The 40 Year Old Vegan?

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Those of you who follow Truthology know that I have recently adopted more of a plant-based diet. What you may not know, however, is that I have considered switching to a strictly vegan diet on my 40th birthday, which occurs one month from today.

Meanwhile, over the past few months, I have been experiencing a variety of unique symptoms that are interfering with my quality of life. Symptoms have all been mild and transient, but have included headache, dizziness, fatigue and sleep disturbances.

I could have easily passed all of these off as stress-related symptoms – and I’m not denying that stress probably has a lot to do with them – but after having done some extensive research on the mix of symptoms I was experiencing, I came to the conclusion that I was suffering from a Vitamin B12 deficiency.

Since all of the symptoms I described above are consistent with a B12 deficiency, I asked my doctor to write me a lab order to have my blood drawn. The very next day, I found out that I was in fact below the normal range for Vitamin B12.

I immediately began to question my dietary principles. Did leaning towards a vegan diet over the past several months back myself into a corner? Well I never “got the memo,” but have since discovered that many people on plant-based diets (i.e. vegetarians and vegans) are susceptible to a Vitamin B12 deficiency. This is because, unlike other vitamins, B12 is only naturally found in animal-based foods. Vitamin B12 is also, coincidentally, thought to be closely associated with energy and stress.

Therefore, my hypothesis on the situation is best described as follows:

– Think of Vitamin B12 in your system as your “energy fuel tank”

– Everyday stress can gradually deplete your stores of Vitamin B12

– Avoiding animal-based foods will not properly restore your fuel tank

– Sooner or later, your tank will be empty*

– Symptoms ensue

*It is important to note that excess Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver and is excreted slowly, so it may take months or years for someone to notice a deficiency. This may help explain why some vegetarians/vegans eventually revert to a more conventional diet after suffering from energy-related issues.

Thankfully, I am now supplementing with B12 injections and my symptoms have greatly subsided as a result.

So now the decision becomes…..what to do on November 20th? I have a great deal of respect for vegan philosophy – and while I feel that animal agriculture (particularly the CAFO variety) is becoming increasingly detrimental and by no means sustainable – it is impossible for me to accept the notion that I must rely on a Vitamin B12 supplement to deliver the nutrition that my body needs. My plan for now is to stick with a mixture of plant and animal based whole foods, organic and sustainable wherever possible. The answer: Omnivore at 40.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “The 40 Year Old Vegan?

  1. Thanks ! Vitamin B12 is Most important role for the proper functioning of the nervous system, helps against depression and is used for rapid weight loss.

  2. beertron

    As a healthy vegan, I know the importance of B12. However, it is not naturally found in animal sources. Remember that all life is either plant or animal. Humans aren’t plants…humans are animals. If B12 naturally occured in animals, nobody would be B12 deficient.

    It’s a complicated issue, but to boil it down to basics, every nutrient you gain from an animal, that animal had to gain first. Animals synthesize B12 by consuming certain bacteria on grass and legume roots grown in Cobalt rich soil.

    Industrial farming practices have degraded the soil so badly that farmed animals are just as susceptible to B12 deficiency as humans. This is why CAFOs and even small farms often feed their cattle, sheep, pigs and birds B12 fortified grain and B12 supplements. Some farm’s soil is so deficient that they even inject their animals with B12.

    The truth is, if you are eating meat, you are eating B12 supplements, they’ve just been recycled through the digestive system of the animal you are eating. You might not be taking a pill, but don’t fool yourself, you’re taking supplements all the same.

    You obviously take your health seriously, and it’s refreshing to read a blog by someone who’s actually trying to eat right and not just bash veganism. I urge you to reconsider your choice about not becoming a vegan. The choice to continue consuming animal products is going to increase your risks of so many other health issues. Is it really worth putting yourself at risk just so you don’t have to take a pill that you’re really taking anyway? Besides, the second hand supplements you are eating are not the best source of B12, which explains why there are plenty of cases of meat eaters that suffer from B12 deficiency.

    To me it makes more sense to eat a whole foods, plant based diet, with a few fortified foods and a daily vegan multivitamin. It’s one pill compared with the multitude of hormones, supplements, and antibiotics that are pumped into your meat.

    • Thank you for stopping by and and for your carefully constructed and detailed reply. Your knowledge on this subject is eye-opening and inspiring.

      If you reviewed some of my other posts, they reinforce that I am far from a vegan basher….as a matter of fact, many of my followers are vegan. Like you, I take issue with some of the generally accepted food sources and practices, such as CAFO.

      The B12 deficiency dilemma would easily be solved if we humans were able to synthesize B12 on our own….but alas, that is not the case.

      I will definitely take your comments to heart and, once again, thank you for posting this very important reply. This type of knowledge and perspective is essential to Truthology!

  3. beertron

    Thanks!

    You are correct in saying that humans cannot synthesize B12 on our own, but neither can any non-human animals. Only specific bacteria and archaea found in soil and water can synthesize B12. The animal didn’t make that B12, it ate it (or was given a supplement or injected with it). The good news is that you can eat it too. B12 in supplements is synthesized from the very same bacteria and archaea in which it naturally occurs. However, if you are dead set against taking a supplement in pill form, there’s more good news. B12 can be synthesized through fermentation. Yoghurt cultures L.bulgaricus and S.thermophilus both produce B12. You can get your B12 by ensuring you eat plenty of B12 fortified foods like soy yoghurt, Marmite/Vegemite, coconut/rice/soy/hemp milk, etc…

    To use your analogy: A vegan diet is what our bodies are designed for. Give your body the fuel it needs. If you put diesel in your gas tank instead of unleaded, your engine wouldn’t run properly. Animal products are diesel. We need that premium unleaded vegan wholefood, B12 fortified foods, and sometimes a supplement. Industrial agriculture practices have destroyed many ecosystems, included the ones in our own soils. So yes, it sucks that most people don’t have access to the most natural source of B12, but fortified foods and vegan supplements are far healthier, and much more natural than eating meat.

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