Being health-conscious, I’m certain you’ve faced the question of getting enough B12. There are reports of anemia, heart attacks, memory loss, impotence, depression, and even genetic damage, all because we might be deficient in vitamin B12. This is especially of concern if you’re vegan, but being a non-vegan doesn’t protect you from these vitamin-B12-deficiency-related ailments.
Just to clarify, 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. It is also called cobalamin and is water-soluble. It is one of eight B vitamins.
People ask me what foods I eat as a vegan that give me vitamin B12. They are often quick to point out that you can only get vitamin B12 from animal products, which vegans don’t eat. Of course, a more knowledgeable critic will point out that plant sources do not provide a usable type of B12, but what is called an analog B12 that is similar but not bio-available, and thus those consuming algae, soy, and nutritional yeast may be at even greater risk for a B12 deficiency.
No foods naturally contain vitamin B12
—neither animal foods nor plants.
We refer to it as a vitamin, but the definition of a vitamin is an organic compound essential for growth that can’t be synthesized by the body. While B12 doesn’t naturally occur in our food, the body uses certain foods to synthesize it in the small intestines. As long as cobalt, calcium, protein, and favorable intestinal flora are in ample supply, B12 will be excreted by the bile the body produces and then reabsorbed and recirculated for years on end. It is the job of the small intestines to take care of natural B12 synthesis. There are decades-old studies showing that we absorb B12 through our intestines.
So, where does a B12 deficiency come from? And why do non-vegans as well as vegans sometimes become afflicted by this? One culprit is antibiotics: anti, meaning against, and biotic, meaning life. In this case they work against the beneficial microbes that produce B12. Additionally, large amounts of very strong foods like garlic, horseradish, mustards, and spicy foods upset the intestinal flora, which diminishes B12.
This actually places the B12 issue in another light:
it’s all about digestion.
If you’re not absorbing the nutrients from the foods you eat, it’s due to a lack of beneficial bacteria.
Supermarket foods and most commercial produce are sterilized. Unless you’re doing your own organic gardening or obtaining locally grown veggies from organic growers, you might resort to soil-based probiotics or things like carrot acidophilus to re-establish balance in the gastrointestinal tract. This is where the real B12 issue can be solved.
Many natural health leaders recognize that once the gastrointestinal tract is working as it should, no B12 deficiency will exist. Under these conditions, your own body will help meet your requirements.
To Your Health,