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Stress and Vitamin B12

By Angela Brady

Vitamin B-12 is vital to the health and function of your nerve and red blood cells, and is necessary for the replication of DNA. You get vitamin B-12 from protein sources -- three small servings of protein per day provide all the B-12 you need, but the vitamin is water soluble, so any excess gets excreted. It has been hailed by supplement manufacturers as the cure for stress, but that's not altogether true.

Stress Symptoms

Small amounts of everyday stress -- like rushing to meet a deadline or being nervous before an interview -- are normal, and can motivate you to be productive and do your best. But when stress becomes chronic, it can lead to loss of sleep, appetite disruption and lowered immunity. In some cases, it can lead to depression and anxiety, which are separate disorders that require medical treatment. Even if it doesn't turn severe, chronic stress can affect your quality of life, leading many people to seek supplementation.

B12 Supplementation

Marketers claim that vitamin B-12 can lower stress levels, but there is no evidence to support this. Research is ongoing as of May 2011, but vitamin B-12 is being investigated for its potential ability to reduce fatigue, improve memory, boost the immune system and prevent sleep disorders. In other words, a vitamin B-12 supplement may help alleviate many of the side effects related to chronic stress. It should be noted, though, that it doesn't cure it -- stress continues until you take steps to reduce it.

Get Your Vitamins

Vitamin B-12 is found in animal products such as fish, dairy and meat. If you eat a balanced diet, you likely get plenty of B-12 already. Vegetarians may suffer a deficiency and require supplementation. Adults need 2.4 mcg of B-12 daily, but people over 50 years old may not efficiently absorb B-12 from foods, so should discuss supplementation with their doctors. Keep in mind that getting your vitamin B-12 does not give you an excuse to eat a lot of steak and burgers -- it is still important to choose lean sources of protein to avoid a high fat intake.

Alternative Stress Therapies

Because evidence of B-12's effect on stress symptoms is lacking, try cutting symptoms off at the source. See a therapist to learn more effective coping techniques, and use your time more efficiently to achieve a better work/home balance. Get regular exercise, and try relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation or tai chi. It may be necessary to simplify your lifestyle to eliminate the main source of the stress. If your stress verges on anxiety or involves depression, see your doctor for medications that may help.

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