It’s been four years this month since I became vegan. Since I was already vegetarian for several years, it wasn’t a hard transition to make. My doctors knew about my diet change so they added B12 to my list of blood work “issues” to watch out for. About two years ago my oncologist noticed my B12 levels dropping, so every month since then I get a B12 shot.
I never really gave much thought of how important this vitamin is or even what it actually does; that is until my last checkup a few days ago. My oncologist said my blood work looked great (yay!) except my B12 was much too low, so starting next week I will get a shot every day and then once a week for a month and then back to monthly.
For the last several weeks I have been feeling sleepy around 7pm everyday; I just thought I was having a hard time adjusting to the time change (even though that happened four months ago) but maybe it is my lack of B12. I decided to learn more about the importance of this vitamin and here is what I found: Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency causes tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anemia. Nerve problems, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur. Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue. Vitamin B12 deficiency can damage the nervous system even in people who don’t have anemia, so it is important to treat a deficiency as soon as possible.
It went on to explain that people over the age of fifty can be deficient because their bodies might not absorb vitamins as well and since I am barely fifty (ahem), that could be another reason why I’m “low.”
I don’t eat meat (which is where most people get their B12; from the animal protein) but I thought I was getting enough protein from other sources; like nut butters and beans– apparently my blood disagrees. There is so much information floating around the Web it can be mind-boggling when it comes to which information I can believe. Some say all foods contain protein, even vegetables, so I went along with that theory. The majority of foods I eat are 70% raw, consisting of vegetables and fruits. I purposely stayed away from soy products because I read that too much soy isn’t good for me. Yesterday I read that vegans can get B12 from eating foods “fortified with vitamins”, but in my mind, fortified meant “made in a lab” and that doesn’t sound healthy to me. In fact, I believe eating foods made with artificial ingredients (chemicals) gave me cancer in the first place. Why would I take a chance on getting that again! But in order to heal myself, I decided to be open to the idea.
Several months ago I was at a “Green Fair” and tried some samples of different soy products; one of them was from a company called Gardein, which makes a healthy GMO free vegan burger, that tasted pretty good. I even bought a package and made some delicious dinners from them, but after they were gone I went back to eating only “greens.” After reading the nutrient contents on some of the soy products at the grocery store yesterday, I decided to expand my food repertoire. Eating organic soy protein a few times a week and adding soy milk to my smoothies shouldn’t hurt. I also found a B complex that is vegan.
I will remain vegan because the diet works for me but I learned to be more flexible and add more soy protein. I think the key to health is balance and that includes eating a balanced diet. Hopefully adding soy protein and taking a B complex daily will eventually lead to me not having to have a B12 shot.
I will keep you posted to my progress.