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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Shawna Barker BSc., RHN is a nutritionist, college instructor, and raw food educator.