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I'm a mom, a wife, a best friend. Sick with CFIDS/ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia since 1975 as a result of a nasty flu while still in grad school, it wasn't until the late '80's that I received a diagnosis. Until that flu I'd never really been ill before. With each year I get progressively worse and add to the bucket load of symptoms I'm living with. I've been blessed with an incredible family and best friend who've stayed with me through my struggles as we continue to find a way out of this monstrous illness and its complications. We've tried seemingly every approach to find my way back to health. Often I think our best weapon in this undesirable and unasked-for adventure has been laughter.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Stomach Acid & Vitamin B-12 Deficiency



I've written before that I get three daily shots: my Human Growth Hormone (HGH), my pitocin & and my Vitamin B-12.  People have asked me how do I know that I indeed need B-12 and I've always thought that a remarkable question.  Doesn't everyone get their levels, such as Vitamin D, checked periodically by blood work at their GP's office?

Vitamin B-12 is essential.  This is especially important if you happen to have ME/CFS/CFIDS or fibromyalgia. The bad news is that if you get a B-12 deficiency, it can take up to two years for your body and your cells to make up that deficiency.  I found this out the hard way.  Oh, your blood work will show relatively soon that your body has enough B-12, but unfortunately, science tells us that the deficiency takes a long time to correct. That's one reason why, since 1997, when I first discovered this deficiency, I've been religious about getting my B-12 shot daily when at all possible.

Unfortunately, in the past year the B-12 shots have become less than daily.  I think I've actually gone a month here and there without a B-12 shot, if not longer, because of all the hospitalizations this past year. (Seven ER visits*, three hospitalizations, about 33 days out of 365 in the hospital, not a good thing!)  If anything, I should have been a fanatic about the B-12.

I just watched an episode of Dr. Oz.  In full disclosure I'm not a big fan of the show.  I call the show "Just Shoot Me Now and Get It Over With!" because I find it too gloom and doom.  Furthermore, in an ABC interview years ago, I heard him say he wouldn't operate on an heart patient who smokes. I'm not sure I care for such a judgmental doctor. I also find the show too simplistic. However, I've always loved his graphics. They are amazing.

An aside: I also viewed his colonoscopy experience on YouTube in order to prepare myself psychologically for my own procedure.  Imagine how surprised I was to learn a few new things which I do want to mention in a future post.  So I have softened my views about Oz lately and I see that he has softened his approach.  He's no longer as gloom and doom as before and much more "positive."  There IS a place for him on TV after all - as millions of Americans have shown us.  But back to the subject at hand.

Last week, I happened to turn the TV on as the show was ending and I heard him say something about "make sure you drink your beet juice to see if you have low acid in your stomach!"  I hit "record" and thanked the DVR goddess.

Bingo!  I loved the beet test in the past to assess gastrointestinal motility (how do you like that phrasing?). But it has another use.  It can tell you whether or not you may have Vitamin B-12 deficiency.  If your urine turns pink after consuming a beet or beet juice, it may mean that your stomach acid is low but if it remains yellow, it means your stomach acid level is good.  You need stomach acid ("juices" is what my rheumy/immunologist who often vets my pieces has corrected me saying, "juices"!) to absorb and metabolize B-12, the "energy vitamin."  (Again, in full disclosure, my immunologist has a problem with "energy vitamin" and likes to add the quotes.  He is a very fussy fellow!)  It, B-12, adds oxygen to your body, giving the red cells the power to do that.  Without enough B-12, these are some of the problems you encounter, according to Dr. Oz (and with additions by my rheumy/immunologist):

  • Anemia (B-12 deficiency can cause pernicious anemia, a megaloblastic anemia) 
  • Poor memory (first sign in B-12 deficiency)
  • Depression (the poor woman on the show didn't seem to agree with the depression!)
  • No appetite (forgetting to eat)
  • Tired (walking bent over, "literally down to the ground" as Dr. Oz says)
  • Weak (feeling listless)
  • Foggy (the mental "prowess isn't there")

Now, all of the above problems are very non-specific and can go along with many different illnesses, except for the anemia, of course.  So, doing the beet test and/or consulting your doctor to have your B-12 level checked would be a good way to go to rule out an eminently treatable problem.

I had our "vinigret," the traditional beet and potato salad on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as described in my Christmas post.  My urine was pink and I've started back on my daily B-12 shots.

Tada!  So, here IS one easy way to tell if you may be vitamin B-12 deficient, the beet test!  Eat one beet (or drink a glass of beet juice if you don't like beets, though I'm not quite sure how one drinks the juice if you can't tolerate a small beet) and see what happens!

Before I end, I did want to mention that with me, because I've been sick for so long and because I'm AM so severely ill, I need the shots.  We tried every Vitamin B-12 pill and liquid, even the nasal spray, for years with nothing bringing my level to normal, so I need the shots.   The nutritional IV bag also helps me absorb the B-12 more efficiently.

Can you guess what one of my resolutions will be for the New Year?

Here is Dr. Oz's Family Salad to getting you started on beets if you so wish. I happen to think it's a much maligned veggie in the States! 

Ingredients:

  • Beets
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Gorgonzola cheese
Directions:
Boil the beets until they become tender. Pull off skin under cold running water. Chop them and toss lightly with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Crumble Gorgonzola cheese on top for extra flavor.

Note: I prefer to bake or roast beets; I have always used mild feta cheese in this sort of quick salad. Nothing like a sweet and salt combination! Adding sliced onions is something I might try next!

And if I get my act together I'll post my "Vinigret" recipe.  If you like beets you'll find this especially delicious.

As always, I hope everyone is feeling their very best, only better.  Ciao and paka!

*I realized that there were at least two more ER runs which I described in this blog but totally forgot!  Where's my scorecard?


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9 comments:

  1. Great post! Thanks for the info. I do juice beets on occasion and have never had pink urine so I guess I can cross b12 & stomach acid worries off my list.

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    1. No, it doesn't work like that! There are dozens of different causes for B12 deficiency and low stomach acid is only one of them. If you have low stomach acid, you pretty much certainly have low B12. If you have normal stomach acid secretion, you could still well have a B12 deficiency. The tests are unfortunately extremely unreliable. Urinary MMA is likely the most reliable test - but it's not even available in the country I am from.

      Beets are a great vegetable (never gave me pink urine, BTW). Too bad most people eat them with dairy and the casein interferes with the absorption of most of the good stuff. You don't need cheese to have exquisite beet dishes. They go well with many things, but fresh sage is one of my favorites.

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    2. Thank you, Julie, for reading and for your comment! It's always a delight to get feedback. xxx

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    3. Hi, Maija. Thanks for writing. As soon as my brain fog is gone (I've not slept in a couple of days) I'll address your comment. In the meanwhile, thanks for the cheese info with the beet salad. Perhaps the vinigret is better in someways? ;). Will need to post it. Beets are so good for you! xx

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    4. Majia, I think I put enough qualifiers in this post to show people that this is one way of establishing a possible deficiency. It was a partial answer for those not able to see a doctor nor afford a test. I never meant it as the perfect answer. I, did and do, feel that it's better than nothing.

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  2. For those struggling with B12 deficiency, I recently heard about a new oral prescription alternative to the injections. Has anyone heard of it, it's called Eligen B12? Apparently it is the first and only true alternative to the intramuscular injection. I recently read that it works even if you don't have intrinsic factor (so even if you don't have normal gut absorption). Apparently it came out a month or two ago

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  3. Just my two cents, I've had severe b12 deficiency and low stomach acid/mal-absorption issues for about 10 years now. I did subcutaneous methyl-b12 (active b12) shots for a while, but the Jarrow sublinguals (hold under lip against gum, or under tongue) worked just as well. I eventually normalized, and now just battle the digestive issues. I ate beets last night and had lurid red urine this morning. I'm doing fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) daily. I also had a massive mangesium deficiency which was causing many of my more miserable symptoms. I found DermaMag magnesium spray as the best way to replenish.

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  4. Ive just done the beet test and my urine was pink. Should i start on B12 suppliments??

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  5. Hi,
    I am so familiar with your story like you I got the CFIDS and fibro as well as EBV after the flu in the late 80's. As time went on I developed hoshimotos and severe diverticulitus in the 90's which resulted in my first bowel surgery in 2009 and the second in 2011. After that severe autoimmune allergies to everything including food. Dr's were no help and finally through many trails I figured out that I have an allery to gluten. As I look back to even my childhood there were many occasions of adememia in my body as well as chronic mouth sores. When gluten stopped so did the sores as well as the CF and fibromyalgia. The surgeries caused permenant damage but I believe had I recognizd the gluten allergy earlier in my life I could have stopped the chronic inflamtion and damage it caused. I am sorry for you pain and know all to well what you struggle with on a daily basis.

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