Learn why your animal-friendly diet is wreaking havoc on your vitamin storehouse. Vitamin B12 supplements can help you restore what you’ve lost.
Vitamin B12 is a complex nutrient responsible for the proper function and maintenance of your cells, DNA, and nervous system. This essential vitamin is only found in animal sources. As a vegetarian or vegan, our B12 levels can sometimes drop too low – leading to health problems.
Studies have found that 68% of vegetarians and 83% of vegans have a vitamin B12 deficiency – compared to 5% of omnivores. This being said, it’s wise for those of us who don’t eat meat or dairy products to look into supplementation.
Just like any other vitamin supplement, vitamin B12 is available by itself or in combination with other nutrients. Vegans and vegetarians are able to compensate for what their diet lacks with these supplementation options:
- Oral pills
- Sublingual (under the tongue) pills, liquid, or strips
- Nasal spray
- Skin patches
Most doctors agree methylcobalamin injections (like these) are the most efficient form of supplementation. In order for the body to receive a sufficient amount of the nutrient from oral pills, you need to take very high doses of vitamin B12 (a significant portion of the vitamin is lost during the absorption process).
Injections, on the other hand, are administered directly into the bloodstream. The body is able to utilize the entire dose. Moreover, injections need to be administered less frequently than pills or other forms of supplementation (once a month, rather than every day).
This treatment plan is more efficient that daily doses for two reasons:
- It is much less of a burden for you. Once a month treatments are far less cumbersome than daily doses.
- It is often difficult to remember to take a supplement every day. Therefore, you might only receive periodic doses and still suffer vitamin B12 deficiency side effects. It is far easier to remember a B12 injection once a month. For example, do two things in one day – pay rent and stick yourself with a needle!
However, if you are vigilant about supplementing daily and purchase a brand that has a sufficiently high enough dose, oral pills, sublingual products, nasal sprays and skin patches can adequately prevent a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Side Effects of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The risks caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency are too high to ignore. If your B12 level drops off the deep end, serious health issues will ensue – anemia, irreversible damage to nervous tissue, seizures, and dementia.
Even a slight drop in B12 levels can lead to issues like fatigue, weight loss, fluctuations in mood, depression, constipation, difficulty walking, and numbness of fingers and toes.
Perhaps an even more serious topic is for expectant women with a deficiency in vitamin B12, as a newborn can develop birth defects.
Choosing to live a life free of animal cruelty is wonderful, but be sure you aren’t cruel to yourself in the process! Talk to your doctor about vitamin B12 supplements. A simple blood test can adequately measure nutrient levels. If you are experiencing a shortage of vitamin B12, find out which supplementation method is right for you.
Sarah Graham is a health and fitness writer. She often endorses a raw-foods diet, but recognizes that supplementation is often essential to replenish what the diet lacks.
Photo Credits image by colindunn via Flickr cc