Vitamin B12 belongs to the B-vitamin complex, members of which are commonly referred to as the stress vitamins. It’s been shown that vitamin B12 can be calming and help to alleviate the symptoms of stress and even help reduce panic attacks. Vitamin B12 is used by your body to produce two important neurotransmitters, GABA and norepinephrine, which have been shown to contribute to a positive mood.
Your body needs vitamin B12 for a number of important biological functions. It promotes the development of healthy red blood cells, contributes to the production of neurotransmitters, is used by your cells to create DNA, is used in nucleic acid metabolism and is involved in the creation and repair of myelin. Myelin is essentially a biological electrical insulator that surrounds your body's neurons and keeps your nerve impulses working properly. Because vitamin B12 is water soluble, your body doesn’t store much of this vitamin. A vitamin B12 deficiency can show itself as irritability and depression, as well as contribute to anemia. A study of 3,000 pregnant women showed that babies who received inadequate amounts of vitamin B12 were eight times more likely to cry than the babies who got adequate amounts of this nutrient.
Stress is a fact of daily life. In small amounts, stress can push you to achieve more than you would if you were relaxed, but in larger amounts it can drain you, both emotionally and physically. In addition to physical symptoms including muscle tension, sweating and rapid heartbeat, stress manifests itself emotionally. When you are stressed, you are anything but calm: you may be irritable and anger easily, have difficulty concentrating, feel fatigued and have difficulty sleeping. High levels of stress can leach vitamin B12 from your system, which may interfere with the production of healthy levels of neurotransmitters. Additionally, vitamin B12 and the other B vitamins are cofactors that may help your body to get rid of neurotoxic chemicals associated with mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.
Neurotransmitters and Methylation
Vitamin B12 is used by your body for methylation, which is a chemical process that lets your body create new chemical compounds from existing ones. Some of these new chemicals are the neurotransmitters that are essential for supporting a healthy nervous system. According to the National Center for Health and Wellness, vitamin B12 has a direct impact on the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Serotonin works to support emotional stability and reduce irritability; norepinephrine can create a feeling of well being; and dopamine can produce feelings of pleasure. Deficiencies of these neurotransmitters can reduce your ability to cope with stressful situations.
Getting Enough Vitamin B12
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends a daily allowance of 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 for healthy adults and 2.6 micrograms for pregnant women. Dietary sources of vitamin B12 include mostly protein sources, including beef, liver, clams and fish. Plant sources are few, but include brewer's yeast and fortified cereals. Consult with your doctor or health care practitioner about vitamin B12 supplements, especially if you are giving them to children or infants.