Do you take B12 to improve your energy levels? Many people rely on this vital vitamin to get them out of bed each morning, but B12 is so much more than a fatigue buster. Essential for so many aspects of your wellbeing; you need B12 to produce healthy red blood cells, well-functioning nerves, to release the energy from your food, for a tip top digestive system, and so much more! If those gains aren't enough to get you looking into the benefits B12 injections can provide, how about new research that shows low B12 is also linked to raised inflammation levels in the body?
A study this year identified that vitamin B12 deficiency is often present alongside chronic inflammation. This suggests not getting enough B12 could drive inflammation, the culprit behind all kinds of conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders. Yet another reason to get your levels checked and top them up if you are lacking!
Why should you find out about the benefits B12 injections have?
A whopping 1 in 10 people in the UK are believed to be B12 deficient. Symptoms can range from pins and needles and numbness to joint pain, depression and poor mental health, memory loss, and loss of taste and smell. Or in the worst-case scenario, pernicious anaemia, which can be fatal if not treated.
B12 deficiency has become such a concern that this year NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) even came up with some new guidelines to help patients get the treatment they need faster. This includes what qualifies a patient for B12 injections – long regarded as the gold standard for treating low B12 (you can read our dedicated blog all about the new recommendations here.)
But what exactly are the benefits B12 injections have? Is it difficult to get them prescribed by your GP? If you can't get them, what are your options? And are there any supplements that you can take in between injections to keep you ticking over?
The key benefits B12 injections provide:
Wondering what to expect if you get a B12 shot? You'll usually have either hydroxocobalamin or cyanocobalamin injected into your muscle. These forms of B12 are very effective at raising the levels of B12 in your blood, so you can make the most of the 3 benefits B12 injections can give you:
1. Direct absorption into the bloodstream:
It's not rocket science, but if the B12 is delivered directly into your bloodstream, the full dose will be transported throughout your body where it can be put to use. Avoiding the digestive system prevents you from losing nutrients as they move through your stomach and gut and get filtered out. But you probably knew that already if you use our patches, which also bypass the gut!
2. Feel energised faster:
As the B12 is delivered directly into your bloodstream, you're likely to feel the effects much faster. It's not uncommon to notice an almost instantaneous uptick in your energy levels and vitality – something you certainly won't find with taking oral tablets.
3. Guaranteed results, even with digestive issues:
Living with digestive issues like Crohn's and IBS can make it hard for your body to absorb nutrients (including B12) from the food you eat. Plus, your ability to absorb B12 specifically, is down to something called the 'intrinsic factor', a protein made by the cells in your stomach. Your body needs this protein to combine with vitamin B12 to ensure it is properly absorbed into your gut, but some people don't make enough. And others don't have the intrinsic factor at all – super frustrating!
Getting your B12 via an injection means you don't need to worry about digestive issues. With 45% of the UK said to experience chronic gut health issues, this is one of the main benefits B12 injections have over oral supplements. The same can be said for our B12 Energy Plus patch– which delivers the B12 via your skin, so you can also get great results even if you're living with stomach or gut problems.
Why can it be difficult to be prescribed B12 injections by your GP?
B12 injections are more costly than oral supplements and many doctors have strict criteria in place to access them. Lots of surgeries will only send you for a B12 injection if you're suffering neurological problems as a result of a B12 deficiency, you've had large parts of your stomach or small intestine removed, or you've had a blood test showing you can't make the intrinsic factor.
This represents a relatively small proportion of those affected by B12 deficiency. Potentially leaving millions of people unable to access the benefits B12 injections could provide.
So what are the most effective alternatives to B12 injections?
The NICE sanctioned alternative to injections is a high dose oral supplement. But as we've already talked about, orals can be pretty much ineffective if you have gut problems that make you unable to absorb B12. Or if you're taking antacids, or you have low levels of intrinsic factor.
Plus, oral doses are often too high for your body to use properly. Many people find taking crazy high doses in oral supplements results in the first-pass effect. Where loads of the active ingredient is metabolised and excreted before it can be put to use – hence the bright yellow urine you get after B12 tablets. This lurid wee is a sign that your body thinks you've got too much B12 and is dumping lots of B vitamins before they can do any good – gah!
B12 patches are an excellent alternative because they have a slow-release action which releases B12 gradually, throughout the 8 hours you wear them. This is much easier for your body to absorb than the levels of B12 you get from high dose tablets or mouth sprays. And as discussed, transdermal delivery also means the B12 goes directly into the bloodstream via the skin, completely avoiding your gut. Giving you the same benefits B12 injections have, without a trip to the clinic.
Are there benefits B12 injections don't have, which you can get from a patch?
While nothing can quite match B12 injection benefits, B12 patches can deliver some pretty impressive results (read our amazing reviews here) with a lot less hassle. You can use patches at home, with no need to schedule an appointment for an injection and factor that into your day. They are also a wonderful alternative if you're not keen on needles. More common than you might think: 1 in 10 of the UK population have trypanophobia – a fear of needles – would you believe?!
Patches aren't reliant on getting a prescription from your Dr and are so much cheaper than having B12 injected privately. Properly regulated clinics will charge around £40 per injection, which soon adds up. All our patches are sold as 30-day bundles. Order yours and once they've arrived you just need to peel one off the backing, pop one on your skin, and you're away! So simple and easy.
Is it worth using a patch between B12 injections – to keep your levels up?
Yes, absolutely! In fact, PatchWorks is now supplying a number of IV clinics across the UK and Europe for this very reason. Patches are an excellent way to maintain the B12 injection benefits provide for longer. So if you're someone who can only get their B12 levels up with an injection, patches are still well worth considering to maintain the gains and feel your best for longer between jabs. Get yours here.