Have you ever been stuck with a nagging, chronic dry cough that never seems to go away? You don’t have a cold, your doctor can’t find any evidence of asthma and it seems to affect you whether you’re inside or out? New research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition may have found an answer for you.
The study examined 42 individuals with chronic and unexplained coughs. Of these, 27 were found to be deficient in vitamin B12. The researchers speculated that because B12 deficiency leads to central and peripheral nervous system damage, it could lead to enhanced sensitivity in the throat.
To test this theory, the researchers gave each of the study subjects vitamin B12 injections.
As predicted, the injections helped those with a B12 deficiency — and their coughing was reduced significantly (by close to 50 per cent).
Vitamin B12 deficiency is rather common. Researchers believe the most common cause of B12 deficiency is “inadequate intake of foods from animal origin.” That’s because the richest sources of the vitamin are animal products — meats, eggs and dairy products.
The best sources of B12 include beef, particularly beef liver (the highest known source); fish like salmon, haddock and trout; yogurt; eggs; chicken; and other dairy products like milk and cheese. Although controversial, there are no true vegan sources of vitamin B12. Some vegans will tell you they can get B12 from algae and fermented foods, but these are B12 analogues (look-alikes) and don’t function the same way actual B12 does. Some vegan products, like nutritional yeast and breakfast cereals, are fortified with the vitamin.
All that being said, it is possible for regular meat eaters to be deficient in the vitamin. Part of the problem is absorption of B12 can only happen when stomach acids are well-balanced and the digestive tract is healthy. Stomach acid production drops off with age and a poor diet can also contribute to the problem.
Supplementing B12 can be tricky, which is why many doctors opt for injections. Sublingual supplements (which go under the tongue) work. Vitamin B12 supplements that come with “intrinsic factor,” a compound released by the stomach that aids in absorption of the nutrient, are also a good idea.
To see if you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, speak with your doctor (he/she will be able to test your vitamin levels). Also, talk to them about your treatment options — since B12 supplements are expensive, it might be worthwhile to experiment with food sources first.
The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale, a Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef living in Toronto.
Looking for a way to soothe your bothered throat? Reach for the right kind of lozenge!