Think your tired bod and bad attitude are just side effects from stress?
Allow me to get up in your face as I explain why you should be taking B12 supplements - your health could depend on them.
Related: The Dangers of Magnesium Deficiency
The Deal on B12 Deficiency
As you may know, us vegans are particularly at risk for B12 deficiency. Most sources of this critical vitamin come from meat and dairy, and even the healthiest plant-eating princesses can be lacking it - it's hard to get enough unless you're super diligent. Like a good wingman, B12 has your back when it comes to regulating all kinds of stuff responsible for your mental and physical health: it stimulates red blood cell production, repairs nerve damage, produces energy, and keeps your brain, you know, working.
So, guess what happens when your body doesn't have enough B12, and, consequently, red blood cells? A little thing called anemia shows up and plays house. What's interesting about anemia is that it's not always the most obvious condition. Symptoms like being tired, problems concentrating, loss of appetite, shortness of breath or rapid heart beat might just be chalked up to a stressful day.
Long-Term Health Risks
But if you aren't careful, things can spiral out of control. Studies have actually linked B12 deficiency to depression, chronic anxiety, numbness in the hands and feet, and dementia. Another thing? It could screw up your menstrual cycle. This past summer, I completely stopped getting my period for four months. After pregnancy-scare meltdown of the century and some tests, turns out, I just need to take my vitamins. Oops.
Your Body On Booze
If you drink and you're vegan, you might be out of luck. Booze does a grand job of depleting the body of vitamin B12. Even just a drink a day could be totally messing up your bod, as alcohol interferes with your ability to absorb B12. If you keep downing cocktails while you're trying to ramp up your B12, you basically won't make any progress. Not only that, but scary things like nerve damage could result. Don't mess around. Get on the wagon and call it a day.
B12 and Diet
Before you go out and order a plate of lamb chops, know that you can get B12 from food sources. Nutritional yeast, for example, is packed with it. Other sources include fortified cereals, tofu, energy bars and soy milks. Tempeh and sea vegetables can also give you a boost. To ensure you're getting enough (and since B12 is water soluble, you really can't OD on the stuff), you're probably going to need to supplement.
The scary thing is that long-term B12 deficiency can often lead to irreversible damage. Before you become old, senile, and completely cuckoo from a deficiency, start supplementing. At the very least, get some tests done to make sure you're not in the danger zone.
Have questions about B12? Ask us in the comments section below!
Mara Tyler, Managing Editor
Mara Tyler is the gal behind Cheap And Simple Vegan Recipes, a no-nonsense blog for vegans who want easy and affordable meals. With a mission to make veganism accessible to anyone, she promotes progress, not perfection. When she's not making a mess in the kitchen, she can be found reading bad chick lit, scouting out new indie bands or attempting to find bliss in yoga.Visit her website, get her recipe book or find her on Facebook at CheapSimpleVegan.
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