We all hear a lot about B vitamins and how important they are. As a plant-based coach, B12 is a frequent topic of conversation for me and a widely misunderstood vitamin for so many people. A large number of our population don’t get the amount of B12 they need to support essential functions through their diet alone. This may be because they don’t consume animal products or because their stomach does not absorb B12 from food. But B12 is only one of the essential nutrients that make up the 8 essential B vitamins. Vitamins B1, B6, and B12 are the most commonly deficient of B vitamins in adults in the US.
So what are B Complex vs B12 Injections and who needs them? Let’s get into the info!
As always, I’m not offering any medical advice and I recommend that you speak to your doctor before taking any supplements.
What is Vitamin B12?
B12 is an essential vitamin that is needed for the production of red blood cells and DNA. It also plays an important role in the function and development of brain and nerve cells. B12 is produced by bacteria, not animals, plants, or the human body. It must be procured directly or indirectly from bacteria. Before we hyper-sanitized everything around us, B12 was found in the soil. It would be consumed by eating root vegetables from the garden fertilized with manure or drinking from natural water sources and even eating meat. Animals and dairy products have always contained B12 because animals eat bacteria-laden manure (yes, gross, but they do) and drink unsanitized water. These days, B12 is hard to come by in the soil and even livestock are given a B12 supplement for their own health.
What Are B Complex Vitamins?
Vitamin B complex is the 8 essential B vitamins combined into one supplement. B Complex includes thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), biotin, folic acid, and cobalamins (vitamin B12). At one time, it was thought that vitamin B was one essential nutrient. Over time, researchers discovered that vitamin B was a number of vitamins that are very important to our overall health.
All of the B vitamins, other than B12, can be found in many plants and easily added to your diet. All of the B vitamins, including B12, are water-soluble. That means that your body does not store these vitamins. They are carried to the tissues, but any excess is washed out of your body through your urine.
All of the B vitamins are crucial to our health and help enzymes in our bodies do their jobs. They are important for a wide range of cellular functions, like breaking down carbohydrates and transporting nutrients throughout the body. The B vitamins play a vital role in the proper functioning of our brains.
B Complex vs B12 Injections
B vitamin deficiencies are prevalent in the US. While the most common B vitamin deficiency is B12, the other B vitamins are also known for deficiencies. B vitamins are typically deficient for one or more of these reasons:
- Non-balanced diet
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Certain medications (such as proton-pump inhibitors, or PPIs. For example, heartburn medication, that disrupt stomach acids)
- Gut malabsorption conditions
B complex and B12 injections are used for both therapeutic treatments of B12 and B complex deficiencies and are also given to boost energy and other functions in the body for people who are not deficient. Since B vitamins are water-soluble, taking a regular supplement, injection or otherwise, is usually not dangerous, although there are some exceptions and you should always consult your doctor before taking supplements of any kind.
How B Complex and B12 Injections Work
B complex and B12 injections are intramuscular injections (into the muscle) or subcutaneous injections (into the fat just below the skin). Because the vitamin is injected rather than digested, it offers a better absorption rate. This is essential if your body does not allow the absorption of B vitamins through your stomach.
B complex injections are used for more than just deficiencies. They are used for people with dietary restrictions, people who are having trouble losing weight, or for people experiencing digestion issues. Vitamin B has been shown to stimulate the immune system and nervous system function, as well as improve the metabolic process. If you aren’t getting it through your diet, you should be taking some form of B-complex vitamins supplement.
Efficacy of Injections vs Oral Supplements
B vitamin injections begin working immediately and can be great options for those who are severely deficient in B12 or other B vitamins, but they may not be completely necessary. Other sources of B12 are available, such as sublingual oral supplements. Sublingual B12 is a tablet or liquid that is placed under the tongue and absorbed into the bloodstream from the blood vessels there. Sublingual supplements are superior to pills that have to be swallowed because if you have an issue absorbing B12 in the stomach, it will still be an issue will a pill the same as it is an issue with food.
Gut and digestive system problems are very common reasons for B vitamin malabsorption. Twenty million Americans suffer from chronic digestive diseases which cause so many issues in the body, including inhibiting the absorption of vital nutrients. This is why B vitamin injections are so important. However, there is no clinical evidence to say injections work better than sublingual tablets or liquids. The only difference may be found in the quality of the specific supplement you are using. This is the case with any type of supplement you take.
Do I have to See My Doctor for B Complex or B12 Injections?
Because of the relative safety of B vitamin injections, you don’t necessarily have to see your doctor to get them. But you do have to either receive these injections in a doctor’s office or clinic or have a prescription to receive B12 or B complex injections. This means you will have to see a healthcare professional of some sort. For example, B complex injections are also given at weight loss clinics due to their ability to help your body metabolize proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, among other things.
Another option is an IV bar or lounge, which is a clinic that provides an IV infusion of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes for hydration. While I’m not recommending that you visit either of these types of places, if you don’t want to see your doctor for B vitamin injections, those will be your next best options. No matter where you go, the medical provider will do blood test to measure your current levels of B vitamins before prescribing the injections. Even if you don’t have low levels of B vitamins, you can usually still take B-complex injections for enhanced benefits such as increased energy production. But this will be closely monitored to make sure you aren’t getting too much.
Once you have your prescription, your doctor or the clinic you visit may allow you to pick up the vitamin B injections and take them home to administer yourself so you can avoid frequent visits to their office. This won’t be for everyone, but if you are someone who needs them regularly, you may end up preferring this option.
Other Benefits of B Vitamins?
We’ve already talked about the main essential functions of B vitamins in your body, but let’s talk about all the additional benefits of B complex or B12 injections.
- Increases energy levels
- Fights fatigue and tiredness
- Promotes deeper sleep
- Helps maintain mental clarity
- Helps to keep food cravings under control
- Contributes to healthy skin, hair, nails, and complexion
Possible Side Effects of B Complex and B12 Injections
Side effects aren’t common and usually aren’t serious. If you experience side effects that last longer than a week or seem extreme, talk to your doctor.
- Pain, swelling, or itchy skin where you had the injection (typically mild)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Hot flushes
Who Should Take B Vitamin Supplements?
In theory, you can get enough B vitamins from your diet. Unfortunately, that is often not the case and B vitamins are too important to leave to chance because they play such a major role in your overall health. Both meat eaters and non-meat eaters struggle with B vitamins. So don’t think that you might not be affected by a deficiency just because you eat animal products. I am proof of that as I was dangerously deficient in B12 while I was eating a diet high in animal products. I currently have been eating plant-based for almost two years and am no longer deficient in B12. Remember, even those animals you’re eating are getting B12 supplements. So you’re just getting supplements secondhand from them and just because you are consuming them doesn’t mean you are absorbing them.
B12 supplements are required if you are 50 or older, don’t eat animal products, have a condition that affects your ability to absorb B12 or other B vitamins from foods, or you’re taking medications that might inhibit absorption. The best thing all of us can do is get regular bloodwork done to make sure that we have healthy levels of all types of vitamins and minerals. Annual bloodwork is a huge part of disease prevention and to maintain good overall health.
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