It all started last Autumn, the ends of my fingers started to feel numb and tingly as if someone had slammed a door on them. I was constantly tired and going to bed by 9pm, which was surprising as I am a notorious night owl and usually hit the sack around 1am. I had no motivation for all the things I had once enjoyed and a complete lack of energy. My vision was getting slightly blurry intermittently for short amounts of time and the tip of my tongue was fiery red and I was losing the taste in my mouth every few weeks. To me it was clear there was something wrong, but what?
I went to my GP who dismissed and told me I was imagining it! I was at my wits ends and at a loss of how I should proceed as well as being very scared. I left it a few more months until the spring when it twigged in my mind that this started happening after a year or so on being on a vegan diet. I informed my doctor that I had switched from a vegetarian to a vegan diet and that I would require a blood test to check my B12 levels. The blood tests came back and I required an immediate injections to avoid getting pernicious anaemia.
They gave me three injections three times a week for two weeks to get me up to normal levels. The first week was fine, I casually spoke to the nurse who administered the injections and asked her if it was common for vegans and vegetarians to have low B12 she said anyone can have low B12. To be honest I was not going to get into a debate about it with her as she was holding the needle! Funnily enough my GP had said the opposite and had advised I eat more dairy products and that vegans were more at risk of B12 deficiency, he also commented that my B12 was fine in 2013, suggesting I was at normal levels when eating dairy.
With my own research I found there have been recent studies suggesting that vegans and vegetarians can suffer from low B12 due to diet as this vitamin is only found in animal products: dairy, eggs, meat, fish & chicken. Alternatively you can take a supplement, however there are certain individuals who cannot absorb B12 which is a condition known as pernicious anaemia, therefore taking a supplement would be a waste of time. On my fifth injection I woke up to discover a rash and pustules covering my face, back and chest. Over the next few days they were spreading further down my back and on my neck. I started to despair, I didn’t even want to leave the house! My face was sore and make up was not going to cover it. I went back to my GP, who said it was unusual. I told him that within my own research a lot of people who had been administered with Hydroxocobalamin injections had suffered from rashes or micro pimples, as well as the leaflet for Hydroxocobalamin confirming that side effects are indeed rashes. The GP was unable to put my mind at ease and was unable to advise on how they should proceed to treat me and prescribed me antihistimines, advising to take 2 a day until the swelling and rashes went down, despite the packaging indicating you should not really take more than 1 per day for a short period of time.
As I write today just three months past since my last injection, the rashes and pimples have just about dried out and gone. I increased my water intake, had to eat extremely clean and followed a diet similar to what my Chinese herbalist advised on when my eczema flared up – no refined flour or sugar, no nuts, no chilli and no citrus or fried food. These things apparently cause heat in the body, and I increased cooling foods into my diet such as melon (great as it was summer), tofu, Chinese cabbage and I cooked my veggies quickly thus adopting Asian methods on most meals like steaming and lightly stir frying. I also took charcoal tablets and some folate. I have just had another blood test to check my levels and I have told the GP that if they are low, I will need to take another form of B12 as the injection did not agree with me.
I feel very in tune to my body and have always been very self aware. I check for signs of any issues, if I crave something I believe there is a high chance I need it. It is the same for my ethical way of eating from a young age I was determined not to consume meat. I'm sure my mum thought it was a phase, what could a 6 year old know about food? WRONG! I actually checked out the hype regarding blood type diet. I'm not one for dieting fads but I was astonished to find my blood type is A positive. An A positive blood type should be vegetarian and keep dairy consumption to an absolute minimum – I had been in tune with my body from an extremely early age regarding my diet, ethics and health.
The reason why I have written such a lengthy post on this subject is because I want not only vegans and vegetarians but everyone to be aware of how important and vital B12 is to human functionality. This is a nutrient that makes healthy red blood cells and keeps our nervous system working adequately. Long term effects of B12 deficiency can cause infertility, increase the risk of some types of cancer and a host of other problems. Be safe and be vigilant, listen to what your body needs do not be blinded by what your GPs say. You know your body better than anyone and it is paramount you take heed to any signals it sends you.