This is a serious question- I get it far less than the question “where do you get your protein” and yet I feel it is even more important that I address this right away for those of you who have the same question that one of our friends asked me to answer this morning. Here’s my answer to her:
Getting B12 on a Vegan Diet
After a TON of research, I finally feel confident I know what I need to do about B12. The struggle was that I feel like I strive for a natural diet- everything I need, I should be able to get from my diet. The thing about B12 is that it is found in neither plant, nor animal food- but in microorganisms that grows in and on these foods based on their diet and/or the nutrient content of the environment in which it is grown. So hundreds of years ago, soils were rich and full of nutrition, and worms, plants, grazing animals- they all worked in harmony.
Why Is It So Hard To Get B12 as a Vegan?
Today, agriculture is backwards- modern agriculture practices are all about yield and show no respect or even understanding for the land- by not rotating crops, by polluting the water and air, and by using pesticides and herbicides that kill everything, not only the pests they are intended to kill, we have effectively killed the ecosystem that used to supply natural B12. So with that terrible information in mind and knowing B12 isn’t one to mess around with, I understand that I need to supplement on this one.
I eat sea vegetables, nutritional yeast, bee pollen, medicinal mushrooms and other foods that have small amounts. But after researching the presence of B12 analogues in foods like sea vegetables that look like B12 but are actually essentially B12 blockers, I was exasperated and decided there’s no shame in supplementing, considering the sad state of soils. That’s why it’s not just vegans who are deficient- the way we have destroyed the delicate balance of B12 in the food supply, everyone should know how to get the right form of B12 in supplement form.
What Kind of Supplement Should I Choose?
So in the end, I take a sublingual methylcobalamin liquid supplement. I had been buying whatever B12 before I learned from Kevin Gianni that most B12 supplements are in the form of cyanocobalamin which is mixed with cyanide for stability. It’s hard that even when you decide to supplement, finding the right one is another month of research.
I have found two I trust- one is a dropper of liquid, and one is a supplement capsule called Stress Assist which is a really great blend including methylcobalamin. You can find vegan B12 supplements in capsules, liquid, patches. There are tests you can do yourself or ask your naturopathic doctor to be sure your levels are where they should be- B12 deficiency is not common since we only need small amounts and our bodies can store it for later use, but the effects and symptoms are serious and should be taken seriously as long-term untreated deficiency can cause neurological damage and even when supplementing some people apparently cannot absorb B12 and require injections.