Questions Answered Regarding the Vegan and Vitamin B12
Written by Barbara O’Neil, from Misty Mountain Health Retreat Australia
What is vitamin B12?
- Vitamin B12 is made in the digestive tract of animals, and is also present in the bacterial growth of the nose, mouth, base of tongue and upper bronchial tree. Vitamin B12 is also synthesized from food with the aid of intestinal bacteria.
Microorganisms, primarily bacteria, are the only known organisms that manufacture B12. These bacteria often live in bodies of water and soil. Animals get B12 by eating food and soil contaminated with these microorganisms. These bacteria also live inside animals’ digestive tracts. Plants do not require B12 for any function, and therefore have no mechanisms to produce or store B12. In animals, B12 is normally attached to a protein (very large molecules made up of amino acids) either for transport or storage.
About 60% of the total amount of B12 in the body is stored in the liver and 30% is stored in the muscles. The body has a special circuit between the digestive tract and the liver. Bile, which is mad in the liver and needed to digest fat, is secreted into the beginning of the small intestine. It is then reabsorbed at the end of the small intestine and taken back to the liver where it is used again. This circuit is called enterohepatic circulation. Omnivores normally eat about 2-6 mg of B12/ day and their liver normally excretes 5-10 mg/day via their bile. Healthy omnivores reabsorb about 3-5 mg B12 from the bile. A vegan with B12 absorption problems will develop B12 deficiency in 1-3 years because absorption problems will block the enterohepatic circulation. Adult vegans decrease their bile excretion to as low as 1 mg /day and reabsorb almost 100% of it, thus delaying B12 deficiency for 20-30 years. Jack Norris B.S. Nutrition Diatetics, Director Vegan Outreach, 6/2000
“It has been suggested that in man the normal requirements of B12 is met by bacterial synthesis in the colon.”*
*From three studies done on B12 and the small intestinal bacteria, quoted by Dr Agatha Thrash in her book Nutrition for Vegetarians.
- All cells and nerves require vitamin B12 to function properly, especially nerve cells and blood cells, particularly those of the brain. It is essential for proper blood formation.
What are the main causes of deficiency of B12?
- Lack of intrinsic factor in the terminal illeum of the gastro-intestinal tract.
- Lack of hydrochloric acid
Competition with intestinal parasites.
What is the intrinsic factor? The intrinsic factor is necessary for the absorption of B12. To insure that a person has this intrinsic factor, they should take note of the points under colon health.
What destroys B12?
- Legal and illegal drugs
- Chemicals in the environment
- Intestinal parasites
- High doses of vitamin C
- Multi-vitamin preparations
- Oral contraceptives
What interferes with the absorption of B12?
- Crohn’s Disease,
- Irritable bowel syndrome,
- Candida albicans outbreaks,
- Legumes and grains not properly prepared or cooked long enough.
What increases the body’s need for vitamin B12?
- Animal products,
- Excess fat in the diet,
- Refined foods
- Cooked foods.
What are the vegan sources of vitamin B 12?
It is interesting to observe that absorption and conservation of B12 are more important than the presence of the vitamin in the diet.
- Wheat and oats supply the full range of B
vitamins, including B12.
- Green vegetables eaten freshly picked.
- Kelp and seaweed foods
- Soybeans, sprouted or cultured
- Sprouted seeds
- Unsprayed fruit
- Root vegetables
- Rain water
- Not cleaning the teeth before breakfast.
- Cultured foods (fermentable carbohydrates will help the intestinal bacteria in the absorption of B12):
- Sourdough bread
What increases the absorption of vitamin B12?
- Proper combination of foods—avoiding the combination of milk and sugar, and avoiding fruit and vegetables at the same meal.
- Majority of food eaten early in the day eg: breakfast and lunch
- Long and thorough chewing of food.
- Including cultured foods as a regular part of the diet.
- Meals consisting of at least 50% RAW fruit or vegetables.
- Eat organic, homegrown vegetable
What constitutes colon health?
Dr Kellogg states we should eliminate as often as we intake for example, three meals a day equals three eliminations a day!
What can one do to encourage this? –
- Drink two to three litres of water a day.
- Promptly answer nature’s call.
- Eat largely of fruit and vegetables (60-70% RAW).
- Include cultured foods in the diet.
- At least half an hour’s brisk walking daily.
- Promptly answer nature’s call.
- Regular colon cleanses, if the colon is lazy, e.g., Colozone, colonic irrigations, Herbal preparations to cleanse and strengthen colon.
How much B12 does a vegan need daily for optimum health?
- 0.1 micro gms, eg: 28.3gms ( 1 ounce) of the roots of leek and beetroot and other vegetables per day will provide 0.1-0.3 microgms of vitamin B12.
“In grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts, are to be found all the elements we need.”
“The grains with fruits and nuts and vegetables contain all the nutritive properties necessary to make good blood.”
“Grain, fruits, nuts, and vegetables constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator. These foods prepared in a simple and natural a manner as possible are the most
healthful and nourishing. They impart strength, a power of endurance, and vigor of intellect that are not afforded by a more complex and stimulating diet.”
Each of these statements is taken from page 313 of Counsels on Diet and Foods by Ellen G. White.
I have found in my own life, as a mother of eight children and a naturopath, that the above diet amply supplies all the nutrients necessary for optimum health. Understanding that the vitamin B12 is a bacteria produced by the body helps to appreciate how it is used in the body, and where its sources can be found. The story of Daniel found in Daniel Chapter 1in the Bible also is an illustration that the Garden of Eden diet is the perfect diet for mankind preparing for his soon-coming Saviour.
Nutrition for Vegetarians by Drs Agatha and Calvin Thrash.
Counsels on Diet and Foods by Ellen G. White.
Much of the above information was gleaned from the documentation and studies quoted in these publications.