In my post ‘Vegan Tips 101’ I listed B12 as one of the important factors to consider when starting out vegan. I cannot stress this enough! I’ve read plenty comments in vegan facebook groups where people say that they do not supplement B12 and they ‘feel fine!’. I’ve also read comments on B12 forums which seemed fuelled by a bunch of hypochondriacs. If I hadn’t had a problem myself, my head would probably still be spinning!
12 months ago I went through a real health slump. I’d had a really busy working year followed immediately by jetting off to Australia for a big holiday. When I got back, instead of feeling revitalised after having had an amazing holiday, I was completely exhausted. The film working year was still yet to get going so I had a pretty easy daily schedule. I was cooking, I was back at the gym, I was drawing again-nothing too taxing but I was struggling. Struggling to make it through each day without falling asleep ‘accidentally’ if I sat down for a bit. I’d wake up in the morning and two hours later I’d be ready to go back to bed. I’d walk up a flight of stairs and feel like I’d run a marathon. I’d want to sit down part way through supermarket trips and even driving my car exhausted me and that involves sitting down!? That was what I noticed first. Then I started to have real problems with my memory. I know everyone occasionally encounters walking into a room and forgetting why they made the trip, however for me it became all day, every day! I felt completely spaced like I had brain fog. When it got to the point that I’d have trouble making it through a sentence without losing my train of thought I got really worried. I was having cognitive problems and it scared me.
I went to see my Doctor who sent me for some blood tests and made a follow up appointment to review the results at a later date. A day or so later I received a phone call asking me to come back to the surgery right away. I had a severe B12 deficiency which explained all the problems I’d been having. The doctor prescribed an immediate ‘loading dose’ of B12 and then monthly injections for 6 months at which point I’d have another blood test to check levels.
The injections are renowned for being very painful. They are intramuscular and go straight into your arm rather then a vein. I call them ‘stingers’ because for me that was the sensation but it only last for about 5-10 minutes afterwards. Some people find them excruciating and others don’t find them painful at all. I guess everyone is different and every nurse is different. The best one I ever had was administered by a paramedic on a film job and he used a really short needle so perhaps that is a factor.
I didn’t notice an immediate burst of energy or a feeling of being bright and alert after the initial injection as I’d hoped but I guess it restored me and things became easier and I just started to feel normal again. At my 6 month blood test my levels were great thanks to the injections and then another 6 months on they are equally good BECAUSE I supplement. I have a really varied, healthy, diet but if taking one vitamin a day helps to keep me afloat I’ll do it!
To the people that say ‘I don’t take a supplement because I feel fine’, I’d say ‘yes you do NOW!’. It’s not worth getting to the low point of a severe deficiency and having to work your way back up. Taking one simple vitamin could save you a whole lot of trouble!