Today’s intriguing subject is Vitamin B12. You are no doubt aware of our daily nutritional requirements: vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, carbs, etc. However, one vitamin that is often overlooked is—you guessed it—Vitamin B12! I learned about Vitamin B12 the hard way (but more on that later!). Let’s take a closer look at this extremely important vitamin. In fact, if you're vegan, it's your most important vitamin.
B12: A Quick Look
B12 is mainly found in animal sources, fortified foods, and supplements. It keeps our nerve and blood cells ticking along. It also helps prevent anaemia. Vitamin B12 can be stored in our bodies for years, but watch out if those stores get depleted!
Primary sources of B12
B12 is found in meat, fish, eggs, milk and milk products. Some foods are fortified with B12, such as cereals, some nutritional yeasts, and meal-replacement shakes. Or you can buy B12 supplements.
Alternate sources of B12
Some foods do contain minimal amounts of B12. Inca berries and blue algae are apparently two such sources. If you must use alternate sources, do your homework. From what I’ve read, you would need to eat an awful lot of Inca berries & algae to meet your daily nutritional requirements!
Plus, if you are diagnosed with a deficiency, these sources will not be enough to restore your levels to normal. Supplements will be required, especially if you are exhibiting deficiency symptoms. Take your doctor’s advice here!
Symptoms of B12 deficiency
A couple of years ago, I noticed an unnerving tingling in my hands and feet that didn’t go away. Blood tests showed a B12 deficiency. I immediately started supplements (doctor ordered!), because if a B12 deficiency isn’t properly and quickly treated, neurological symptoms (like the tingling) may be irreversible. That, I did not want to risk! (Even “low-normal” B12 levels can cause symptoms.) This is serious stuff, so if you don't eat animal products
Common symptoms of B12 deficiency:
Neurological symptoms, like tingling in hands and feet
Mental impairment (memory loss, confusion)
Types of supplements
B12 is commonly used in pill or liquid form. Other forms are available but I’ll get to that in a moment!
The daily recommendation for B12 is actually quite low: minimum 2.4 mcg for adults (higher for pregnant/lactating women). Look for the methylcobalamin form of B12 in your supplement.
If you are extremely low in B12, your doc may recommend a high daily dosage of B12 (1000mcg or higher!). But if you are dangerously deficient, or suffer from malabsorption issues, your doctor may recommend nasal drops, sublingual pills (dissolved beneath tongue) or B12 injections. Some factors that prevent absorption are anaemia, illness, bowel disease, or chronic use of antacids like Zantac & Pepcid.
Make sure you’re getting your B12. That's an order!
If you're vegan, I recommend B12 supplementation. If you choose not to supplement, make sure you are getting the recommended amount of B12, whatever source you’re using. But if you're raw vegan, there is no food source for B12, so you must supplement. I also recommend getting your B12 levels tested. You need to know where your levels are at!
My experience with B12 deficiency was a wake-up call! Luckily, my symptoms disappeared, and I continue to take a daily supplement. Think about it—are you getting enough B12 in your diet?