There is no food shortage, and yet much of the population is overweight, so how can someone today be vitamin deficient? The answer is two-fold: our food today does not contain the nutrients it once did, and many people today require medications that lower our absorption of vitamins and essential minerals.
Out of Balance
In the March 24, 2013 issue ofNew York Times Magazine, Lisa Sanders, M.D., in her article The Man with the Wobbly Walk, profiles a man who is not old by today’s standards–56 years old. He began to complain of generalized aches and pains, which he attributed to normal aging. However, his symptoms intensified to the point where his balance was off and he was becoming depressed. He also developed orthostatic hypotension, which is when your blood pressure drops significantly when you change positions from lying to standing. Orthostatic hypotension can also cause you to abruptly fall. In addition, the man also felt jumping and twitching in his legs, which frightened him into going to the hospital.
Interestingly, he had all the expensive diagnostic tests (MRI, i.e.) to rule out cancer or a nerve condition like Multiple Sclerosis. It wasn’t until he went to the hospital for the second time, with no clear cause for his symptoms that one of the clever physicians caring for him thought to order a B12 level. The B12 level came back low and the patient’s symptoms responded dramatically with just a few injections of B12. The confusing part to his physicians was that he was not anemic (having a low Hemoglobin) which is associated with B12 deficiency.
Is Your Medication Blocking Your Nutrients?
Today, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are becoming more common with medications that can block their absorption, such as acid-blocking proton pump inhibitors for gastrointestinal reflux. These medications lower the acidity in your stomach and small intestine, but this makes vitamin and mineral absorption more difficult.
Certain medical conditions, such as Celiac Disease, Diabetes and Helicobacter Pylori Infection causing gastritis can lower the absorption of B12 and other key vitamins. Even in the typically healthy population of vegetarians, an increased risk of B12 and other nutrient deficiencies is possible, since they are not getting enough of these nutrients through their diet. This happened to me a decade ago: I was a strict vegan and after about 4 years until I began to feel like the man with the wobbly walk. I was B12 deficient. I took some B12 injections and I saw immediate improvement.
Linus Pauling, the two-time Nobel Prize winner (one for chemistry, the other for Peace), was a tremendous advocate for research into the benefits of vitamin therapy. Dr. Pauling probably knew more than anyone in his time the different biochemical pathways that involved vitamins and minerals to achieve optimal health. He wrote a wonderful book that I just purchased again on its 20th anniversary: How to Live Longer and Better. He explains in detail the benefits of optimal vitamin and mineral intake which is sensible.
In our practice at Mitchell Medical Group, we see all types of patients from the very sick with Chronic Fatigue and fibromyalgia to others looking to improve their vitality. The patients with Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia seem to benefit tremendously from energy injections which we give that contain the different B vitamins and anti-oxidants. We also believe, as did Dr. Pauling, in the use of high dose Vitamin C to protect against infections and arthritis. We achieve a high dose of Vitamin C through an intravenous infusion, so there is no irritation to the stomach.
Finally, make sure when you see your doctor you ask him or her to check your Vitamin B12 level, Vitamin D level, and iron–these are vital to good health.
Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island