Vitamin B12 Deficiency: A Fact Of Life For Vegetarians?
The following facts are not new to most of us but they may come as a surprise to some readers. So let’s start with the basics.
Vitamin B12 is essential for proper functioning of your body.
Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin. It is naturally found in animals and animal products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy. Vitamin B12 is also enriched in products containing these food items.
Vegan diet does not contain any animal products and it is very difficult to get the desired amounts of b12 from plant food. In the past, it was thought that fermentation eliminated the b12 content from food. This is no longer true. While there may be less b12 in fermented food such as tempeh and tofu, the b12 is still there.
Research has revealed that small amounts of B12 are indeed found in plant food. Mushrooms are a good source of B12. However, there is still a great deal of misconception about plant-based food and b12.
Many people believe that B12 is only available in foods that have been enriched with it. This is not true.
An important point to remember is that B12 is present in bacteria and the human body has a huge colony of bacteria inside it. So, our bodies do produce b12. The problem with this is that bacteria in our body is not under our conscious control.
So, how do you know if you have a b12 deficiency?
The most common sign of B12 is a sore tongue. You may experience a tingling or burning sensation in your tongue which might be sore. Other signs of deficiency include fatigue, paleness, diarrhea and depression.
If left untreated it can lead to more serious condition such as anemia, nervous system damage and even death.
Some people, who consistently eat a lot of beef liver or foods containing liver, might get enough B12 in their system. This is because all meats and animal products naturally contain B12.
Vegans and vegetarians have a greater risk of developing a b12 deficiency if they don’t consume enough B12-rich foods or supplements. This is because the b12 gets eliminated while processing the foods.
Due to these factors, a B12 deficiency is more common in the vegan and vegetarian population. This is why a dietician or doctor might suggest taking supplements.
How can vegans and vegetarians get the right amount of b12?
There is a very small amount of B12 in plants and some fermented foods, but the best way to get enough is through supplements. It is pretty easy to find these in stores and online.
You can also find B12 in many animal products. You can take supplements that contain B12 or you can eat foods such as liver once in a while.
If you are a strict vegan or vegetarian and are at a high risk of developing a B12 deficiency then your doctor can test your blood for the B12 levels.
Can B12 be harmful?
B12 can cause some side effects. The most common one is diarrhea, which occurs in some people due to the B12 supplements. This side effect is temporary and will resolve itself when you stop taking the supplement.
If you have a B12 deficiency, then the most common reason for not feeling well is also having a B12 deficiency!
It is important to get proper amounts of B12 since it is needed for many functions in the body such as making DNA, cells and hormones. It also helps the nervous system to function correctly.
B12 can also be dangerous in high amounts. For example, there are some rare cases of people getting a condition called pernicious anemia after taking too much B12.
Sources & references used in this article:
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