird flu virus:

The local government in China have encouraged the use of traditional Chinese remedy called ban lan gen, or blue root for protection against the Bird flu. In China ban lan gen is associated as an anti-viral medicine against the flu. Although there has been some controversy about the use of banlagen, people continue to stock up on this Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Read more on Pandemic Flu Resources at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/










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DISCLAIMER: The contents of this website is provided for informational purpose only and is not intended as a substitute for professional or medical advice. Do not use the information on this website to diagnose or treat any medical or health condition. If you suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your professional healthcare provider.
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