Vegan diets are becoming more and more popular, as people choose to eschew animal products in an effort to attain better health and preserve the planet. If you're thinking of adopting a vegan diet, or you have recently adopted one, there is one nutrient you need to know a little about: vitamin B12. Unlike other vitamins, this vitamin cannot be found in plant foods. Thus, as a vegan, you'll need to have your vitamin B12 levels monitored, so you can undergo an infusion or take supplements as needed.
Vitamin B12 Sources
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products, and it can also be made by the good bacteria living in your gut. However, many peoples' gut bacteria is not as healthy or thriving as it could be, and thus they do not produce enough vitamin B12 for sustained health. If you're eating only plant foods and no animal products, then it is highly likely that you will develop a vitamin B12 deficiency. This deficiency may not show up overnight, since your body can store some B12, but after a few months or years as a vegan, you may begin to notice symptoms of deficiency starting to creep up.
Signs of Low Vitamin B12 Levels
As a vegan, you should have a blood test to measure your vitamin B12 levels whether or not you are displaying signs of a deficiency. However, if you're experiencing the following symptoms, you should be especially prompt about having your blood tested, as you are likely deficient in B12 and will need infusion therapy to bring your levels back up to normal:
- Extreme fatigue and tiredness
- Shortness of breath, even after normal activities like walking
- Irregular heart beats
- Unexplained weight loss
- Increased susceptibility to infections
Infusions and Other Supplement Options
If your blood test indicates that your levels of vitamin B12 are low, your doctor will likely recommend infusion therapy to raise your levels. This is a much quicker method than taking supplements and waiting for the body to absorb them. You'll travel to a center, like the Idaho Arthritis Centerbe, be hooked up to an IV, and vitamin B12 will be infused into your bloodstream.
If you are only slightly deficient in B12, or if your levels are normal but you plan to continue following a vegan diet, your doctor will likely recommend oral vitamin B12 supplements rather than an infusion. Many B12 supplements are not vegan, but there are some artificially derived ones that are -- you'll have to read the labels carefully. The supplements should keep your levels high enough that you won't become deficient.
A vegan diet can be healthy, but you must be careful to monitor your vitamin B12 levels when you're not eating any plant foods. If you're new to this style of eating, have your blood tested and start taking supplements now, so you hopefully don't have to undergo infusion therapy.