- What is the thyroid gland and what does it do?
- Vitamin B-12
- How can I tell if I have a vitamin B-12 deficiency?
- What is Hypothyroidism and what is its effect on B-12 Absorption?
- The Benefits of B-12 Supplementation
Your overall wellness and how effectively your body works on a day-to-day basis is mostly dependent on the nutrients you consume.
It’s a well-known fact that complete nutrition consumption encourages complete wellness; therefore it’s no surprise that having a nutrition deficiency also results in a deficiency in your overall wellness levels.
Your energy levels and metabolism rate are probably the most obvious signs that your general wellness may have been compromised in some form or other.
Such indicators not only act as warming signals, but they’re also signs that your thyroid gland’s health is not as it should be.
You may find the answer in vitamin B-12.
Over the years, research has proved that there’s a direct connection between vitamin B-12 and the thyroid.
In short, if you find that your thyroid is sluggish and not working at its optimum (otherwise known as hypothyroidism), it could well be that you’re suffering from a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
If this is the case, the only way to fix an underactive thyroid is to boost your vitamin B-12 intake otherwise you’ll soon discover that your thyroid becomes even slower, which will in turn negatively affect your energy levels and other areas of your health.
But to really understand the correlation between the thyroid gland and vitamin B-12, you need to understand what a thyroid gland is and its function.
What is the thyroid gland and what does it do?
Often described as a tiny butterfly shape, the thyroid gland can be found at the front of your neck.
Although small, it is significant. Being the brain and the powerhouse of the endocrine system, its main responsibility is to create the thyroid hormones T3 and T4.
You may have never heard of these hormones before, but they’re incredibly important, as they’re what control your body’s metabolism and heartbeat.
If you need a boost of energy, the thyroid gland secretes more of its powerful thyroid hormones.
A sound example of this is when you feel cold and you need that energy to warm up. This much-needed boost in your thyroid hormones sends a message to your body to kick-start your metabolism, thus generating the heat needed to increase your body’s temperature.
Subsequently, these thyroid hormones affect your body’s basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is also responsible for how many calories you’re able to burn while resting, which is why people with underactive thyroids usually suffer from weight gain and have problems shifting the weight at later stages – obesity is not an uncommon epidemic amongst people suffering from thyroid problems.
But how is vitamin B-12 connected to your thyroid health?
Compared to other vitamins and nutrients, the daily vitamin B-12 requirements are relatively low.
A teenager or adult only requires a mere 2.4 micrograms every day. But even though the daily requirements are low, it still plays an important part in your body’s metabolic and cellular processes and should not be ignored.
Vitamin B-12 is often underrated, but it’s known to be the stimulus for many bodily functions, such as DNA synthesis, red blood cell production, nerve health, fatty acid synthesis, neurological functioning, protein conversion, and thyroid health.
As mentioned above, vitamin B-12 is crucial to your thyroid health and general wellness, so how can you tell if you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency and what does it mean for your thyroid functioning?
The Complexity of a Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
Vitamin B-12 deficiencies are more common than you’d expect. It’s believed that between 20-40% of the US population have inadequate levels of vitamin B-12. These stats may not appear to be too bad on the surface, but if you knew the true extent of it and its significant effects on your energy levels and thyroid and cognitive health, you’d be looking for as many ways to boost your B-12 levels as possible.
Absorbing vitamin B-12 is complex and there’s more one than one way in which could develop a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Vitamin B-12 is typically found naturally in food and is connected to proteins. Once you consume the food, the vitamin separates itself from the proteins and reconnects itself to the R protein, which is found in your saliva and responsible for protecting it from any kind of damage from its unfavorable acidic environment.
When the vitamin B-12 and R protein reach the first part of your small intestine, it splits again. From here, the vitamin is joined by another protein Intrinsic Factor) that helps to safely transport it through the intestine past the enzymes known to absorb protein that would otherwise completely annihilate the vitamin.
How can I tell if I have a vitamin B-12 deficiency?
A vitamin B-12 deficiency can happen for two reasons. The first is if you don’t consume enough vitamin B-12 naturally and the second is when your body fails to absorb enough of it. Other people, who might be at risk, are those who have had their stomachs stapled for weight loss, as this compromises your ability to get vitamin B-12 from food.
These absorption issues can result from organ damage, enzyme problems and/or intrinsic factor. The symptoms of vitamin B-12 vary and include things like tiredness, loss of appetite, constipation, memory loss, hands and feet tingling sensations, jaundice, swollen tongue and in the worse case scenarios, paranoia and depression.
Like with most nutrient and vitamin deficiencies, there are a few types of people who’re more susceptible, such as the elderly, people who can’t produce enough intrinsic factor, vegans and vegetarians, alcoholics and those who suffer from Chron’s, IBS or celiac disease.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency symptoms include:
- Clammy skin
- Low blood pressure
- Brain fog
- Memory loss
- Swollen tongue
- Sore tongue
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight gain
- Tingling hands and/or feet
What is Hypothyroidism and what is its effect on B-12 Absorption?
Hypothyroidism basically means that you have an underactive thyroid.
In a sense, hypothyroidism is also a deficiency – it’s a deficiency in thyroid hormones. One of the main causes of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis that is a well-known cause of serious intestinal damage that limits the ability to absorb vitamin B-12 properly. Patients that suffer from Hashimoto thyroiditis may well be consuming enough vitamin B-12 naturally, however, medical tests will still show that they’re deficient in the nutrient because of the body’s lack of ability to absorb it. In this case, a doctor will need to assess your health and address the thyroid condition immediately to ensure that the vitamin B-12 absorption problem is fixed.
Other causes include iodine deficiency or other external factors such as stress. While it may not sound like a serious thing per se, it does have the potential to negatively affect your ability to absorb B-12.
If left untreated, hypothyroidism can worsen, leading to goiter, low body temperature, memory loss, hair loss and various skin conditions.
There is an obvious overlap of hypothyroidism symptoms with vitamin B-12 deficiency symptoms, and experts use this to highlight the connection between the two conditions – hypothyroidism contributes greatly to a vitamin B-12 deficiency and vice-versa, and in fact a B-12 deficiency will worsen hypothyroidism, so it is essential to get everything in check.
Research shows that around 4.6% of the US adult population suffers from hypothyroidism. One study in particular discovered that around 40% of patients with hypothyroidism also have a vitamin B-12 deficiency. When doctors and researchers upped their patients’ intake of vitamin B-12, they found that a number of symptoms were alleviated, especially fatigue, weakness, memory loss and overall mood.
The body makes many nutrients naturally; unfortunately, according to Harvard Health Publications vitamin B-12 is not one of them.
According to the USDA, vitamin B-12 supplementation is the preferred method of dealing with a vitamin B-12 deficiency and hypothyroidism, as supplements are more easily absorbed than relying on getting it from food sources.
Homocysteine, Hypothyroidism and Vitamin B-12
You’ll notice so far that everything’s interlinked. Another “H” word that affects your thyroid gland and vitamin B-12 levels is homocysteine, a common amino acid that’s found in your blood and obtained mostly from eating meat.
High levels of this amino acid should act as a warning, as it’s a common early sign of heart disease. Higher than normal levels of homocysteine is also not surprisingly linked to thyroid problems and low levels of vitamins B-12, B6 and folate, which can also increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) and Vascular dementia (VaD) later on in life, as homocysteine, hypothyroidism and a vitamin B-12 deficiency have been proved to sometimes lead to neurologic disturbances.
Getting a Vitamin B-12 Reboot to Improve Thyroid Health
One of the great things about vitamin B-12 is that it can be stored for a number of years (up to 5 years) in a healthy person’s liver and then synthesized in your small intestine. However, the flip side of this is that it could take a lot longer than normal to really determine whether a person has a vitamin B-12 deficiency or not.
Getting your Vitamin B-12 from Food
The good news is that vitamin B-12 can be found in a number of common foods. These include meat, organ meat, seafood, dairy products and eggs (especially the yolk). Such foods make it even more challenging for vegetarians and vegans, however, there are some types of nutritional yeast extracts and fortified cereals available that could give you that extra added boost of vitamin B-12 through food.
It must be noted that if you do have thyroid problems and a vitamin B-12 deficiency, you won’t be able to fulfil all your necessary nutritional requirements through diet alone.
The Benefits of B-12 Supplementation
There’s no doubt about it that taking a vitamin B-12 supplement for hypothyroidism is invaluable. When you choose the right vitamin B-12 supplement, it’s easily absorbed and it will give your body everything that it requires. In fact, vitamin B-12 supplements are much more efficient than trying to get your B-12 from food.
These supplements can be taken in a variety of forms to suit you; these include sublingual tablets, pills, liquids, dermal patches, nasal sprays, and even injections. If you’re unsure which is the best fit for you, have a chat with your doctor or the local pharmacist for more information.
There’s often the debate as to whether the vitamin B-12 supplement is best in capsule form or pill form – the truth is, it doesn’t really matter at all. What matters (and what you should be looking for) is the active form of the vitamin. An active form of vitamin B-12 is methylcobalamin, which is the preferred option over cyanocobalamin.
Another thing that’s important to remember is that all of the B vitamins work in conjunction with one another, which is why it’s often better to take a vitamin B complex that will most certainly include vitamin B-12 in it as well.
Most physicians will be able to tell by running a few simple tests whether you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency or not, but to confirm the condition, they usually will also carry out a series of blood tests to double check. Serious vitamin B-12 deficiencies will most likely require weekly vitamin B-12 injections or a B-12 supplement pill with a high dosage. If caught early enough and the deficiency is deemed mild, you’ll be able to correct this simply at home by taking a standard multivitamin supplement on a daily basis.
Vitamin B-12 is undoubtedly essential to support your thyroid health, however, you must also make sure you consume enough iodine and selenium at the same time, and luckily there are also supplements for these too. As well as keeping your thyroid functioning in check, there are a few other benefits of vitamin B-12, especially if you suffer from any of the following:
- Adrenal imbalances
- Frequent colds
- Frequent flus
- Brain fog
- Memory loss
- Heart disease
In short, looking after your thyroid is important, as it is responsible for some important bodily functions, and one of the best ways to get back on track with optimal thyroid health is by taking vitamin B-12 in a supplement form. What’s more, untreated vitamin B-12 deficiencies can also lead to crippling neurological problems and even blood disorders as well as negatively affecting your thyroid gland.
When you have hypothyroidism or other thyroid problems, it’s really important to check out vitamins and nutrients as well as conventional drugs, because nutrients such as vitamin B-12 are known to help fight and control some fundamental causes of various thyroid disorders like inflammation and autoimmune processes.