According to recent studies, many people over the age of 50 lack enough stomach acid to adequately absorb vitamin B-12. Since the vitamin is also found naturally only in animal products, vegetarians and vegans can also be at risk of deficiency.
Vitamin B12 is crucial to keeping the brain healthy, and it's also critical to the health of just about every cell and system, including the blood and nervous system. The liver stores it for us, so even when we don't get it every day, we usually aren't at risk of deficiency for a while.
The trick with vitamin B12, however, is absorption. The stomach has to secrete enough acid plus the digestive enzyme pepsin to extract vitamin B12 from food. Once it's free, the nutrient has to combine with a protein known as intrinsic factor secreted by the stomach lining, which protects it while it's transported to the small intestine for absorption. That means we have to have a healthy stomach and a well-functioning pancreas (which produces the digestive enzymes) in order to properly absorb vitamin B12.
The following factors can contribute to poor absorption of this vitamin:
¢ Age over 50 (if there aren't enough stomach acids)
¢ Heavy drinking (leads to inflammation of the stomach, affecting digestion)
¢ Poor diet
¢ Unhealthy gastrointestinal system
¢ Surgery that removes part of the stomach or small intestine
¢ Inflammatory bowel disease
¢ Autoimmune disorders
¢ Long-term use of acid-reducing drugs (like Nexium, Pepcid, and Zantac)
¢ Vegetarianism or veganism
1. Food: Increase your intake of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy.
Alcohol: Don't consume more than the recommended intake of one serving per day for women, and two for men.
2. Supplements: If you don't regularly consume foods that are good sources of vitamin B, consider a daily dietary supplement.
3. Drink cranberry juice: A study published in 2005 indicated that eating cranberries or drinking cranberry juice may help increase the absorption of vitamin B12. Cranberry capsules at doses of 300 to 1,200 mg per day may also work.
4. Calcium: Calcium is necessary for vitamin B12 absorption, so make sure you're getting enough of this nutrient, as well.
5. Consider caffeine: Caffeine stimulates the production of stomach acid, which helps the body absorb vitamin B12. Just be careful not to consume too much, as then you may experience other symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, and edginess.