Nervous system

Vitamin B12 – strong nerves in stressful everyday life

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In the modern working environment, we are always under stress – a busy schedule while always having to be online and available at all times, juggling children, the partner, and the job – and if a crisis arises, it can quickly become too much. Stress gets our nerves frayed and causes bad mood. Is it time to take some days off or is all of this caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency?

The mental symptoms of too little vitamin B12 are often vague and therefore ignored by many people. You are sometimes confused, have problems to commemorate things, are in a bad mood, even in a depressive state, and tend to be nervous. Read about how vitamin B12 helps to protect your nerves by supporting the normal function of the nervous system.

We need more vitamin B12 than usual in stressful situations

Those who have to deal with highly stressful situations or are in a serious crisis need more vitamin B12 than usual.

These situations can be high mental or physical stress such as important exams or difficult tests. Also, life situations that strongly weigh down on the mind and soul and trigger strong, long-lasting negative emotions are accompanied by higher stress – if, for example:

  • the decisive examination was not passed after all,
  • there is intense lovesickness,
  • there is worry and grief over a close person.

There are several reasons why we use up more vitamin B12 in such extreme mental situations. On the one hand, the absorption and utilization of biofactors like vitamin B12 is affected because our body supplies less to our digestive organs and the composition of our stomach acid changes adversely. On the other hand, a lot of vitamin B12 is used up for producing neurotransmitters and hormones due to the constantly circling thoughts and strong feelings. The production of hormones like serotonin, adrenalin, and noradrenalin, in particular, significantly increases vitamin B12 consumption. The unusually high consumption of vitamin B12 can lead to an insufficient supply of it – and a vicious cycle starts.

An insufficient supply of vitamin B12 gets our nerves frayed

Like electrical cords, our nerve pathways are also coated by protective covers. Very similarly to cable insulation, the so-called myelin sheaths ensure the correct transmission of nerve flows. If there is an insufficient supply of vitamin B12, the regeneration of the nerve sheaths comes to a halt. They die off and our nerves are exposed, causing transmission failures and malfunctions, which also affect the nerve pathways in our spinal cord and brain.

Since vitamin B12 is also responsible for producing hormones and neurotransmitters, essential for keeping our mental state fully balanced, an insufficient supply can lead to initial signs of impairments. A detected deficiency, on the other hand, can lead to far-reaching, non-specific consequences like memory problems, poor concentration, and depressive moods. Thus, it's not astonishing that you are in a bad mood, if you feel incapable of coping with the daily stress! If this severe imbalance lasts a very long time, there can be drastic consequences culminating in dementia, severe depression, and physical paralysis. 

The effect that vitamin B12 has on worn out nerves

Vitamin B – above all vitamin B12 – is reliable "comfort food for our nerves" because it ensures the normal function of our nerves and is involved in nerve growth and the regeneration of stressed nerves. It also supports our energy metabolism, that we feel less tired and listless when our vitamin B12 level is balanced. A medical study of the Australian Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne could show that persons who took B vitamins (including amongst others vitamin B12) for several weeks could cope 20 percent better with everyday stress and concerns than the test group.

If you have a sufficient supply of vitamin B12, it is easier to deal with stressful everyday life and this does not wear out the nerves so much. A burden does not become immediately an overburden – and an insufficient supply not immediately a deficiency. However, if a deficiency has already been detected and deficiency symptoms have already appeared, a specific vitamin B12 therapy to quickly alleviate symptoms can be initiated in consultation with your physician. If the nerve damage is not too advanced, it can be improved over time. Owing to the sometimes serious consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency, a slight undersupply should be entirely prevented.

The need for vitamin B12 is that high

Regardless of age and gender, the recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 for healthy adults is 3 µg. If a healthy diet is followed, an insufficient supply of vitamin B12 is rare in healthy adults, but an insufficient supply can occur with persistent stress due to the fact that the usual diet no longer supplies enough. In this case, supplementation is recommended to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency. If vitamin B12 deficiency has been detected, please consult your physician and discuss specific medical therapeutic options with him. Pregnant and breastfeeding women also need more vitamin B12 – their recommended daily intake is 3.5 to 4 µg of vitamin B12. At the start of pregnancy, the gynecologist presents a whole series of dietary requirements that point out to the higher need of all possible biofactors for this special period in life.

Elderly, stressed, pregnant, breastfeeding, vegan or vegetarian living people have to fight comparatively often with a vitamin B12 insufficiency.

It's hard for these groups to easily satisfy their need for vitamin B12

Since vitamin B12 is especially found in foods of animal origin such as meat, liver, eggs, and fish, vegans and vegetarians who do not consume these foods are at risk of an insufficient supply. Many followers of this kind of diet have an increased mindfulness towards foods and what they contain – in fact, only few vegans suffer from an insufficient supply with vitamin B12 because they selectively prevent it by using supplements.

Older persons, especially seniors living in retirement homes, must deal relatively often with an undersupply. In addition, their menu options are sometimes limited and their appetite also decreases. Gastrointestinal illnesses lead to impaired biofactor absorption (of vitamin B12, for example), as well as the long-term use of certain medications such as metformin for type 2 diabetes. If they develop poor memory, unsteady gait, and confusion, an insufficient supply with vitamin B12 or even deficiency is rarely suspected. 

Targeted prevention of vitamin B12 deficiency in stressful situations

If due to a special living situation there is a higher need and an insufficient supply  is already becoming apparent, you can consider possible supplementation. However, if the first deficiency symptoms are becoming noticeable, you should take a suitable medication to supplement vitamin B12 after consulting with your family physician. He can diagnose the presence of the deficiency and recommend possible vitamin supplementation. In this case, very high oral doses (1000 µg) of vitamin B12 can be given at first. The vitamin diffuses through the intestinal wall thanks to the concentration gradient and the vitamin B12 level is carefully balanced once again and the body's own reservoirs are filled up. The vitamin B12 that is not absorbed is naturally excreted without complications, making an oversupply impossible. The only known side effect is a rare form of acne, when the vitamin is directly injected in the muscle.

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