“Drop your drawers, Patrick,” I called to my husband as I arrived home from grocery shopping. “It says here on this flyer that Dr. Kelly Austin is offering vitamin B12 shots at the La Mesa Henry’s. Says these shots will help with weight loss, increase energy, and boost the immune system. I aim to get you stuck.”
Patrick grumbled sleepily and confessed that he could stand to feel better (and thinner). Plus, he recalls his grandmother talking about getting vitamin B shots, and he’s a sucker for old-time remedies. But needles make him nervous, so I gave Dr. Austin a call before Patrick headed over to the store.
Dr. Austin (858-705-1727; nhealth.ca) is a naturopathic doctor. “I’m a primary-care physician,” she explains, “but I also have training with nutritional herbs and acupuncture.” When she sets up at Henry’s, she says, “I go through a medical history with the person to make sure there are no possible drug interactions — though there are very few reasons why someone couldn’t take B12. After that, we decide which shot would be best and work out a schedule. Most people do a shot a week for the first month, just to get a couple of shots into the system as a loading dose. Then two or four times a month after that.”
Patrick had whined about the shot and just taking a pill, so I asked about that. “When you take B supplements orally, you lose quite a large portion of the vitamin through the digestive process. With a shot, you get 100 percent of the vitamin put right into the bloodstream — the full dose. And while you urinate an oral supplement out within 24 hours, the half-life of an injectable supplement is seven to nine days. Finally, after the age of 60, your ability to absorb B12 that is taken orally starts to decrease. At that point, it’s good to get a shot once a month or so. Also, the shot is good for vegetarians, since B12 is found only in animal products.”
So…about those benefits. We started with B12 ($20). “Most medical doctors tend to use cyanocobalamin, which is a synthetic form of the vitamin that’s less expensive and really stable. It’s great for preventing and treating anemia. It’s also good for boosting the metabolism, which aids in weight loss and energy levels. Most people who come to me for the B12 shots are looking for those sorts of results. It’s great for athletes who are training for a race.”
Austin also offers B12 methylcobalamin ($30). “I get it compounded for me — there are no preservatives. It offers all the benefits of cyanocobalamin, but the additional compound methyl means that it can pass the blood-brain barrier. It helps with moods — depression, anxiety, and stress. And studies indicate that it can be helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Next, B6 ($10, given in conjunction with a B12 shot for a total of $30). “This one is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It helps with arthritis symptoms and aids when athletes are recovering and sore. And it’s good for women who experience bad PMS symptoms because cramps are caused from excess prostaglandin in the system, and B6 helps reduce prostaglandin production. It also helps with PMS mood swings. I have women who come in for a shot a few days before each period.”
Austin adds that “the B12 plus B6 combination is really good for weight loss, for two reasons. First, it curbs your appetite. Second, they’re both key factors in the Krebs cycle, which basically makes energy for your body. It’s like throwing fuel on the fire.”
Finally, there’s the B12 plus B1 (also $30). “This is good if you drink alcohol a great deal — if you’re drinking to get drunk every weekend or using alcohol long-term.” Alcohol depletes the body’s supply of B1, she said, “and if you have a B1 deficiency, you can develop a disease known as beriberi, which impedes balance. You may wind up having headaches or getting tingling in your hands and feet.”
Some drugs, many of them prescription, strip B12 out of the system. “The biggest depleters are birth-control pills, antidepressants, and drugs that lower stomach acid, such as Pepcid and Zantac.”
Dr. Austin appears at Henry’s stores throughout San Diego County.