Are You Getting Enough B12?
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you might not be getting enough Vitamin B12.
Why is it so important? B12 is an essential vitamin that aids in the production of red blood cells, the normal function of nerve cells and neural transmission, and the replication of DNA.
B12 is exclusively found in animal products such as meat, eggs, dairy, fish, and shellfish. The vitamin is not actually produced by the animal; it is produced by the bacteria in the animal’s intestines and is passed into the flesh, liver, milk, etc. The human body also has bacteria in the intestines that produces B12, but it is too low in the digestive tract to be available for absorption. B12 can be found in healthy organic soil due to the bacteria found in manure and insects there. You can actually get B12 from the little bit of organic dirt left on the vegetables from the farmers market. So don’t scrub your organic produce! A little bit of dirt never hurt anyone! However, I do not suggest this unless you know exactly where your produce comes from. The more sterile the land, the less B12 we are getting from plants. It’s true that vegetarians in other parts of the world don’t have an issue with B12 deficiency due to lack of pesticide use and lower sanitation standards.
Some symptoms of a B12 deficiency include: numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, fatigue, weakness, depression, memory loss, and dizziness. More seriously, it can cause anemia or impaired brain function, among several other conditions. They say that the body can store enough of the vitamin to prevent a deficiency for several years. That depends on your intake prior to committing to a plant based diet, and the reserve of B12 varies from person to person. A severe deficiency can be very dangerous and I wouldn’t rule it out if you avoid all animal products. Plant foods that are thought to be sources of vitamin B12, such as seaweed, tempeh, and spirulina, contain B12 analogs, which block the intake of B12 and actually increase the body’s deficiency.
So how can you get enough B12?
Many foods are fortified with it, such as nutritional yeast, soy milk, and grains (like the kind found in your favorite granola). Though, be careful that you’re not eating a bunch of processed foods to get your dose of B12. The most convenient way for strict vegans to obtain B12 is a sublingual vitamin supplement. It’s the only vitamin that cannot be consumed from plant sources or sunlight, and therefore it’s the only supplement necessary if you are eating a well-balanced vegan diet.
Please, be sure not to make any serious decisions on your health before consulting your doctor!