Next time you are at a health food store, go ahead and look at the ingredients in a few of the vitamin B12 supplements. Did you realize there were so many different (and complicated sounding) forms of B12? Hydroxocobalamin. Methylcobalamin. Adenosylcobalamin. Cyanocobalamin. Wow. Well, I suppose choice is a good thing, but how do you choose which form is best for you? Interestingly enough, the type of B12 that you will do best with is actually predetermined by your genetics! Taking the proper form can help you have more energy, support your immune system, and help decrese your risk of certain conditions. However, taking the wrong form can have some unexpected side effects...
Take, for example, a brief period in my life where I would frequently be found sitting in bed at 3am feeling like I was going to have a heart attack. Super, super fun. No clue as to why- life was stressful, but isn't it always? I wasn't under any particular hardship, anxiety attacks aren't really a part of my daily life, and I was seriously questioning my sanity. Funny how sometimes you are so close to the situation that you can't see the obvious. Turns out the cause was as simple as a little vitamin called B12.
I had discovered that I had a gene variation that causes me to need more B12 for my body to function properlyin making neurotransmitters, detoxing, and other things in an important process called methylation. Nowdays there is a lot of information about this but at that point it was basically "have this issue, take this form". Well, that form ended up being methylcobalamin and I took it daily for about a month.
I felt AWFUL.
I would wake up with my heart racing, constantly felt like someone was squeezing my chest, and was in a constant state of sadness and anxiety. Super fun. Highly recommend NEVER trying this. Funny thing was everything I read said how much methylcobalamin helped with stress and anxiety, so of course I just kept on taking it and thinking it would help eventually. Thank goodness I ran out and didn't have time to get a refill for a few days. Suddenly, after about 4 days, I started feeling human again. I wasn't waking up in a panic, I felt a bit more like I could get a deep breath, and my poor husband wasn't having to walk on eggshells anymore. During this time I was so stressed that I began drinking much more than before. Now, I'm not a big drinker by any means- more of a "glass of wine once or twice a week" kind of a girl but suddenly I was wanting a glass or two every night because it was the only thing that made me feel normal. Now I think I understand why and it's kind of interesting.
When I think of methylation, I like to think of a bunch of roadways- giant roundabouts with off and on ramps all over the place. On these roads are little transport vehicles moving things here and there. It's all very technical, but the gist is that by taking methycobalamin I was speeding up these trucks on my roundabouts. For a lot of people this is great news, but it's not that simple. My off ramps are genetically "under construction", with roadblocks set up. When I sped up my traffic, I caused these trucks to go flying down the off ramps, crashing into the barriers and the other cars. These ramps go to towns that have names like Serotonin-ville and South Dopamine- not a place you want issues...The reason I believe the alcohol was helpful is that it depletes B vitamins, causing the traffic to slow down and causing less issues on the off ramps. And yes, since I stopped taking it I now have about 1 drink a week again with no desire to go back.
So, what's the take home message? Don't just take something because you read an article about how great it worked for someone else... we are all different! There are two genes that you can look at and help determine which form of B12 you will most likely tolerate the best- for those like me methylcobalamin is just too intense and hydroxocobalamin is more my speed. If you don't know your genetic makeup and are just shooting in the dark, make sure you start with LOW doses of methylB12 and methylfolate and increase slowly. The other thing to remember is these are not every day supplements- after you get things moving and traffic is flowing well, STOP! If you keep speeding things up, you could very well end up with more traffic jams and be sitting up at 3am wondering why the world feels like it's ending.
Respect the B vitamins. They are more powerful than you would expect.
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