After one ski vacation, I found that the end of my nose was sore. Frostbite? No, there was no visible wound, redness or swelling. What could it be? A visit to my naturopathic physician (ND) revealed a vitamin B-12 deficiency caused primarily by my non-stop working mother lifestyle that resulted in neuropathy (a nerve disorder characterized by a tingling sensation or numbness). Case closed, nose cured. Still, it made me think how differently a situation like this might have been handled by a conventional doctor. I know a number of people who take the increasingly "popular" catchall prescription for nerve pain, gabapentin (Neurontin). I wonder how many of them just need B-12.

According to Daily Health News contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, the answer would most likely be many of them. Neurontin, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for epileptic seizures, is routinely prescribed for off-label uses such as neuropathy, and Dr. Rubman notes that it has become one of the most popular off-label prescription drugs. How many other people are taking Neurontin, and putting themselves at risk for side effects that include dizziness, fatigue, poor coordination and worse -- even suicide -- when all they may need is a little more B-12?


Dr. Rubman told me that I'm not alone, and many Americans are deficient in B-12, a vital nutrient that the liver and brain requires for optimal function. The deficiency can be caused by poor nutrition, an unbalanced diet or alcoholism, among other things. A lack of B-12 damages the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerves, which can lead to various types of neuropathy (in the extremities, from the hands and feet to the tip of the nose and the edges of the ears).

In my case, the ND recommended...

*       Sublingual B-12 pills (either hydroxocobalamin or methylcobalamin), which are equally as effective as and less expensive than B-12 shots. Avoid cyanocobalamin, which is poorly absorbed.

*       Multi-B vitamins (i.e., B-50) twice daily, as B-12 requires them to function properly in the body. The "twice daily" part is essential, since B vitamins don't last 24 hours in circulation, explains Dr. Rubman.

Vitamin B-12 should be taken under a doctor's supervision. To determine if you're taking in sufficient B vitamins, keep an eye on the color of your urine. If it's bright yellow, you're in good shape, says Dr. Rubman.


FYI, several years ago, mega-drug manufacturer Warner-Lambert was fined $430 million for illegally promoting Neurontin for off-label uses including neuropathy, bipolar disorder, drug and alcohol withdrawal and attention deficit disorder.

Unfortunately, Neurontin is but one example of the power that big drug companies and the medical industry structure has over our lives. On the one hand the pharmaceutical companies are "wining and dining" the doctors to prescribe their medications. On the other hand, the doctors are basing their prescriptions on the education they received from the pharmaceutical salespeople! Doctors have little time to keep up in detail with all of the new medical information (nor do most of them have nutritional training), so they rely on the information provided by the drug companies.


Kay’s Note:  B-12 deficiency is very common among older adults and those with damaged intestines. Many cannot absorb supplements. Sublingual or injections are usually a better choice.