By David Lehnert
Special to Samaritan Ministries
Mary, 68, was in good health when her health gradually began to deteriorate, starting with brain fog, then increasing fatigue, and then a loss of coordination. Two years into the decline, she decided to visit her doctor. After evaluating her condition, her doctor told her, “You are simply getting old.” When Mary’s condition continued to worsen for six more months, she went to a neurologist, who diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis.
When she finally visited Dr. David Brownstein, he reviewed her condition and recommended a therapeutic trial of injectable vitamin B12. Two months later, Mary returned for her follow-up visit. She reported that, within two weeks of starting B12, she began feeling much stronger and more energetic. A year later, Mary was still taking B12 injections, and while she had slight unsteadiness when walking, the deterioration of her health had stopped.
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient required by every cell in our bodies. It is used in the maintenance of the nervous system, which allows a variety of functions to occur, including regulating the heartbeat, normal control of muscles, and aiding short and long-term memory. A deficiency can cause many problems.
In his book Vitamin B12 for Health, Dr. Brownstein says that the most common symptom of B12 deficiency he has seen in his practice is peripheral neuropathy, which is numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. Other early symptoms include brain fog, fatigue, and depression. A more severe vitamin B12 deficiency can result in diseases such as fibromyalgia, anemia, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and chronic fatigue. In the book, Dr. Brownstein devotes chapters to each of these diseases, telling his experiences with some of the thousands of patients he has seen and citing research from medical journals and other sources. He reports that 80 percent of his patients have been helped by receiving supplemental vitamin B12.
Dr. Brownstein says that the cognitive decline and decrease in energy commonly thought to be a consequence of aging can often be prevented. These symptoms happen because as people get older, their brain volume decreases, and Dr. Brownstein believes that this decrease can be slowed or prevented altogether with vitamin B12 treatments. He cites a study in which a group of elderly people were given a daily amount of oral B12 for two years. They showed significant improvement in immediate and delayed memory functions, as well as a significant decrease in symptoms of depression, as compared to a control group.
To determine whether a patient needs B12 supplementation, Dr. Brownstein uses clinical observation, and does not rely on laboratory tests alone. He says that the “normal” range of serum blood levels for B12 is considered to be 260-935 picograms per milliliter (pg/ml), but that while lab tests are useful in diagnosing diseases that affect B12 levels, he prefers to treat his patients based on their symptoms.
Dr. Brownstein tells about Raymond, a middle-aged man whose blood level of vitamin B12 was 510 pg/ml. Raymond was experiencing depression and chronic fatigue, and had been treated with anti-depressant medications. Dr. Brownstein prescribed a dosage of B12, which included 1 milligram a day of injectable, bioidentical hydroxycobalamin. Raymond reported that, three days after starting B12 injections, he felt like he was waking up again. Dr. Brownstein believes that B12 therapy should be a first-line treatment for depression, before considering antidepressants.
Dr. Brownstein says that the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommended for many nutrients, including vitamin B12, is inadequate, because the requirements were determined without allowing for factors that put stress on the body, increasing the amount of a nutrient necessary for normal functions—factors like gender, age, diet, or even the time of year. Men generally have higher requirements than women, with the exception of women who are pregnant or lactating.
For those who may have concerns about the safety of taking larger amounts, Dr. Brownstein points out that vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, so when the body has absorbed what it needs, the remainder is excreted. He says that no level of toxicity has ever been determined. He keeps his own levels near 2,000pg/ml, which is quite high compared to the reference range, but is the level he has found to provide optimal function. Dr. Brownstein states that “[he] has not seen a single patient with B12 levels above the reference range who has exhibited any negative B12 symptoms”.
There are many causes of vitamin B12 deficiency. The most common is poor nutrition. Vitamin B12 is not produced by the body, so it must be included in the diet or taken as a supplement. The best dietary source of B12 is meat, followed by dairy. This can be a problem for vegans or vegetarians. Dr. Brownstein cites the case of one of his patients, Al, who went on a vegan diet. Al was an athlete and enjoyed being outdoors. But after six months on the new diet, Al felt continual fatigue. Dr. Brownstein told him about B12 and how its only food sources are meat and dairy. After Al began to take supplemental B12, he felt much better and was able to return his workout regime.
With our abundance of dietary knowledge and enriched foods, one might assume that there are no deficiencies in our diet. Dr. Brownstein says that food makers typically fortify their foods (such as bread, rice, cereal, and other staple foods) with B12 and other nutrients to contain only the DRI levels of nutrients. If a person shows levels of deficiency in B12, Dr. Brownstein notes that eating processed foodstuffs is unlikely to provide enough nutrients to bring them out of their nutritional slump.
The supplemental forms of vitamin B12 that Dr. Brownstein prescribes are either methyl- or hydroxycobalamin. These are both natural, bioidentical forms that match the receptors in our bodies and are easily utilized by the body. He says they are superior to synthetic forms of B12 such as cyanocobalamin, which has been shown to cause optic nerve damage when taken over an extended period of time.
Dr. Brownstein says that while sublingual and liposomal vitamin B12 supplementation can be useful, the most reliable method is by injection, because this bypasses the complex digestive pathway and supplies the cells directly.
If you are interested in knowing more about making sure your body has adequate levels of Vitamin B12 to support optimal health, Vitamin B12 for Health by Dr. David Brownstein could be helpful.
The information provided in this article is for educational purposes and is not meant as medical advice.
Dr. David Brownstein (www.DrBrownstein. com) is the Medical Director of the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, Michigan, and author of more than a dozen books.
David Lehnert is studying nutrition and is a Samaritan Ministries member.