How do you get a healthy senior immune system?
Obviously, the answer is not going to be any one approach or food. Having a healthy immune system, as far as it is in our hands, comes from having a well-rounded approach. This means, eating well, sleeping sufficiently, exercising as your doctor recommends and knowing how to de-stress.
But all senior adults should be aware of a small ‘helping hand’ that can help keep the immune system healthy. This is: checking if a person is deficient in vitamin B12 and if so, correcting it.
Why think of B12 as a Senior Immune System Booster?
B12 is a vitamin that is on the front line in defense of the immune system:
- Helps in production of white blood cells
- Prevents weakness generally
- Healthy nerves and red blood cells
- B12 supports good nutrition choices
B12 is known to help with many health concerns, as is provided in this list by Healthline. The list includes balance and coordination (Sec. 4), a big issue for seniors.
Deficiency of Vitamin B12
Deficiency of vitamin B12 can be responsible for:
- Low red blood cell count – Anemia
- Nerve damage – Neuropathy
- Cognitive issues – Memeory problems, Dementia-type issues
The blood, the nervous system and the cognitive system, form a major part of the human body. It is easy to see how having sufficient B12 in the body would mean that a person will feel healthier. A lack of B12 can leave a person feeling tired or moody, unsure if their memory is going, or, having all sorts of other symptoms. A person might suspect that those are symptoms of some serious condition.
Before a senior begins to ask their doctor if he thinks they have this illness or that one, perhaps they should ask to be tested for a shortage in B12!
B12 Supplements or Shots
Seniors are sometimes recommended to eat foods that are fortified with B12. Vitamin B12 is found in animal products such as fish, eggs, meat and some dairy products.
Since seniors over the age of 50 are likely to be deficient in vitamin B12, and often have absorption issues, they are usually recommended to take oral supplements, or take B12 in the form of shots.
B12 can be purchased as a sublingual, pleasant-tasting tablet, as a supplement called “cyanocobalamin”. There is a reason why it must be placed under the tongue and not simply chewed or swallowed. The only way that this type B12 can be absorbed in the body, is by means of the special chemicals found in the saliva, which is secreted from under the tongue.
Other forms of B12 can be swallowed. That needs a decent supply of gastric acid in the stomach for the supplement to be absorbed. Any senior with lack of stomach acid due to digestion problems, medicines, operations on the stomach or a thin stomach lining, cannot absorb B12 that way.
Shots, although they are unpleasant, have the advantage that a senior can schedule it into their medical care. Shots are usually prescribed for people who have a serious B12 deficiency or cannot absorb B12 naturally in their body.
How soon do you see results from B12 supplementation?
It is easy to remedy a shortage of B12 in the body. With shots the B12 balance can be restored within 48-72 hours. With oral supplements, it takes a little longer. However, there is no fixed figure of exactly when a person will begin to feel better. Some sources state that it takes a few months until the B12 balance in the blood is properly corrected. It depends how deficient a person was and how well their body absorbs the vitamin.
Can You Take B12 Simply Because You Feel Like It?
Having a healthy senior immune system means looking after yourself. It means being aware of yourself and tuned-in to whether you are feeling well.
A senior does not need to worry about danger from taking too much B12. There are, however, no known benefits to taking B12 if a person is not deficient.
A person should never randomly take supplements. Using B12 and other supplements as recommended by a senior person’s doctor can help achieve a healthy senior immune system.