A Naturopathic Discussion of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a member of the B Complex, a group of vitamins, each with a unique function in the body, but synergistically regarded for how they help the body’s cells produce energy. Vitamin B12, along with thiamin (B1), niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin, and folate make up the B Complex. B12 is essential to the production of new DNA, red blood cells, proteins, hormones and fats, as well as regulating mood and maintaining healthy nervous and immune systems.

If you aren’t getting enough B12 through diet, or your body isn’t absorbing or using it efficiently, you can become deficient. This can lead to a range of health problems: intense fatigue, loss of appetite, trouble concentrating, anemia, and depression. B12 deficiency affects up to 15% of people in the U.S.

The aging process, a vegan diet, stress, certain medications, and illness can alter your body’s ability to utilize B12 from food. Medications, such as those for reflux or Type 2 diabetes, affect B12 absorption. Also, if you’ve had major surgery, have digestive problems, or Celiac Disease you have an increased risk for B12 deficiency.

Most people who eat meat, fish, eggs and dairy products get enough B12. Vegans are advised to eat fortified food and take supplements because B12 is not found in sufficient amounts in plant foods. Carefully read labels for fortified food claims, as these foods can be loaded with preservatives that don’t contribute to your health.

For nutrition supplements, B12 is available as

  1. A multivitamin — often the best approach for people who don’t have a deficiency
  2. A prescription for injection or as a nasal gel
  3. A tablet that dissolves under the tongue (sublingual).

However it is important to note that there are different types of vitamin B12. The benefit of Methylcobalamin over Cyanocobalamin is its ability to transport into the brain. Cyanocobalamin can also give the liver extra work to do. We only use the methyl form in our La Mesa naturopathic clinic due to these added benefits!

Taking a B12 supplement when you don’t have a deficiency doesn’t provide any health benefit. A naturopathic physician can determine a B12 deficiency by blood test and then work with you to determine the best form of supplement for your health needs.

Contact our office for more information


  1. Fortified food is another option.
    Vitamin B12 is added to some alternatives to milk products (plant milk, for instance), vegan spreads, soy products, nutritional yeast flakes, yeast extracts and breakfast cereals.

    • Dr. Shannyn says

      Fortified food with B12 can be tricky since it is typically in the form of cyanocobalamin- not great for breaking down. Somewhere around 40% of the population has an added challenge of utilizing fortified B12 since they have an MTHFR gene. See my blog on MTHFR for more information there.

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