Vitamin B shots are popping up all over. You can now get injections in doctors’ offices, weight loss clinics, and even health food stores. This article answers some frequently asked questions about this popular therapy to help you to decide if vitamin B shots are right for you.

What is vitamin B12 good for?

Vitamin injections can consist of a number of nutrients, with B12 one of the key components. B12 is well known for giving people energy through chemical reactions that form red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, and oxygen is needed to metabolize food molecules into energy. B12 also helps convert homocysteine, a protein that is associated with heart disease, into methionine, one of eight essential amino acids, that helps stop cellular damage in the body. Another important function of B12 is to maintain myelin, the covering around nerves, so B12 is often helpful in reducing pain caused by nerve degeneration.

Which form of B12 is best?

There are many types of B12 with names relating to the chemical structure of each form, such as hydroxycobalamin, cyanocobalamin, S-adenosylcobalamin, and methylcobalamin, which is the type that your body needs to perform the functions mentioned above. Your body can create it out of the other forms, but many people have a genetic mutation that makes this process suboptimal; therefore, you should look for methylcobalamin in your supplements and injections.

How do I know if I need a shot?

Your level of B12 is easily checked with a blood test. One study by the USDA found B12 deficiency in 9% of the population, and 39% had low-normal levels. Those at high risk are the elderly, people with pernicious anemia, those who take metformin or proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium, and people who have had weight loss surgery. All of these conditions reduce the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food. Vegetarians can also develop deficiencies, since B12 is found in animal products, but not plant foods.

How often should I get a shot?

If you have a documented B12 deficiency, you should receive an injection once a week until your deficiency is corrected. If you are using shots for prevention or for general wellness, no guidelines have been established. Some people choose to get shots every two weeks or once a month. As with anything, the more consistent you are, the better results you’ll get. Because B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess will be excreted through urination and is unlikely to cause problems.

Dr. Jessica Needle is a naturopathic doctor practicing at Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568.2598.

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