Produced by bacteria, vitamin B12 can be a difficult nutrient to absorb if our digestion is less than optimal. Deficiencies are common in vegans, vegetarians, as well as omnivores. Omnivores can become deficient when they are not absorbing it properly, perhaps due to underactive stomach and/or mucoid plaque accumulation.
1 in 31 adults over the age of 51yrs old are B12 deficient.
If our digestive system is not functioning optimally, B12 is not being fully absorbed. Since most people, regardless of diet, have digestive issues it is easy to see how B12 deficiency is so common.
In raw and vegan diets, trace amounts of B12 can be obtained from seaweed, algae, fermented foods, fortified foods, and nutritional yeast, however, a B12 supplement of methylcobalamin is still recommended to ensure you get adequate levels (a good idea for some omnivores as well).
If you are worried about your B12 status or have digestive issues, it is a good idea to get your blood levels tested - ask for B12 serum levels and homocysteine levels since B12 tests measure active and analogue B12 in the blood. Analogue B12 is present in seaweed and algae. High homocysteine indicates low B12 status.
Tips for Increasing B12:
*Bacteria in our large intestine can produce some B12, however, it is considered to be too far down in intestine to be properly absorbed. I do think we can absorb some of this B12 if our intestines are clean and we have ample intestinal flora.
Longterm B12 deficiency can lead to irreversible nerve damage so it is a good idea to be aware of this important nutrient.
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There are so many detox products on the market, what do you recommend for supporting liver health and general detoxification?
There are many foods and herbs that support liver function, and Spring is a ideal time to start focusing on these foods, especially since many of them are now in season.
The liver is the main detoxification organ, and because it has so many other functions as well, (including bile production, carbohydrate metabolism regulation, hormone regulation, blood filtration, and GTF synthesis) it is important to keep this organ functioning optimally.
The liver can often become overburdened with processing toxins that it can't keep up with the other functions, a condition commonly referred to as "sluggish liver". When it can't keep up with processing toxins, the body then makes fats cells to store the toxins in until the liver can get around to processing them. A sluggish liver also puts strain on the other detox organs, including the kidneys, colon, and skin.
The liver has two phases of detoxification. The first phase alters the toxins making them weaker and/or water-soluble. The water-soluble toxins are then excreted via the kidneys. Phase two neutralizes the altered toxins, which are then excreted via the colon.
Foods that Support Phase 1:
Brassicas (cabbage, broccoli*, Brussel sprouts, kale, cauliflower), Citrus, and Vitamin C and B complex (choose food sources or whole-food based supplement)
Foods that Support Phase 2:
Asparagus*, Walnuts*, Avocado*, Artichoke, Brassicas, Vitamin C and B complex, Sulphur foods (garlic*, onion, broccoli), Citrus, Beets, Carrots, Dandelion, Turmeric*, and Leafy Greens*
Supplements and Herbs:
In addition to the above foods and herbs, supporting the digestive and intestinal systems is also important for maintaining a healthy liver.
Beginning each day with 1-2 glasses of room temperature water with freshly squeezed lemon is a excellent way to gently stimulate and cleanse the liver as well as kickstarting the digestive system. The intestinal system can be supported with probiotics, fibre, and fresh aloe vera.
A monthly 3-day juice feast is another great way to re-set your system and cleanse you liver.
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An easy and delicious way to incorporate more greens into your diet.
10-20 crimini mushrooms, stems removed
1/2 cup coconut aminos or gluten-free tamari
1 1/2 cup filtered water
Rinse the mushrooms and place the caps and stems into a large bowl. Add the coconut aminos/tamari and water. I like to place another bowl filled with water on top to ensure all the mushrooms are fully immersed in liquid. Marinate for 2-8hrs, the longer they marinate the softer and more flavourful they become. *Save the stems for soup or salad.
Wild Greens Pesto:
2 cup basil (packed full)
1/4 cup dandelion leaves
1/2 cup walnuts or pistachios
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1-2 cloves garlic (optional) or 1t garlic powder
Place pesto ingredients in food processor, blend until well combined but still a little chunky. Place a spoonful of pesto into each marinated mushroom cap. Enjoy as is or warm in the dehydrator for 1-4hrs. Garnish with diced tomato and serve on a bed of arugula.
A very inspirational movie about a man that decides to take his health into his own hands by committing to a 60 day juice cleanse.
"100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross is at the end of his rope and the end of his hope. In the mirror he saw a 310lb man whose gut was bigger than a beach ball and a path laid out before him that wouldn't end well— with one foot already in the grave, the other wasn't far behind. FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is an inspiring film that chronicles Joe's personal mission to regain his health.
With doctors and conventional medicines unable to help long- term, Joe turns to the only option left, the body's ability to heal itself. He trades in the junk food and hits the road with juicer and generator in tow, vowing only to drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice for the next 60 days. Across 3,000 miles Joe has one goal in mind: To get off his pills and achieve a balanced lifestyle."
Juicing is a very powerful healing tool because the energy that normally goes to digestion can go to cellular detoxification and regeneration, as well as supplying the body with an abundance of nutrients that are instantly absorbed.
It is important to focus on vegetables and non-sweet fruits, incorporating apple or other fruits is okay once and awhile, just be sure to enjoy in moderation.
My favourite foods to juice include: leafy greens, fennel, cucumber, celery, ginger, lemon, lime, turmeric, and then apple, pear, pineapple, watermelon, and grapes in moderation.
*If you have diabetes or hypoglycemia it is best to avoid fruits and sweet vegetables like carrots and beets altogether. Small amounts of fruit can be enjoyed in a smoothie however.
Juice feasting can be implemented for 3-60 days, depending on your goal and current state of health. If you have a chronic illness and/or are on medication it is best to consult your healthcare professional for a supervised juice cleanse.
Please visit the Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead website for more information.
Shawna Barker BSc., RHN is a nutritionist, college instructor, and raw food educator.