10 Things You Need To Know About B12 Vitamin, Especially If You Are A Vegan
Whenever you become a vegan or a vegetarian, you get asked the same old questions:
But won’t your health fall apart?
Where will you get your protein from?
Where will you get your calcium from?
Where will you get your vitamin B12 from?!
Answering these questions is almost as exhausting as suffering from B12 deficiency, but the reality is that folk may be onto something with the whole B12 thing. Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common than you might think, but it isn’t just vegetarians and vegans who are at risk. You can be young, old, a meat-eater, or a vegan; it doesn’t matter who you are, if you don’t consume enough vitamin B12, your body will start to fail.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is needed for the sustained health of our nerves, as well as DNA and blood cells. Its main role is as a group donor in our detoxification pathways. It’s a so-called controversial vitamin because it gets talked about too much, but it’s absolutely essential.
Let’s take a look at 10 things you need to know about this fundamental vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 Is Non-Negotiable
Okay, you can lower your intake of carbs and protein if you become a vegan; these are things you can get away with.
And you can certainly reduce your intake of fats and calories.
But you cannot lower your intake of vitamin B12. Because this vitamin is plentiful in meat, poultry, fish and eggs, it is vital that you find new sources. And quick.
Low B12 Vitamin Intakes Can Lead To Anaemia And Nervous System Damage
If you aren’t getting enough vitamin B12, you are at serious risk of developing anaemia and nervous system damage. To make sure this doesn’t happen, you need to get a good amount of vitamin B12 – and regularly.
Your vegan sources of B12 included soy products, such as tofu. Non-vegan sources include milk and some breakfast cereals. You can also find vitamin B12 in animal products and fortified foods, as it comes from micro-organism.
While many vegans unwittingly consume enough vitamin B12 anyway, there are still a significant number who do not intake enough. To consume more, you need to eat fortified foods at least twice a day or take a B12 supplement.
You Need To Be Aware Of The Common Signs Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
If you don’t catch the warning signs early enough, vitamin B12 deficiency can wreak major havoc with your body, ultimately leading to permanent nerve and brain damage. The problem is that a lot of the symptoms correspond with other ailments, which can make it hard to diagnose.
Symptoms include weakness and fatigue, a rapid heart beat, low energy, shortness of breath, a loss of appetite, anaemia, constipation, frequent bruising, numbness, depression, mood swings, brain fog and memory loss.
Common Causes Of B12 Deficiency
Even if you adjust your diet correctly and eat the right foods, you could still suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. This is because the process of absorption is complex and can leave room for error. To this end, there are other causes of B12 deficiency. They include a poorly managed vegan or vegetarian diet, excessive alcohol consumption, low stomach acid, internal inflammation, as well as leaky gut syndrome.
How To Test For Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
If you think you might have a vitamin B12 deficiency, you should go to a doctor and ask for a few tests.
These tests include a Complete Blood Count, which will reveal large red blood cells if you have a B12 deficiency.
You can also take a MTHFR genetic test; if you have lots of mutations to this gene, it is likely that you need more vitamin B12.
Other tests include a homocysteine test, a methlymalonic acid test, and an organic acid test, which is frequently recommended/ordered.
How To Treat It?
The good news about vitamin B12 deficiency is that it is treatable and manageable. Prevention is key to it not getting out of hand in the first place, but if you are suffering from deficiency, there are a few steps you can take to get back to optimal health.
The simplest solution is to adjust your diet so that you are raising your B12 blood levels. If you are a vegan, you need to think carefully about where you can get your B12 from, and you should seriously consider taking supplements.
You can also fix your gut, test your Complete Blood Count, have your MTHFR genes checked, or ask your doctor if they could run an Organic Acid Test.
Your Best Sources Of Vitamin B12
Whether you’re a meat-eater or a vegan, you need to make sure that your diet contains a healthy amount of B12 vitamin. This vitamin does not magically make its way into our body, so we need to get it through our diet.
If you are a vegetarian or a meat-eater, you can get your vitamin B12 via eggs, fish, poultry or meat.
Vegan sources include seaweed, algae and yeast. The problem is that neither of these sources are particularly potent at raising your B12 blood levels. For this reason, vegans are recommended to take a B12 supplement each day.
Vegan Alternatives To B12-Fortified Foods And Supplements
It’s tricky being a vegan if you don’t want to take B12 supplements. If – for whatever reason – you also choose to ignore fortified foods, you are putting yourself in harm’s way.
Vegans have in the past experimented with a diet that ignores fortified foods and supplements, but it often leads to disaster.
If you decide that you want to test a potential vitamin B12 source, despite all research suggesting that it is not an adequate source, you really are carrying out a dangerous experiment. If you still persist with this course of action, you should have your B12 status checked regularly.
B12 sources are not particularly easy to find for vegans; if you think you may have found a source, there is only really one way to verify it: does it prevent deficiency with consistency?
Fortified Foods And Supplements Really Are Your Best Friend
Animals get their B12 vitamins from fortified foods, so why shouldn’t you? The truth is that this is the most natural source of B12 vitamin, and it certainly beats taking part in the sustained existence of farming factories and abattoirs if this is against your principles and ethics. Getting your B12 vitamins from fortified foods or supplements is natural and causes no harm to animals, or to our planet.
… And They Are Even A Better B12 Source Than Meat
Perhaps the best thing about eating fortified foods and B12 supplements is that you are less likely to suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency than those who feast on meat. Winner.