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How To Go Vegan Properly. Are B12 Injections The Answer?

How To Go Vegan Properly. Are B12 Injections The Answer?

“Veganuary may be long gone, but year on year more people are deciding to take the plunge and adopt a vegan diet. It’s good for the planet, and it can be great for your health – when done correctly. Being vegan – or vegetarian – comes with certain challenges; by cutting out food groups, you also eliminate or drastically lower your intake of certain essential vitamins and nutrients. We see the effect of this first hand in the clinic when patients report symptoms like feeling sluggish, depressed, having sleep problems and brain fog. Want to know how to go vegan properly? The key to living optimally as a vegan or vegetarian is appropriate supplementation to ensure your body is getting everything it needs to function at its best.” explains Dr Harpal Bains.

Many people assume that a vegan or vegetarian diet is automatically rich in nutrients. But you may be surprised to discover that this isn’t necessarily the case. Soil degradation, caused by intensive farming practices, means that food is grown in poor quality soil. As a result, the food we eat just doesn’t contain as many minerals and nutrients as it once did 100 years ago. This is also the case for organic foods. When you also consider that plant-based foods tend to have low bioavailability (meaning that they are more difficult for our bodies to extract the nutrients from), you can begin to see how a vegan or vegetarian diet may not provide as many vitamins and minerals first thought.

A vegan diet makes it more difficult to get enough minerals and nutrients like calcium, creatine, iron, K2, and B12 (also known as cobalamin) simply because they are usually found in animal products.

B12 is particularly important for us humans as it plays an essential role in the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. It is almost exclusively found in animal products including meat, salmon, cod, cheese, milk and eggs. It contributes to a process called methylation which regulates homocysteine levels and is an important factor in DNA regulation and synthesis. In fact, every single cell in the body needs it in order for new tissue and DNA to be created. B12 is also essential for protecting the nervous system.

In some cases deficiency is caused by an autoimmune disorder. An example of this is  pernicious anaemia, a disorder that prevents the body from being able to absorb enough vitamin B12, leading to a lack of red blood cells. . This  can cause memory loss, irreversible vision problems and damage to the nervous system.

A structurally complex vitamin, B12 is formulated by a process called ‘bacterial symbiosis’. It’s synthesised by bacteria in the gut of animals and when we eat animal products we ingest it as a byproduct. When we consume food with it in, it’s broken down in our gut; the hydrochloric acid in the stomach splits the B12 from the protein. The B12 is then combined with a different protein, which is made in the stomach, before it can be absorbed.

Getting Enough Vitamin B12 When You’re Eating A Vegan Diet

If you eat a balanced, varied diet that includes meat, fish and dairy you’ll be able to get some of your B12 from your food. With a vegan or plant-based diet you’ll have much fewer foods from which to get your vitamin B12 from. Algae is considered by many to be a good source of B12. But, it actually contains B12 analogues which are often confused with vitamin B12. The difference here is that B12 analogues are not bioavailable and so won’t improve your B12 intake. This is the case with many vegan food sources, including seaweed and spirulina.

Sources of B12 in vegan diets include:

  • Fortified plant milks

  • Fortified breakfast cereals

  • Fortified nutritional yeast, like Marmite

  • Some soy products

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to rely solely on fortified foods alone to get the optimal amount.

Vitamin B12 Injections – Are They The Answer?

If you’re already taking any B12 supplements then that’s fantastic news. If you’re taking oral vitamins you may want to consider a B12 injection, particularly if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a deficiency.

Research shows that only half of orally consumed B12 (tablet form) is actually utilised in the body. You may consume a 10mg tablet but the body may only absorb 5mg or less. Adults (aged between 19 to 64) need around 1.5 microgram a day of vitamin B12.

With injections and shots, the vitamins are administered directly into the muscle. This bypasses bacterial symbiosis, which means that you don’t lose half of the goodness before it gets absorbed. In fact, with B12 shots, almost all of the vitamins are utilised in the body. We use two forms of B12: Hydroxocobalamin and methylcobalamin. These carry out the same functions, but hydroxocobalamin needs to be converted to methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin by the body before it can be utilised. Methylcobalamin is a biologically active form and so is more natural.

There are other factors which can also have an impact on absorption: B12 becomes more difficult to absorb as you age – a mild deficiency is quite common in older adults. The bacterial symbiosis process is complex and the body simply becomes less efficient at it. If something reduces the function of any of the organs that break down the B12, then the amount utilised can be even less.

“We find patients respond very quickly to B12 injections and generally start to feel better very soon. In patients who still experience symptoms of deficiency, it could be that there is an undiagnosed condition preventing the body from absorbing the nutrients. Many people experience lots of acid reflux, gas, joint pain and brain fog but don’t connect the dots. These can be signs of a gut issue like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, gut dysbiosis, SIBO, IBS or leaky gut. The good news is that we can run a series of blood tests which help us to pinpoint and accurately diagnose any issues.” says Dr Bains.

How To Go Vegan Properly

Dr Bains says: “The bottom line is that if you have a vegan or plant-based diet, it is vital to supplement accordingly in order to maintain optimal health. Even if you’re already taking supplements, if you think you’re experiencing symptoms of deficiency, it’s important to seek the advice of a medical professional.”

All appointments for vitamin shots are preceded by a consultation with our IV clinician who will discuss any symptoms you’re experiencing. If you’re deemed suitable, you’ll get the shot right away. If our clinician feels there may be an underlying condition it may be recommended that you have a full consultation with one of our doctors.

With prices starting at £35 for our basic B12 or B complex shot, what are you waiting for?

Make an appointment by calling us on 020 7096 5475, emailing us on info@harpalclinic.co.uk, or using our book online form.

Top Tips

  • If you’re taking B12 supplements, make sure they are sublingual as it then bypasses the digestive tract and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

  • Eat fortified foods, like Marmite.

  • Consider B12 intramuscular injections as part of your health regime – something that you do regularly throughout the year.

  • Add a good K2 supplement to your regime.

  • Get in touch if you would like advice on good brands that we are happy to recommend or pop into the clinic to get them directly from us.

All appointments for vitamin shots are preceded by a consultation with our IV clinician who will discuss any symptoms you’re experiencing. If you’re deemed suitable, you’ll get the shot right away. If our clinician feels there may be an underlying condition it may be recommended that you have a full consultation with one of our doctors.

With prices starting at £35 for our basic B12 or B complex shot, what are you waiting for?

Make an appointment by calling us on 020 7096 5475, emailing us on info@harpalclinic.co.uk, or using our book online form.

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