I’ve been a mostly raw food vegan for the last 12 years and a vegetarian for about 23 years. I was recently blood-tested for B12 and found to be below the medically acceptable range of 160 to 600. My count was 129. My folate, calcium, potassium and other levels were all fine. I was only low in B12. I was experiencing no adverse symptoms. I am extremely healthy and full of energy.
I decided to have a B12 injection and I purchased a B12 supplement. I wrote the following letter to two friends who will remain anonymous. Both are long time vegans. The first is a raw foodie. Their answers follow.
‘I’d really appreciate your experience with B12 in the following possible areas that could help me in choosing how I want to approach this:
- What were your levels when you discovered you were low in B12?
- What have they become?
- Have you used injections and if so how frequently?
- Have you found the need to supplement? If so, how often and how much?
- What symptoms were you experiencing when you were found deficient?
- Did the symptoms disappear quickly? Have they ever returned?
- Do you think you’ll need to continue supplementing?
- Can you describe significant/meaningful experiences with this of anyone else you know?
I know this is a bit of big ask but your answers would be really appreciated.
I’m out to the garden soon. What a spectacularly beautiful day.’
Ahhh…you can’t be suffering too much from a B12 deficiency, otherwise you wouldn’t have remembered that I had some experience in this realm!
Anyway…to answer your questions…
- I don’t know how low my levels were back in 1994 when I was tested by a doctor in Devonport, NZ, but I do remember him saying he had never seen such low levels, and that he forbade me to leave the office until I had the first of three injections. He then injected me with cyanocobalamin in the buttocks, and it was almost instantly like my life was a camera suddenly coming into focus.
- I have no idea what my levels have become, as I have never been tested since.
- I have not had any injections since then. However, a few months back I was given a sample packet from Whole Foods of a new oral version of B12 that was supposed to be absorbed much better than cyanocobalamin. The new version was made from methylcobalamin. Out of curiosity, I took it for three days in a row, and each time I took it, I’d feel dizzy and sick within about 20 minutes. After the third time, I woke up in the middle of night, feeling extremely dizzy and like I needed to throw up, so I started to walk to the bathroom. The next thing I remember was passing out & collapsing against the glass shower door and onto the floor. Well, I remembered that after I woke up from my unconsciousness. Anyway, as you can imagine, I never took those pills again.
- When I was found deficient back in 1994, I was experiencing mental vagueness.
- The symptoms cleared up after the injection, and I’ve never felt mentally vague since then.
- As far as taking B12 anymore, I’ve realized that I do much better on a fruit and vegetable diet (not just a fruit diet). By eating vegetables from my own gardens and being very careful not to wash the produce, I feel I’m getting whatever microbes I need to make my own B12 (just like other animals do). And, I guess I could go have my levels tested, but I have become so against the Western way of looking at the body, that I just don’t see the point.
- I don’t have any knowledge of experiences with B12 with other people.
When I was low, my level was 60. I was feeling something with my nerve sheaths, which they said was not reversable, but it was reversed and I feel absolutely fine now. I had a B12 injection when I found out. Since then, I always supplement, just a small amount like once or twice a week at the most. I was retested last week along with many other vitamins, nutrients, hormones, and I was perfect, not even near low on anything. I supplement with B12 sublinguals, and have for years now, so they are obviously working. Sublinguals is the best. B12 shots are possibly a waste (so I’ve been told) for further ones. They could be water soluable or something where a doctor told me to not do the shots, but sublinguals. We only (supposedly) need minute amounts of B12. I wouldn’t fret too much if you don’t feel anything with your nerves. Just supplement. I don’t usually supplement anything but B12. I get my Vitamin D from the sunshine on the skin making it. I’m fine with all other nutrients.
And here’s another bit of information I found at www.answers.yahoo.com I’ve eaten bee pollen for many years. It was only after beginning with pollen that I put hay fever behind me after suffering from it my whole life. It hasn’t returned and I can put my nose in any flower today. It is a great pleasure. It would appear that there are trace quantities of B-12 in pollen but the following Q&A is insightful.
Is bee pollen a good source of vitamin b-12?
I’ve been vegan for 6 years (taking supplements like calcium and b-12, etc.) I decided to experiment and go raw vegan with no supplements, but am concerned about a b-12 deficiency. It’s made me think about becoming a bee-gan, i.e. vegan with the exception of bee pollen, if it’s a good, sustainable, natural source of b-12. Anyone have info on this? Thanks.
First: Props on being a vegan who understands the importance of B12. Too many of your brothers and sisters seem to think they can argue their way out of a necessary nutrient.
That’s not a side note: that’s part of the problem. Whatever your source of B12, make sure that it is from a proven source. Some vegen/vegetarian apologists have been selling products from plant sources containing B12 analogues. Simple tests seem to indicate B12 in their product, so they sell it. More careful analysis finds that pseudo B12, of no use to your body, was giving a false positive.
Long story short, B12 comes from animal sourced foods and supplements.
Bee pollen is a bit dicey. For starters, it’s going to vary a lot from one source to another. Given the vegans I know, I’d bet my eye teeth you’d be going with pollen from a single, raw source. I understand why, but this increases the variation problem. Larger, commercial producers would likely produce a more homogeneous pollen.
I’ve not found any reliable sources for nutritionals on B12. Honey seems to be a minor source (FW IW). If nothing else, you could try it, with regular blood tests to check your actual B12 level. Remember that B12 deficiency does not develop overnight, nor can you really reverse it overnight. The safest course of action would include a B12 supplement or a fortified food source.
If anyone else would like to share their viewpoint and/or experience with B12 I would really appreciate it.
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Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and the recently released Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.com
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