Vitamin B12 and Polio   by Tessa Jupp Dec 2001

Why are we interested in B12 for polios? Many reasons - let’s look at some of them.
Our Clinic is currently conducting a pilot study on the use of B12 injections and oral magnesium for the treatment of painful spurs.
Spurs are bony growths that occur where they shouldn’t.  You may have heard of heel spurs, but we can also develop shoulder spurs, spinal spurs, knee spurs etc.  Why does bone go crazy and make more bone where it shouldn’t be?
Spurs result from excessive tendon pull and occur at the insertion point of that tendon.  So tight muscles, causing stretching and extra pull on tendons can result in extra bony growths.  We are being told of the need for weight bearing exercise and weight lifting to increase bone density in osteoporosis.  Spurs are an excellent example of how to increase bone growth, albeit in the wrong place on this occasion.
In our Clinic over the last few years, a number of polios have benefited from using B12 injections combined with oral magnesium to reduce spurs.  This regime works on bursitis as well.
Pernicious anaemia is known to be a consequence of low B12.  This is usually caused by lack of intrinsic factor in the stomach, something we inherit or that may occur with older age.  Low B12 also leads to macrocytic anaemia.  When red blood cells (rbc) are being formed B12 is necessary for maturation of these cells.  Without B12 they are unable to divide and lose their nucleus as they should, so remain large cells with poor carrying capacity.  This means that you may become short of breath as the abilty of these cells to carry oxygen is reduced.  It can also affect the circulation, particularly in the limbs as these large rbc cannot pass through the smaller blood vessels, leaving these areas of the body low in oxygen and other nutrients.
Another area less commonly known to be affected is absorption in the gut.  When B12 is low, the villi in the lining of the digestive tract become flat and shortened, reducing the area available to absorb nutrients.  So we experience poor digestion problems, including deficiencies in other vitamins and minerals too.
Royal Perth Hospital is presently researching the use of B12, B6 and folic acid to reduce homocysteine levels.  High homocysteine can increase artheriosclerosis as it is released by lipoproteins deposited in weakened arterial wall causing further damage and clot formation.  This has been well researched already before RPH began this study.  So if our doctors are oncerned about cholesterol levels, we should ask them to check out homocysteine as well and treat this with B12 injections, B6 and folic acid if necessary, all of which are beneficial to nerve function, rather than asking us to take cholesterol reducing drugs that are known to cause further muscle wastage in post polio.
B12 is an essential part of maintaining the fatty acid balance in the myelin sheath, which is the living insulation cable around our nerves.  Cholesterol is an essential part of the myelin sheath which is 80% phospholipids and 20% proteins.  Essential fatty acids EPA and DHA which are found in fish oils concentrate in myelin.  B6 is needed for its development and growth.  Taurine
stabilises electrical activity.  Carnitine inhibits degeneration of the sheath and thickens the fibres improving nerve conduction, particularly if diabetes is present.
Low B12 levels also contribute to carnitine loss through the kidneys.  So again where carnitine retention is essential for polio survivors, ensuring good levels of B12 are very important.
The simple test is to look at the moons on your fingernails.  Good B12 levels will give you white moon that come a third of the way up the thumb-nails.  We should have moons on all fingers, thumbs are the last to go.  If in doubt, ask your doctor to do a blood test for B12.  While he is at it ask for folic acid & thyroid function test (include T3, T4 as well as TSH) because low thyroid levels will increase your cholesterol levels as well as contributing to fatigue.   NB When thyroid levels are low we feel the cold.