The Impact of Vitamin B12 on Depression

vitamin b12 impact on depression

A deficiency of any single nutrient can alter the function of our brain and nervous system.


Doesn’t that fascinate you? 


Case in point: vitamin B12. It’s a nutrient our body doesn’t need a lot of, but the small amount it does require has a huge influence on how our brain and nervous system function. It affects how we show up in our behaviour, mood and energy levels. 


The Importance of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is critical for our entire health and wellbeing, but particularly our mental health. It protects our nervous system by supporting our body's natural methylation process. In simple terms, this gives us balance of mood, hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.


It’s also needed for the health and formation of our myelin sheath - the coating that insulates and protects our nerves. This gives our nerves and cells the ability to communicate and be expressed in healthy ways. It also impacts our DNA and how much energy we produce at a cellular level.  


Without sufficient levels of B12, fatigue, depression, mental slowness and over time dementia or multiple sclerosis can result. 


What Causes A B12 Deficiency?
Our body stores B12 so a deficiency can take years to show up as a health problem. We also have the ability to make B12 but this requires good bacteria in our digestive system coupled with hydrochloric acid (our digestive juices) to fully absorb this vitamin into our tissues.  


Poor nutrient absorption, compromised digestive health and an imbalanced diet can cause a B12 deficiency. Overuse of laxatives and antacids can also deplete B12 levels. And low levels of nutrients like calcium, thyroid hormone and intrinsic factor will influence B12 absorption.


Getting B12 in Your Diet
Vitamin B12 is one nutrient that isn’t found in considerable quantities in plant-based foods. (In small measures, it shows up in sea vegetables, brewer’s yeast and some mushrooms.) In short, the best sources are in animal protein - meat (especially organ meat, like liver), fish, eggs yolks and cheese. Grass-fed meat raised under ethical standards will have an ideal nutritional profile over conventionally raised meat simply because the animals were fed very different diets.

Grass and plants vs genetically engineered corn and other grains that aren’t indigenous to an animal’s diet will affect the quality of meat you’re eating and ultimately the nutrients you’re putting in your body. The best quality of meat your budget allows enjoyed less often is much better for your short and long term health than the conventional stuff eaten daily. 

If you're thinking I eat meat. I'm in the clear, that's not necessarily true. Intake is only part of the picture. You need to be absorbing it as well.


The Impact of Vitamin B12 on Depression
At the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, there was a study conducted on 199 people who suffered from depression. Of the 73 who tested on the low end of the normal range for B12 blood levels (190-300 pg/ml), they were split into two groups. The first group of 39 people continued with their existing depression protocol. The other group of 34 were given, in addition to their existing treatment, vitamin B12 injections. After three months, both groups were re-tested to measure their depression scores.


The result? Of the group that received B12 supplementation, 100% of this group showed improvement by a minimum of 20%. Every single person! And 15 of them experienced a 50% improvement in their depression. (That’s 44% of that population.) The other group of 39 who made no change to their existing protocol, after the same three months, only 69% showed a 20% improvement in their depression. And only 2 of those 39 people experienced a 50% improvement in their depression.


This is why nourishment matters. Paying attention to when your body is letting you know (through an ache, a pain, a change in mood) that something is off matters. 


Our individual makeup is unique so imbalances will manifest differently in each of us. This is exciting because it creates an opportunity to find a possible reason why you have low mood or aren’t feeling the way you want to feel. 


Checking for nutritional deficiencies is a beautiful place to start and uncover a more tailored approach to helping you feel more like you. 


If you’re like me, this is making you super curious right now. Curious as to why of all the questions you’re asked when you see your medical doctor about depression, none of them have anything to do with your diet. Or if you eat animal products. Or the state of your digestion. Nor are any tests run to dig a little deeper.


You simply leave with a prescription in tow. And you're left wondering how did this happen to me? Am I broken?


You are not broken. You may have an imbalance whether it’s nutritional or in your relationship with yourself, (which I can not wait to blog about!) but you my dear are. not. broken. We all have deficiencies and imbalances. They show up and get presented differently because of our individual makeup.


Before I sign off, be sure to grab my quick guide on 5 blood tests to have ordered if you have chronic depression. It’s free and comes with a beautiful email sequence talking about the importance of each of the 5 tests. You can get it right here.


To getting to the root cause, 

rena williams wellness