I wanna talk to you guys about a topic that you probably don’t feel like talking about. It’s one of the most common questions I get as a vegan, and even as a vegetarian I got it a lot as well, and you probably do too. Usually the first question I get as a vegan is the infamous “.. but where do you get your protein?” Don’t worry, it’s not that. BUT, if you are a non vegan, please note we get our protein from food. I’ve compared my protein levels from my blood work to many different omnivores, and my protein is almost always higher than theirs. Just saying.
Another question I get is.. “but can you eat animal crackers?” Often times, I just laugh this one of because of the absurdity of it all. By the way, the answer is: it depends. Frosted Animal crackers are not vegan; they contain milk, and the sprinkles probably have confectioner’s glaze. I haven’t read the ingredients in awhile, just going based off memory. As for the other kinds, it depends on the vegan. If the ingredient is sugar, that usually means white sugar, which is often filtered through bone char to obtain the white color. Sugar is not natural white, and if you’ve had cane sugar (which is what I use), you can see the molasses coloring of it. That’s pure sugar. I digress. The point is- some vegans follow this rule and others don’t. I judge neither for their choices.
One of my all-time favorite questions I get, when wearing my “Vegan” necklace or any vegan themed clothing is.. “are you vegan?” *le sigh* The answer.. yes, I’m vegan.
NOW, here’s the question I was originally referring to, before I went off on a tangent. And this one I usually get from those who have general knowledge of food, vitamins, and minerals.. “what about your B12?”
Well, a brief background: B12 is a water soluble vitamin that comes from animal products, and B12 fortified grains, which are usually fortified with animal derived B12. You body cannot make B12, but it can store it in your liver for years. Those most at risk for B12 deficiency are: vegans, vegetarians (non-lacto/ovo especially), those with previous autoimmune diseases or disorders, and those with stomach problems. Hi, my name is Ashley, and I have 3/4 of those. Since I’m a vegan, the vegetarian one doesn’t apply, but all the others do. This is usually not a problem, due to vegan vitamins, like the Deva ones I take, that have 100% B12 in it. But, there are issues that can prevent your body from absorbing the B12 from those vitamins, and a deficiency can occur.
Here’s where I go all Ashley Ronan, Google MD on you:
So, there's an autoimmune disease called Pernicious Anemia. In essence, even though you're taking a vitamin with B12 in it, like my multivitamin Deva, your stomach can't absorb it. There's a protein called Intrinsic Factor (IF) that's created in your stomach that binds to the B12 you ingest, and it gets absorbed in the last part of your small intestine. However, with Pernicious Anemia, the body attacks the cells that create the IF, and therefore, IF can't be made and B12 can't be absorbed.
Welcome to my life, ladies and gentleman. I have been diagnosed with Pernicious Anemia. Already having Hashimoto's Disease puts me at a risk for developing other autoimmune diseases, and this happens to be my newest diagnosis. Yay for 2 autoimmune diseases in 2 years! My body hates me, that I'm convinced of.
So, what led me to this journey, you may be wondering?
Let me state for the record: if your body feels off, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. It's trying to tell you something and no one knows what your body is supposed to feel like other than you. Because I have the world's best doctor, I actually told him that I think my B12 is low. We did 3 blood tests in 2 weeks. Once to check my B12 levels, another to check my methylmalonic acid, and another to check my folic acid.
As you can see, my B12 is a low normal, which prompted the second test for the Methylmalonic Acid, which is almost double what it should be. The link between this acid and the B12 is that the increased levels of this acid, the more likely there is a B12 deficiency. My folic acid is healthy, which is anticipated, because, while it's a B vitamin, it's not B12, so it's absorbing well.
So naturally, you're next question is: what was I feeling that prompted me to see my doctor?
Well, being exhausted is a way of life for me. My Hashi's makes me exhausted naturally. But, this was a completely different level of exhaustion. Literally, every cell in my body was tired. I can't even explain it. Also, there was the dizziness, this kind of heart palpitation, and this feeling of almost fainting. It caused me so much anxiety because I felt like I was going to pass out. It would happen randomly and out of nowhere, which only increased my anxiety, like is it going to happen now? How about now? I was getting headaches, more so than usual. My memory was garbage. And my mood, despite all of the stressors I've been going through, was down right sour. Depressed is really the appropriate word that I would use. Anytime I have some type of issue, I do research. Doctors highly recommend against this, but I used to read medical dictionaries as a kid. Medical stuff has always intrigued me, and I've been diagnosing myself for years, ever since I was a kid. True story.
Treatment? My doctor told me to get a 1,000 mcg B12 supplement, take it daily, and see him again the middle to end of October. Knowing that taking a supplement with a broken belly wouldn't work, I found a sublingual (under the tongue) vegan form of B12 that I'm taking, by the same brand of my regular multivitamin, Deva.
Even though my Folic Acid levels are normal, I figured it's better to have it than not. Both are water soluble, so I just pee out the rest, if any is left.
I've been on this for about 2+ weeks, and I'm not noticing much of a difference. When I see my doctor again at the end of this month, so we may re-evaluate this treatment method, and go for the B12 shots if it's not working.
Moral of the story: ask to get your B12 checked, if you are part of the at-risk group, because they don't check B12 regularly on a typical blood work screening. Like I said above, always always always, listen to your body!