A few weeks back I decided to get my blood tested. I have struggled with low iron my whole life, coming close to the anemic levels, and I wanted to get tested on the other Vitamins that society thinks vegans HAVE to be deficient in as well.
A little bit about my backstory: I went vegan in march 2017. But even before, I learned a lot, watched, read and listened to people speak about their experience with veganism. So after almost two years of educating myself I finally made the decision to go vegan 100%. And I am glad I did. I feel much better! I eat a lot, but almost never binge (There are certain occasions when I do still overeat, but they are very few). I enjoy my food, knowing the benefits of the nutrients I feed myself. And most importantly: I don't feel bad after my meals. Because that is something I have struggled with before. Not feeling good after a meal. Of course there are more factors when we do not feel good after a meal - it's not necessarily coming only from animal products - but now I simply eat healthier. And I do go out to eat, have unhealthy burgers, fries and soft drinks. But those occasions are rare. And enjoyed.
Turns out I am deficient: I am deficient in B12. To be exact in Holotranscobalamin. And in Vitamin-H (Biotin). Now, please don’t say “I’ve told you so!” And close the page. I did this test to go and find out what I do have to improve. So please stay with me.
Side note: Each laboratory may use different reference areas, so I may be in the reference area in some other laboratories. But, I am going to stick with what this Lab found out, since that’s the only proof I have.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to know everything on this topic. This is what I found out during my research on the internet. I don’t want to tell you what you have to do. I am simply sharing my results and the information I gathered in the past few weeks.
This is the active form of B12. It’s a complex formed by Transcobalamin and Vitamin B12, which is the only form how our body can absorb B12. This marker is the earliest sign that a Vitamin-B12 deficiency may be present.
I had: 31.0 pmol/l
Reference area: >60 pmol/l
By the way, my B12 marker was in the reference area, but as I said before, holotranscobalamin is an early sign that there is a deficiency in the making.
B12 is needed for :
Energy production in our mitochondria
Hormone and neurotransmitter synthesis
When having a B12 deficiency you may experience:
mood swings and psychologic/cognitive disorder
Paleness and fatigue
Depression and Burn-Out
pain, paralysis and loss of coordination due to nerve damage
Symptoms that mimic MS
(the list goes on for quite a while, I just listed a few of the symptoms)
NOW LET ME GET THIS CLEAR: A LOT OF PEOPLE NOWADAYS MAY EXPERIENCE B12 DEFICIENCY! NOT VEGANS ALONE!
And here is why:
B12 is very difficult to absorb. A higher level of stress or environmental toxins reduce the absorption in our gastrointestinal tract tremendously. If you just had surgery and had a general anesthetic, when you smoke, drink or take certain medicines (like antibiotics) you need more B12.
The main problem is that our gastrointestinal system is very sensitive to those kind of changes. It can lead to a reduced absorption. And because illnesses concerning our gastrointestinal system are quite common in industrial countries because of our diets, B12-absorption is common as well. Please read the following statements of the American Society for Nutrition:
"Thirty-nine percent of subjects had plasma vitamin B-12 concentrations <258 pmol/L, 17% had concentrations <185 pmol/L, and 9% had concentrations <148 pmol/L, with little difference between age groups."
The prevalence of deficiency (serum vitamin B-12 < 148 pmol/L) varied by age group and affected ≤3% of those aged 20–39 y, ≈4% of those aged 40–59 y, and ≈6% of persons aged ≥70 y. Deficiency was present in <1% of children and adolescents but was ≤3% in children aged <4 y (the youngest age group reported). Marginal depletion (serum vitamin B-12: 148–221 pmol/L) was more common and occurred in ≈14–16% of those aged 20–59 y and >20% of those >60 y.
All I know is that – even though the numbers vary from source to source – I am glad I got myself tested and now know that I have to take action against it.
This is a vitamin that belongs to the Vitamin B family. It is needed for our fatty acid-, amino acid- and glucose metabolism. So without biotin we have difficulties to convert fats, proteins and carbohydrates into macronutrients.
I had: 162.1 ng/l
Reference area: >200 ng/l
When having a Biotin deficiency you may experience:
dry, irritated skin
Brittle hair, or hair loss
Less energy or chronic fatigue
Problems with your digestive tract
It can be found in:
Yeast, Liver, Egg yolk, nuts, soy beans, rice and grains (like oats)
My other lab results:
On a happy note:
My iron levels are in the normal range. I am so glad about this part, because I have struggled with low iron a lot in the past. I know that at around 16 years old I was under 200mg/dl and now I have 236mg/dl. And even compared to the last test from last year when I wanted to donate plasma cell, I improved from 230mg/dl to 236mg/dl. By the way, because of my low iron, I was not allowed to donate plasma cells. I hope to improve my iron levels even more so that in half a year I may be able to donate plasma cells.
So what am I doing against my deficiencies?
I researched a lot about supplements and even though I am not a big fan of them, I did buy a Vitamin B Complex supplement. I am planning on trying it this way and getting another blood test in six months. I also bought a Vitamin D spray, because we do not get enough sun here in Germany and although I went to a sunny place in the summer I am not quite sure that I have enough Vitamin D stored to get me through the winter. So here is what I do: I have two Vitamin B capsules in the morning and I do the same in the evening. This process is only for the first four weeks to get my B12 storage filled again. Then I am reducing to only two capsules until I have the new blood test results. Then we’ll see from there.
The vitamin D spray I spray under my tongue in the morning. The flavor is terrible! I really do not like this vanilla taste but I am going to finish this one and then I will find another solution. And Vitamin D is something I only plan on taking in the winter. Other than that I try to make sure to include more grains, rice, nuts and dark leafy greens into my diet. We’ll see in six months whether I did the right thing.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, here are some interesting articles: