Are you getting your B12?

Hi everyone,

As a nurse, chances are we have given other people their B12 injection, but how many of us have had our levels checked and do we need to? 

First of all, you might be saying ‘what does B12 actually do?  Well it’s needed for the function and development of our brains, nerves, red blood cells and DNA synthesis, so it’s a pretty essential vitamin!  There’s a great fact sheet on vitamin B12 that you can find here.

So if you’re deficient in B12 you might find that you are tired, weak, have a loss of appetite, weight loss, constipated, have numbness and tingling in your hands and feet, difficulty with balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory and/or megaloblastic anaemia.

A few months ago I was feeling a bit ran down and went and saw my GP, so she did the usual things – checked my vitals, did a bit of an assessment, and ordered me some bloods.  Because I’ve been eating basically plant based for a year or so now, at the last minute she added B12 levels to my path slip. 

So for those of you that don’t know, B12 is basically only found in meat (and delicious nutritional yeast which I had no idea about until I because plant based), which is why she decided to do these levels as well as the standard full blood count, urea and electrolytes, thyroid function, CRP and a lipids and sugar test for good measure. 

B12 should stay in your system for quite a while after consuming meat, like I’m talking months to years.  Before I had the blood tests I was eating meat maybe once every 2 to 3 weeks, since then I’ve gone totally plant based but that’s a whole different story. 

I got my test results back which showed I was B12 deficient despite still consuming some meat and being relatively healthy.  I was pretty stunned and wondered how could this be and why wasn’t my husband deficient as well when he was eating the same as me (its not fair!).

In the US, most people consume the recommended amounts of B12, but deficiency still occurs in 1.5-15% of the population!!  (Check out the link I provided above if you want more info, it’s full of great stuff on B12!!).  It turns out that some people have trouble absorbing B12, it doesn’t matter if they are eating it or not, they just can’t absorb it (and the same can be told for the oral vitamins of B12).  I wasn’t aware of this at all and it makes me wonder if other people knew this. 

This was the first time that I had ever had my B12 tested and I’m 31, so the question was, how long have I been deficient for and how long would I have remained deficient if I hadn’t of gone plant based and because of this lifestyle change, had the GP add this test to my routine bloods.

So these documented issues with B12 absorption is why I insisted to have my deficiency treated with the B12 injections rather then the tablets.  This way, if there was a problem with my absorption, I was bypassing it.  And it worked, my B12 levels shot through the roof!!

So next time your getting some routine bloods done, ask for a B12 level to be added on, if your eating meat or not, it doesn’t matter, you can still be deficient.  One thing that I have found being plant based is that I am so much more aware of what micronutrients I’m putting into my body and how amazing fruits and vegetables are, I’m not going to push anyone to be plant based, but if you’re interested then check out the doco ‘forks over knives’ and ‘plant nation’.