Anaemia – Vitamin B12 Deficiency

We all know that we need to eat a healthy diet in order to receive vitamins and minerals which are essential for our health.  What we were never taught is why certain vitamins and minerals are important and therefore what occurs when you do get enough (or if your body isn’t accessing them efficiently).  I feel that the hours of lessons on the benefits of vitamins and minerals were quite disconnected from the foods which they are abundant from and the effects that they have on the body.  I have been contacted by a lady through Twitter who enquired about Vitamin B12 so the blog this week will look at this aspect of our health and well-being today.

History:

Vitamin B12 and it’s identification as an important anti-anaemia compound were discovered in the 1920s and 30s.

Why B12 is an Essential Vitamin:

B12 has a wide variety of roles within the body and the biochemical reactions that they play a part in are all inter-related.  They have an essential role in the production of DNA (it is copied and reproduced) which explains why a deficiency of B12 can affect cell division in any part of the body where there is a high turn over of cells such as the bone marrow (leading to megaloblastic anaemia) but also the walls of the digestive system affecting out assimilation and absorption of food and their nutrients.

  • It is involved in the formation of our red blood cells blood.
  • It enables us to access energy as it is involved in the metabolism of every cell in the body (including fats, carbohydrates and proteins).
  • It  is essential to fatty acid synthesis.
  • Our nervous system doesn’t have a high turnover of cells but is dependant on B12 to be healthy.
  • High Vitamin B12 levels can protect against Alzheimer’s disease and reduced mental ability, it also boosts part of our immune system.
  • RNA and DNA synthesis.
  • Growth factor.

B12 in the Body:

The absorption of Vitamin B12 is different to all other essential nutrients, in the stomach it is dependant on not only the stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) but also a molecule which is made up of both sugar and protein (glyco-protein) called ‘Intrinsic Factor’.  Without the intrinsic factor to bind to the B12 it cannot be absorbed in the intestines by specialised receptors designed to accept the B12.  The Intrinsic factor acts as an essential carrier to take the vitamin into the body – without it we cannot access it.  This process only occurs if the internal environment of the gastrointestinal tract is alkaline (pH 6.5 or above).  B12 is absorbed (bound to the Intrinsic Factor) in the distal ileum.  Therefore B12 deficiency is a disorder of the stomach, getting to the root cause of why the stomach is deficient can be gleamed from a herbal consultation.

Our body knows it is an essential vitamin an so it is kept within the body and re-excreted from the biliary tract (part of the digestive system) but cannot be utilised unless the Intrinsic Factor is present.  There are several other molecules within the body which act as transporters binding the vitamin to it and taking it throughout the body where it is needed – theses can be found in our blood (in plasma) in our saliva and in our milk (to be passed to our baby through breastfeeding), these other transporters are not as effective as the intrinsic factor at binding to B12 to enable absorption and utilisation.  Science has thought that a lack of one of the transporters can lead to megaloblastic anaemia and is passed through our genetics.  If you are experiencing B12 deficiency is this something which runs through your family?

When you don’t get enough B12:

Vitamin B12 deficiency can affect the cardiovascular, digestive and nervous system – symptoms include:

  •  Tiredness,
  • Depression,
  • Anaemia,
  • Reduced memory,
  • Mania,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Psychosis,
  • Hearing loss,
  • A change in the way you walk,
  • Spina bifida, (deficiency whilst pregnancy can affect your unborn baby)
  • Changes to your reflexes,
  • Pernicious anaemia,
  • Changes in your behaviour,
  • Digestive issues.

Possible Causes of B12 Deficiency:

  • Dietary Lack

Are you eating enough foods which are ‘high’ in Vitamin B12? B12 is found in a wide variety of animal products such as meat, fish, eggs, butter, milk and cheese.  Other food sources include: liver, kidney, yoghurt, wheat germ, yeast, spinach, lettuce, algae, alphafa, kelp and dulse.  B12 cannot be produced within our body and therefore relies on dietary intake.  Our body can store a decent amount of B12 and conserve it well so if you have a vegetarian or vegan diet you may not notice signs of deficiency for several years.  If you are already eating foods high in B12 or are a vegetarian or vegan and are experiencing signs of Vitamin B12 deficiency then it may indicate there are other issues which need to be resolved.

  • Low levels of Intrinsic Factor

If there are low levels of Intrinsic Factor in the stomach it is classed as a megaloblastic anaemia such as pernicious anaemia – a lack of red blood cells due to large molecules such as iron or B12.  If your stomach isn’t producing enough stomach acid this can become an issue.  Low levels of Intrinsic factor is rarely passed on genetically although a passively acquired B12 store at birth may be quickly exhausted and lead to anaemia.  This would take roughly 2-3 years.  If you have been given the diagnosis if B12 deficiency and you are an adult it may be that the lack of Intrinsic Factor in your stomach may be linked to atrophic gastritis and a lack of gastric acidity.

Have you experienced any digestive issues in the lead up to your diagnosis? A herbal consultation would be able to determine the full history and discover the true causes of any health issues and be able to support you with natural herbs to improve your health and wellbeing and prevent complications associated with B12 deficiency.

  • Issues with Absorption

There may be issues with your digestive system and its ability to absorb the B12.  There are several reasons for this including some medications, iletitis, lymphoma or tuberculosis.  If there inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract it will reduce the guts ability to absorb and assimilate nutrients.  Disorders of the terminal ileum such as Crohn’s disease may result in Vitamin B12 deficiency.

  • Decreased Availability

Also if there is congestion and stagnation present in the digestive system it may be due to a lack of movement as to why the B12 in your diet isn’t available.  If the gut flora is out of balance it may also cause a reduced absorption of vitamins and nutrients.  An infestation of worms can also cause a lack of availability.  The lack of movement of the contents of the gut can be due to strictures, surgically created bypasses, fistulas and diverticular disease – each of these issues have the presence of bacterial overgrowth in common.  Bacterial infections in the guts can physically block access of the vitamin B12 and Intrinsic factor molecule from the relevant receptors.  One indicator that this could be an issue is that you will have poo which floats (steatorrhea).

If you live in the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area of North East Lincolnshire and feel that you would like to have a consultation (lasts 1 hour) and investigate all aspects of your health and wellbeing please book an appointment with either myself or The Achilles Centre.  As a herbalist there are several methods of supporting B12 deficiency naturally.  All consultations include a follow-up offering tailored dietary and lifestyle advice to suit your individual needs and herbal prescriptions are tailored to benefit you and your needs.

Erslev, A Gabuzda, T (1979) Pathophysiology of Blood USA W B Saunders Company

Rose, S (1998) Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Pathophysiology USA Fence Creek Publishing

Advertisements

If we all do something to help the environment!!

This week I attended a meeting with the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust: http://www.lincstrust.org.uk for the Grimsby and Cleethorpes group.  An amazing woman gave a talk about wildlife conservation.

In January 2013 127 sites for marine conservation were identified around the coastline of the United Kingdom and put forward to the government to become areas of Marine Conservation.  Only 31 have been put forward for designation this year!!! And although they have been put forward it doesn’t guarentee that they will become conservation areas!!  There is now another public consultation running until the end of March 2013 the results of which could change everything again.
Can you please assist me by having your say and writing a personal response to the UK government?
Tell them why you enjoy the marine environment and why you think marine protected areas are important.
Show support to the designation of the first 31 zones, stressing that once designated protected areas need to be managed well to protect wildlife.
This is a step forward but the designation of a network of 127 marine conservation zones is important for recovery of our marine environment.  Delays will result in continued damage occuring to our seabed. A clear timetable needs to be set for the designation of the remaining sites. The investment already made shouldn’t be wasted.
Responses can either be sent to: mcz@defra.gsi.gov.uk or
MCZ Team
c/o Post Room, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR
Or visit the Wildlife Trusts website: www.wildlifetrusts.org to fill in a form that goes straight to Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (defra)
It would be useful if you could also copy your letter to your MP
If we all could do something to help the environment then there may be hope for future generations to enjoy the wealth of natural habitat that we get to enjoy today.  All I am asking is a letter today.  It will probably take half an hour of your time if you chose to email instead of post one and costs nothing to do.
I really appreciate your help with regards to this matter – I know it is digressing from herbal medicine – I promise I will get back onto natural health next week (although out environemnt has an impact on our health and wellbeing) LOL.

Natural Pain Relief

Prior to my journey of natural herbal medicine I used to take aspirin and paracetamol when I experienced pain which most people do at one point or another. It was only through learning about health from the view point of the whole that I realsied that taking pain killers are not at positive as we were led to believe.

Imagine if there was a fire in a house, you need to put the fire out to stop the damage to the house. Now imagine that the house is your body and the fire is the cause of the pain – taking painkillers is a bit like opening a window to let out the smoke. The problem is still there and just because one of the symptoms of the issue is masked/reduced doesn’t mean that the problem is solved, it is in fact getting worse.

If you are taking pain killers which are prescribed from the doctor please do not stop them straight away, several pharmaceutical medications require a gradual withdrawal otherwise severe side effects can occur – please speak to your GP if you would like to stop taking your pain killing medication.

Pain is our body’s way of signalling to us that there is something wrong. Pain has a purpose – it is classed in medicine as either acute or chronic. Acute pain warns us that there is something wrong quickly in a very direct manner our body is telling us that there is something wrong and we need to do something about it. Medically chronic pain has been deemed “pain without a purpose” I disagree with this phrase as our body is still signalling that there is something wrong but our body doesn’t have the right nutrition and environment to restore itself.

If you would like support to reduce the pain you experience there are many natural methods which can be effective such as massage, acupuncture, transcutaneous electrial nerve stimulation (TENS), relaxation, meditation, acupressure and herbal medicine. I would like to stress that if you would like to try any of these therapies seek the advice and consultation of a fully qualified specialist. As a herbalist I can support you with reducing and resolving pain if you live in the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area of North East Lincolnshire in England.  Check out my website: http://www.herbsforhealthandwellbeing.co.uk

Although up to 60% of modern medicine are plant based or synthesised from herbs the isolation and extraction of specific compounds removes the natural balancing effect of the whole plant. A pharmaceutical drug usually contains one active ingredient where the whole herb can contain hundreds!! I also feel that our body reacts if we ingest food or medicine which isn’t natural. When we take modern pharmaceuticals we only absorb up to 50% of the drug, this is because our body is effective at protecting us against possible threats, as pharmaceuticals are synthetic the body tried to expell as much of the drug as possible and we eliminate most of the drug untouched where it can then affect our environment and ecosystem. (Just think how many women are on the contraceptive pill and eliminating their daily dose into the water supply – now think about the reduced fertility of animals and even us).

Aspirin was synthesised from herbal medicines, I have meadowsweet and white willow in my dispensary, both are high in an active ingredient called salacylic acid which is a natural pain reliever. Aspirin is a synthesised version of this active ingredient called acetyl-salacylic acid. I would rather take meadowsweet and willow that swallow two aspirin as possible side effects of the drug include high incidences of digestive irritation with blood loss as well as spasms of the lungs and skin reactions to the drug! There are no confirmed side effects of taking meadowsweet or willow although certain people can be senstive to the salicylates – so if you are sensitive to aspirin you will probably be sensitive them too.

Meadowsweet is a natural anti-inflammatory and pain killer

Meadowsweet is a natural anti-inflammatory and pain killer

“Herbal medicine is effective for aches and pains due to headaches, migraines, depression, eyestrain, earache, tinnitus, sinusitis, toothache and sore gums, mouth ulcers, sore throat, neckache, coughs, colds and flu, bronchitis, asthma, pleurisy, pneumonia, tuberculosis, angina, circulation problems, stomach ache, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, ulcers, gallstones, constipation, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), haemorroids, urinary tract infections, cycstitis, kidney stones, fibromyalgia, bursitis, gout, arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, heat rash, boils, blisters, tinea, ringwrom, ezcema, dermatitis, psoriasis, prostatitis, herpes, prolapse, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), painful periods, vaginitis and cancer.”Herbalists have a variety of ways to get to the root cause of the pain whilst also providing symptomatic releive including: analygesics, nervines, anti-depressants, circulatory stimulants, demulcents, mucilages, anti-inflammatories, anti-spasmodics, soothers, cleansers, balancers, settlers and many more.

 

References:

Brinker, F (1998) ‘Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions’ USA Eclectic Medical Publications
Joint Formulary Committee (2007) ‘British National Formulary’ Germany BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and RPS Publishing
Thomas, R (2007) ‘The Complete Book of Natural Pain Relief’ Singapore, Quantum Publishing Ltd

Climate Week and Tree Week 4th March – 10th March 2013

Walking in Bradley and Dixon Woods in the Summer with the light speckling through the canopy

Walking in Bradley and Dixon Woods in the Summer with the light speckling through the canopy

I have been meaning to organise an event for Climate Week for months and last week I got round to it… finally. As a herbalist I enjoy being out in nature and I am lucky to live in Grimsby as there are so many different habitats in such a close range of my home. The coastline of North East Lincolnshire is beautiful, there is the Lincolnshire Wolds, open countryside with a variety of beautiful and varied walks and several woodlands including Weelsby Woods and Bradley and Dixon Woods.http://visitwoods.org.uk/en/visit-woods/Pages/wood-details.aspx?wood=16433&site=Bradley-%26-Dixon-Wood

My organised event for Climate Week is to clean up Bradley and Dixon Woods. It is a nature reserve and ancient woodland which is a habitat for many animals and plants. As a herbalist I feel at peace when exploring them and feel annoyance when I see the rubbish that is just left there which endangers small animals, chokes plantlife and makes the place look a mess. So I vow to dedicate several hours on Tuesday 5th March 2013 to cleaning up the place.

If you live locally and would like to take part the details are available here: https://www.facebook.com/events/419379998148810/

My creative Oak Tree Study painted in Acrylic on Canvas

My creative Oak Tree Study painted in Acrylic on Canvas

I was overjoyed when I found out that it is Tree Week on the same week as Climate Week. Whilst studying Herbal Medicine at the University of Lincoln I completed a project on Trees choosing the majestic Oak as my study. There are numerous oak trees in Bradley and Dixon Woods, it is a peaceful feeling to be sat underneath them in Autumn when the acorns are dropping to the ground and you can see the squirrels scampering around in a hasty dash to collect as much as they can to see them through the winter months.

As Spring is nearly here the woods will be bursting with buds, wood anenome will be growing and flowering soon and the ferns won’t have dominated the space underneath the canopy of trees, there will still be lots to see but it will give me the opportunity to pick up the rubbish so that people can enjoy the area for its stunning natural beauty – minus any beer cans etc.

There are lots of medicinal trees in Bradley Woods – several which are an important part of my role as a herbalist.  Hawthorn, Elder, Oak, Hazel, Chestnut, Birch, Alder and Pine to name several off the top of my head.  National Tree Week is an annual event which lets us celebrate all of the positive aspects of trees.  There is something special about trees – they have provided shelter, food, heat adn medicine to us throughout the centuries.

Try to plant a tree during this week – I feel that if everybody on the planet each planted one tree then we would be able to reduce the negative effects of climate change.  As we breathe in oxygens and exhale carbon dioxide it is plants which inhale carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen.  They are vital to our atmoshpere.  Rainforests in places such as Africa even create weather conditions through their respiration – taking in carbon dioxide in the day and releasing oxygen at night. Darcey Blue a herbalist is quoted to have said “They speak to us in symbols, they root us into place, they make up large portions of our landscapes, trees are the bones, the skin and lungs of the earth.”

If you would like information on the medicinal uses of trees, how to harvest them and how to prepare them please do not hesitate to contact myself.

My website is: www.herbsforhealthandwellbeing.co.uk

Email: ewarrenerherbal@gmail.com

Follow me on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/GrimsbyHerbalUK

Like my Facebook Page at: http://www.facebook.com/HerbsForHealthAndWellbeingLtd

Join me on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/herbsforhealthandwellbeingltd