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 12 Jan, 2018
I'm sure everyone has heard by now that we are in the midst of a flu epidemic. Influenza A and B, with many deaths so far and, as as usual, the flu shot has been worthless. At most, the flu shot provides protection 10% of the time. Even less for seniors, those over age 65 who need protection the most. I see influenza patients daily, and at least half of them had the flu shot.

So what can you do to protect yourself from the flu?

First of all, clean up your diet. If you're eating sugar you're suppressing your immune system. Eat a diet that is rich in colorful vegetables and fruits. Lots of berries and citrus fruits, and vegetables that are green, purple, red or orange in color. Notice I didn't say white, like potatoes. A potato is a big lump of sugar. Eat 8 servings daily. "Eight?!!" most people say. It's not as much as you'd think. One grapefruit is 2 servings. A half cup of veges or berries is one serving. A typical salad of mine will have 6 servings right off the bat. Add a handful of spinach in your protein shake in the morning, and some berries. Snack on carrots and cucumbers thruout the day.  
Next, take your immune supplements. The most powerful and simple one is vitamin D. Everyone that lives in the great Northwest is low in vitamin D! It is the most important vitamin that we can take for immunity, and it also lowers risk of breast and prostate cancer, heart disease and MS. Get your levels to between 70-90 - that is optimal.    

Other immune supplements that you can take daily to get you thru the flu season include Immuplex or EpiImmune by Standard Process, or Immune Essentials by Xymogen. These have a combination of 1,3/1,6 glucan, olive leaf extract, zinc, vitamin C, and selenium. I take 2 a day during flu season, one a day at other times.    

If you get recurrent colds, think of zinc. Often times a zinc deficiency can lead to a predisposition to colds and flu, along with poor wound healing. At the first onset of a cold or flu, the first 24 hours take Zn acetate 75mg every 2 hours x 6 doses. First 24 hours only, stop it after that point. This may stabilize the cell membrane enough to completely eradicate the illness. For long term, make sure your multivitamin has zinc in it, between 15-45 mg. Men typically need a higher dose. And men, you might also be interested to know that a low zinc causes low testosterone.

Next, get adequate sleep. Without a consistent 7-8 hours of sleep per night, our immunity suffers, making us more vulnerable to colds.    

If you do end up with the flu, start the zinc acetate, and a supplement called Congaplex - 2 caps every 2 hours while awake. This plus extra vitamin C can be very helpful in helping your body fight the illness. And at the same time, avoid sugar completely! Remember, every time you eat sugar it depresses your immune system for up to 4 hours. If you're sick, don't eat sugar. And that includes alcohol, fruit juices and soda.

This should help to keep you healthy and make it through the flu season intact. If you need more help, are ill and want to be checked for influenza, we are also a walk-in clinic and can let you know in 15 minutes whether your symptoms are simply a viral cold or influenza.

By Dr. Susan Ashley, MD
By Healthy Living Liberty Lake 28 Dec, 2017
It's almost the new year, and already most of us have made at least one New Year's resolution. And for those that have, 90% of them resolve to be healthier in some way, with weight loss being the number one goal.

The fact is, weight loss is hard. If it were easy, there would be no overweight people in our society. And combining weight loss with a healthier lifestyle can be even harder.

For us ladies, another study has proven what we've all known for years. That it is much easier for men to lose weight than women. Why is that?

Well, one reason is men have more muscle mass, and muscle burns twice as many calories. When men and women are resting, men burn more calories than women, even if they weigh the same.  

Secondly, abdominal fat, which is the most unhealthy type of fat, is released and burned more easily than the fat around the hips and thighs.  And where do women tend to gain weight? The hips and thighs, and this fat comes off much more slowly. It is really quite unfair!

But all is not lost. When it comes to weight loss and eating healthier, many diets have been advertised as the "best" one, but there really is only one that is mentioned time and time again.  This diet is not only the most healthy, but lowers inflammation, reduces risk of heart disease by 80%, diabetes by 90%, and stroke by 70%, reduces arthritis, and helps reduce weight. And that is the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet is not only delicious, it is a healthy long-term diet - a way of life. It should not just be a short term diet.

The diet is loaded with anti-inflammatory foods, such as:
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables
  • Olive oil - extra dark, cold pressed, glass bottle only
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes and beans
  • Whole grains - but if you need to lose weight, you'll leave these out completely
  • Red meat once weekly
  • High quality poultry, eggs, cheese, and kefir
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Occasional glass of red wine - but not if weight loss is the goal
The diet is delicious and you never feel hungry, or deprived. You'll notice that there are no processed foods, no fast foods, and no sugar other than what is found in fruit and veggies.  

It can be hard to change your diet, especially when you want the change for the long term. Because of that , we are going to help you with this change. Starting in January, our dietitian will be giving a 6-week course on the Mediteranean diet, and 'll be at those classes as well, joining you in our attempt to create healthier, happier, and thinner bodies! Call Healthy Living Liberty Lake to sign up and get more information:   509-924-6199
By Healthy Living Liberty Lake 04 Dec, 2017
Flu season is upon us again, and the pressure is on to get your flu shot. Whether its on TV, in your doctor's office, or at every pharmacy and grocery store, you're being warned that the season is going to be bad and you must protect yourself and society by getting your flu shot. It's the same message year after year. But is it true?

Let's look at last year. The flu shot last year was not effective, and only protected about 10% of those that received the vaccine.

Why is that? Well, in order for the flu shot to work, it has to include the exact strains that will be seen that year. The CDC has to guess which strain is going to attack us in the coming year, and most of the time, they guess wrong. Last year, the main strain that affected people was the bug H3N2.

Even though the flu shot last year was designed to include H3N2, an unexpected mutation of the virus occurred during production, making the flu shot ineffective.

This year? The flu shot includes the same mutated H3N2 strain as the one from last year!  

What this means is that if an H3N2 outbreak occurs again, as the CDC has projected, this year's flu shot will not protect you. And the CDC recently admitted that for 4 out of the last 7 years, the flu shot was completely worthless for those 65 and older, the exact age they stress should be getting the shot!

So what do we do? I do not get a flu shot, and I don't give them. Instead, I work on keeping my immune system healthy, with the following:
  • Eating 4+ servings of fruits and veggies daily
  • Sleeping 7-8 hours per night
  • Taking vitamin D-3, 5000-10,000 IU daily
  • Taking a good probiotic daily, with at least 10 billion bacteria, including bifidobacteria
At the first sign of a cold, sniffles, fever or sore throat, start:
  • Zinc Acetate 75mg sublingual lozenge, one every two hours for one day
  • Immune Essentials by Xymogen - has the most effective immune product called 1,3/1,6 beta-glucan that activates the macrophages to kill viruses and bacteria
Stay healthy this year, and don't count on a flu shot to get you there. Take matters into your own hands and employ these common sense measures to protect you from the winter colds and flu.

By Dr. Susan Ashley, M.D.
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