The Power of B12

  • By Healthy Living Liberty Lake
  • 24 Apr, 2017
One of the more common complaints we hear about as people get older are what's known as "senior moments". You know the feeling - you walk into a room and can't remember why you're there, you see someone you've known for years and can't remember their name, you can't think of the word you want to say. There are many reasons for a memory not being as sharp as it was when we were younger, including menopause in women and lower testosterone in men, insomnia, nutritional deficiencies and years of accumulated toxins and heavy metals from our diet and the air we breathe, and of course, dementia. But a very common reason that is often overlooked is inadequate Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is critical for many reasons, chief among them being energy production and brain function. Even when B12 blood levels are in the normal range you can still be low as far as brain function is concerned, leading to cognitive impairment.

Symptoms of low B12 levels include fatigue, neuropathy - or nerve pain, difficulty with balance, lightheadedness, depression, memory loss, bursitis in the shoulders, behavioral changes and constipation. These symptoms can be caused by many other things, of course, but always consider B12. Your doctor should also be checking a complete thyroid function - TSH, Free T3, and Free T4 - as our thyroid does not function as well as we age and this profoundly affects memory and energy levels as well. But a B12 level will also be checked, the problem being that even if it's read as "normal", it can still be a B12 deficiency.

Other causes of low B12 include a vegetarian diet, alcohol use, and multiple medications, including drugs for heartburn, and metformin for diabetes.  

A recent study looked at 100 men and women with mild cognitive impairment, between the ages of 50-80 years old. All of them had B12 levels in the normal range, but there was a big difference. Half of them had levels in the lower range of normal, and half in the upper range of normal. Then the researchers did testing for cognitive function and performed MRIs of the brains, paying particular attention to the an area called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the area of the brain that controls short-term memory, and is the first area hit by Alzhiemer's.

What they found was astounding. The patients with  B12 levels in the lower end of the range "showed a significantly poorer learning ability and recognition performance than did patients with high-normal vitamin B12 levles. Also, the microstructue integrity of the hippocampus was lower in patients with low-normal vitamin B12". This is strong evidence that the higher the B12 levels the better the cognitive function.

I do a lot of brain health in my practice, and pay particular attention to B12 and other causes of cognitive impairment. I also perform a test called a QEEG, or quantitative EEG in the office, which is the most accurate measurement of brain functioning in every lobe of the brain. It measures brain speeds and can give us an indication of actual early dementia, vs a brain that is slowing with age, and what we can do to improve the functioning.I remember one case, a 72 year old man, who's family doctor diagnosed him with dementia and there was nothing that could be done. He wanted another opinion, understandably so, and  we performed the QEEG, which showed profound slowing and was quite concerning.  After all his blood tests came back, I saw that he had the lowest B12 level I've ever seen!  I started him on, at first daily, then weekly B12 shots, and within 8 weeks he was back to normal cognition.  A repeat QEEG showed the speed had normalized completely - he certainly did  not  have dementia!

The best form of B12 is methylated, or methylcobalamin. This form is more bio-available and crosses into the brain more readily. We purchase it from a pharmacy in Florida, as most local pharmacies don't keep it in stock, and instead have the cheaper, inferior cyanocobalamin. Don't use this form. Have your doctor give you an injection of 2 mg of methylcobalamin once a week for 8 weeks, as it will take 2 months to see results. Why an injection? As people age, they are not able to absorb B12 orally as well. So, it's best absorbed as an injection. If you improve, you can then try switching to sublingual B12 drops, given under the tongue - this is absorbed better than taking it as a capsule.

I would try this regimen even if your blood levels of B12 are normal. It can't hurt, might help, is cheap, and easy to try. Many insurances are not paying for B12 anymore, and we sell them in packages of 3 for a reasonable price. And remember, if your doctor has told you that you or your loved one has dementia, and a thorough work-up has not been done to look at reversible causes, it's time to get another opinion.
By Healthy Living Liberty Lake 18 Jul, 2017
We've all heard the advice to drink more water. 8 glasses a day, to be precise. Whether you're thirsty or not, it's good for you. I've always doubted this advice since it had no sound reasoning behind it, other than "detoxification". But now, a new study done by the University of Melbourne casts doubt on this advise.

Many who advocate drinking eight glasses or more of water daily are not aware of the potentially fatal side effect of water intoxication.  We are fortunate in that we have a mechanism to regulate fluid intake to keep us from over-drinking. The study showed for the first time that the brain activates a "swallowing inhibition" when excess liquid is consumed.
Participants in the study had to rate the amount of effort that was required to swallow water following exercise when they were thirsty, and then later when they were persuaded to drink an excessive amount of water. There was a 3-fold increase in the swallowing effort after over-drinking, which validated that the swallowing reflex is inhibited when enough water has been consumed.

MRI was used to record the activity in different areas of the brain involved with swallowing. The prefrontal areas made more active when the participants attempted to swallow with a great effort, meaning that the frontal cortex steps in to override the swallowing inhibition, in order to avoid water intoxication.  

Intoxication occurs when levels of sodium in the blood become abnormally low, which can cause symptoms of lethargy, confusion, nausea, convulsions and coma. In my 25 years of practice, I've had 2 patients die from excessively drinking water, causing sodium to be very low, which caused brain swelling. There have even been incidences where athletes in marathons were advised to fill up with water and then died, because they followed those incorrect recommendations and drank far in access of their actual need.

The researchers advocated doing what our bodies demand, stating that we should just drink according to our thirst, not a deliberate schedule.  We should trust in our "swallowing inhibition" that the brain activates if excess liquid is consumed.  The  brain helps maintain tightly calibrated volumes of water in our bodies. Do drink when you're thirsty. And remember on hot summer days, like we have now, you'll need to drink more to stay hydrated. Even more so with exercise.  

But don't drink water just b/c someone told you should drink at least 8 glasses a day .   Drink when you're thirsty, and you'll be fine.
By Healthy Living Liberty Lake 07 Jul, 2017
Everyone's ideas of happiness is different, but there is one thing we all have in common.  Serotonin- the critical neurotransmitter needed to boost mood.  People with low serotonin levels are often depressed, pessimistic, and generally not pleasant to be around.  Serotonin is called the "happy hormone", but also has other health benefits which make us healthy at the same time.

10 Ways to Naturally Boost Your Serotonin Levels:

1. Eat animal protein.  An amino acid called tryptophan helps produce serotonin, and animal protein is the best source. Tryptophan is especially high in chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beef and dairy. Whey and egg protein are scientifically proven to increase this amino acid in the brain.
2. Sunshine - natural light has a positive effect on mood, and triggers serotonin synthesis.  The brighter the sunlight, the more serotonin the body produces.  This could explain feeling down in the winter or on rainy dark days.
3. Vitamin D - helps convert tryptophan into serotonin.   Here, we need to supplement as we rarely get enough UV rays  to make enough.  You'll typically need between 2000 IU - 10,000 IU daily.
4. Omega 3's - help boost serotonin production in the brain.   Need 2000-4000mg daily.
5. Eat Curry - curry has turmeric, which is considered a potent anti-depressant.   Helps to increase serotonin in the brain, while reducing inflammation.
6.Caffeine - this has a positive effect on levels of serotonin in the brain, which is good news for most of us.   Don't overdo, however.
7. Exercise - has been shown to increase serotonin levels because motor neurons activated during physical activity boost the release of serotonin.  Regular exercise will spike tryptophan levels in the brain.
8. Massage - proven to reduce cortisol and increase happy hormones by as much as 28%.  Plus it feels great.
9. Nuts - contain tryptophan, so the more you eat, the happier you'll be.  They also have numerous other health benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, helping to prevent heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments.
10. Green tea - contains L-theanine, an amino acid that boosts serotonin levels.   It also has a powerful antioxidant that prevents brain damage.

There you go, this is a good place to start, especially if you've been feeling down lately.   B vitamins may also help, but if none of this is enough, then see your doctor.
By Healthy Living Liberty Lake 14 Jun, 2017
Have you ever heard of Hashimoto's?  It's a common cause of low thyroid, or hypothyroidism. It's an auto-immune disease, which means the body is making antibodies against the thyroid and destroying it.

To diagnose, a blood test for thyroid antibodies must be done. Like all auto-immune diseases, it is much more common in women than men.
With Hashimoto's, blood levels often show an elevated TSH, and a low T3.  T3 is the active form of thyroid, and when the Free T3 is less than 3, expect fatigue as a common complaint.  

The conventional treatment of Hashimoto's is to prescribe a synthetic T4 , such as synthroid or levothyroxine.  This is not optimal, however, as often the T3 remains low.  And, in a review of patients on levothyroxine, long-term use was related to cardiac dysfunction, left ventricular hypertrophy (or heart failure) and rapid bone loss. Therefore, I typically will prescribe a T3/T4 combination, such as Armour or Nature Thyroid.
However, the goal is to reduce the antibody levels. To do this I recommend a supplement such as Thyrotrophin PMG made by Standard Process.   It must be taken three times a day and can act as a decoy, allowing the antibodies to attack it rather than the thyroid itself.
Now there is another option which has great promise.

Researchers looked at 40 men and women with Hashimoto's.  Half got placebo, and half got black cumin seed for 8 weeks.  Levels of T3, TSH and thyroid antibodies were measured before and after, and also the person's body composition.
What did they find?  "treatment with black cumin seed significantly reduced body weight and BMI. TSH and thyroid antibodies decreased, while T3 levels increased in those taking black cumin.  Those on placebo had no difference in their levels."

Every single measurement of Hashimotot's disease improved with this herb!  TSH improved 50%.  T3 levels improved 15%.  And antibodies decreased 50%.  All without side effects.

You can buy black cumin at any health food store or online - if you have Hashimoto's, give this a try.  
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