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What you need to know about vitamin B12

© iStock | nevodka

If you are considering going vegetarian or vegan, it is important to keep the intake of vitamin B12 in mind. Vitamin B12 is a powerhouse and an exceptional vitamin when it comes to essential nutrients as its needed for red blood cells production, brain function, DNA regulation and energy levels. It also helps keep your metabolism balanced, helps you stay focused and keeps your nervous systems healthy. It is essential for vegetarians, and especially vegans to take vitamin B12 supplements, since it can only be found in animal products like eggs, meat, shellfish and dairy and in very small amounts in soy milk products, cornflakes and a few other vegan alternatives. In short, this is one vitamin that we should not ignore!


What are the causes of vitamin B12 deficiency?

The three main causes of not having enough vitamin B12 are the following:


  • Being vegan / vegetarian and not consuming adequate vitamin B12 fortified foods nor taking vitamin B12 supplements
  • Those suffering from a leaky gut, food allergies or have a poor digestive system
  • Those who don’t follow a healthy balanced diet and lack pro-biotics (good bacteria) in their system. Both children and the elderly can fall into this category. Gluten-rich food has been reported to lower the absorption of vitamin B12 as well as other vitamins.


Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency


  • Feelings of fatigue / low energy / exhaustion
  • Lack of focus / poor memory issues
  • Anemia
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Feeling light headed / blurred vision
  • Easily emotionally stressed
  • General low morale / Irritability


Vitamin B12 is structurally the largest and most complex of all vitamins known to man. Most vegans consume enough vitamin B12 to avoid clinical deficiency, but since deficiency is quite common amongst vegetarians but especially vegans, it’s important that supplements are taken to avoid extreme deficiencies which can cause anemia or nervous systems damage. The symptoms of lacking vitamin B12 are many, and they aren’t the most pleasant! It would strongly be advised to check with a Doctor if you lack vitamin B12.


Obtaining vitamin B12 is not difficult!


There are plenty of good and well trusted brand names of vitamin supplements on the market as well as one-a-day vitamin B12 you can take. There are also many different foods fortified with vitamin B12 including non-dairy milks, meat substitutes, breakfast cereals, and one type of nutritional yeast. One German company has even fortified its toothpaste with vitamin B12 and it is only a matter of time until we see more products and food on the market to cater for those who prefer to follow a plant based diet, or those who consciously choose to eat less meat, dairy and eggs.