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B12 crisis may be the cause of chronic fatigue in devotees

B12 is an essential vitamin for the human body. The body can't create it itself, so it needs to be supplied from an outside source. However, there are very few good vegan and vegetarian sources of B12.

Dr. Philip Weeks told me about the B12 crisis on my last visit to him. He had noticed that almost every devotee (practitioner of Krishna consciousness) who came to see him had a low level of the vitamin. An abrupt change in diet is probably to blame. Krishna consciousness automatically leads one to become vegetarian (as a pleasant positive side effect of the practice, not as an end in itself). However, if someone has been eating copious amounts of meat for generations and then suddenly stops their self-degrading practice, the body's B12 supply may run dry.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that B12 is stored in the body for a long time. So, a person may be fine for 2-years of not getting enough of the vitamin and then they suddenly start getting really sick for seemingly no reason. Symptoms of B12 deficiency are listed on the following websites:

The most common initial symptom is fatigue and depression (which indeed seems to be a common issues affecting many, many devotees).

So, what to do? First of all it is a good idea to go to a western doctor and have one's blood tested (though watch out for the B12 analogues which might confuse a blood test - read about those here and here too). That will reveal if indeed there is a lack of B12 in the body. If this is the case the vitamin has to be replenished. However, taking supplements won't really work, because B12 is very difficult to absorb into the body. It would take a long time of taking pills to replenish the body's vitamin supplies. The only two options seem to be getting a B12 injection from a doctor, or using the following ingenious B12 patches:

Then, once the B12-levels are up again, they can be kept up by taking Engevita Nutritional Yeast (one of the few reliable vegan sources of B12).

One might ask how vegan cultures got their supply of B12 for thousands of years before B12 injections were invented. Well, for one, the people in those cultures are probably genetically predisposed to surviving with a less supply of B12 than us westerners. Then there is also dirt. That's right: dirt! Surprisingly, dirt often contains some B12. Cow dung, for example, is very rich in the vitamin. Agricultural field used to be fertilized with cow dung, so a little bit of it would inevitably end up on people's plates. Nowadays, however, with chemical fertilizers being the order of the day and food being super-clean and sterile, dirt can only rarely find its way into our digestion system. So, no B12 for us.

I recorded my conversation with Dr Phil on the topic. Please listen to it here (5 minutes):

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  • Mother Gandhari dasi 13/12/2007 11:51pm (10 years ago)

    Dear Visnu-maya DD, This is very important information. There are special lights that are available to use indoors for may 1/2 hour daily and will help releave the SAD syndrome. One of my health practiioner advices to use a special powerful flash light and light it, hold it touching the third eye for only five minutes daily to activate the penial gland located in the head area during the winter months. Pressing the pressure points of the penial gland in the center of the Big Toes everyday can keep the the gland active which is the master gland. That can help with the depression.

    But regarding the Chronic Fatigue, I believe in detoxifying the body. Just imagine the devotees diet for years. Festivals almost every month, Sunday Feasts and other programs. They body needs a break. Detoxifying and then doing brisk Japa walks as mentioned above can help with the circulation and relieve fatigue if there is no major deficiency. If devotees can have access to Ayurvedic Detoxifying techniques that is the best. Once a year is a very good. Eating correct food according to one's constitution also helps.

    I have been very lucky in finding this herb tea that contains gynostema (usually called miracle herb from China). It cleans the arteries off blood fat and other toxins including metals. It even helps remove the side effect caused by some the medical drugs from cancer etc. I have seen it work instantly on cancer patient. After taking this tea, she fell unconcious and got blinded for few minutes, because too many toxins from the drug were released in the blood stream after she took one cup of this tea. The chinese doctor was standing by and requested that she drink another cup and she will be alright. And sure enough her vision came back after few minutes and she felt better. She was told by the regular doctors that she would die in couple months from the cancer. But taking couple of these products she lived for three more years and went back to work after six months. I will be happy to give more information if anyone is interested in this tea which I have been taking since 1991. (I was also feeling very fired all the time and depressed etc.) Now I am teaching health seminars and feeling 10 years younger. I feel more energetic now then when I was 35 to 45. I am now 53.

    Sometimes wrong food combinations can also course health concerns. So a little bit of Ayurvedic Knowledge may help. Basic information is available on lot of website (devotee website from Toronto), Dr. Lad's etc.
    Hope this helps.

  • Mother Gandhari dasi 13/12/2007 10:23pm (10 years ago)

    Dear Devotees,

    I may be wrong but I thought that B12 can be got from fermented foods. South Indians always use fermented foods, IDLI, Dosas, home made yogurts. They are very healthy people, I have yet to see a South Indian with grey hair.
    Ok another source I thought was 6 soaked almonds taken in the morning but peels removed and chewed.
    And of course all dairy - But devotees can use milk in a very Ayurvedic Way - t hen they may not have too many problems with it.
    Usually it is boiled using some cardomon, saffron, almonds and rock sugar.

  • candidas das 13/10/2007 11:48am (10 years ago)

    David Jorm makes an <a href ="" rel="nofollow">interesting observation of his experience of B12 deficiency</a> on his blog.

  • Sed Emihcra 11/10/2007 10:30pm (10 years ago)

    I've met many people who have tried to become vegetarians or vegans and have quit due to nutritional shortcomings. Education and proper technique goes a long way for almost anything.

  • candidas das 09/10/2007 9:02pm (10 years ago)

    A number of people have asked about vitamin pills, as well as various fortified foods (like soya milk) that contain B12. Normal cow's milk also contains a bit of B12.

    My educated guess is that these all are okay for maintaining a certain B12 level, but not rich enough in the vitamin to boost someone who is B12 deficient.

    Another thing to consider is that although these products say they contain "X" amount of the recommended daily allowance, that does not necessarily mean that the body can absorb that much from the milk. Most people have a hard time digesting dairy products anyway, let alone having their body extract the minuscule amount of B12 that they contain.

    As for vitamin pills: I think it is a similar story to taking iron pills. That is: the body needs to get B12 in a natural form, not refined into a pill. E.g. iron pills contain lots of iron, but hardly any of it is absorbed into the body when taken in raw pill form. In contrast, when iron is taken in the form of an iron rich food like spirulina, then it can be successfully absorbed and assimilated. Similarly, nutritional yeast is a good natural way to take B12.

    All this is, of course, not to say that supplements are completely useless; just that they are not adequate for someone who is seriously deficient.

  • amala gaura dasa 09/10/2007 1:41am (10 years ago)

    Thanks for this great post. I find myself so distanced from the mainstream medical world and their chemical diagnosis. Haven't visited an allopathic doctor in years. But I read this and was reading further online and seems to be quite interesting since I thought my symptoms were just something I caused in this life from my sinful habits and something I would have to live with my whole life. I ordered some patches (skipped the blood test, since I am sure it will come out low) and in the mean time am trying out sub-lingual drops.

    Anyone have success with the drops or vitamin pills? Much cheaper than patches.

    Seems this is caused by lack of nutrients in our foods and lack of quality in the milk. If we at least could eat cow-dung fertilized food we wouldn't have this problem I'm sure. The B-12 in plants increases from manure fertilizer and good soil. This post has some more info:

    Anyway, it truly is our karma, because many have perfect health without worrying about chemicals and others can try lots of supplements and will only increase their health a little. Lets see what happens.

  • Dr. Frank-Peter Seidenberg 08/10/2007 7:03pm (10 years ago)

    Nice blog entry Candidasa and some excellent service for the devotees. Also, thanks Visnu-maya, I'll be sure to take more walks in the sun.

  • Visnu-maya dd 08/10/2007 7:46am (10 years ago)

    Our Serotonin levels is also another thing we should look into. Serotonin is called "the feel-good brain hormone". When serotonin is low, you feel anxious, aggravated, moody, tired, lazy or depressed. Sunshine stimulates serotonin production. There is a morose condition called 'seasonal affective disorder' or SAD, it's the suppression of serotonin caused by being deprived of sunlight: either forced during the dreary winter months, or from sticking yourself in an office (or temple/preaching centre) day in day out, without going outside. I do this to myself sometimes, and feel worse for wear for it.

    So, finding it hard to read without falling asleep, struggling to get up in the morning, is your body feeling like a bag of bricks...? Perhaps you simply need a brisk walk in the sunshine. Better than a pill. Great time for listening to lectures too, or chanting some extra rounds.

    Advice: Release endorphins by getting some exercise, in the sunshine; everyday! It's really good for you, and for your longevity in devotional service. And go play in the park while you're at it :-)

    Think: How does photosynthesis work? Can we relate this to humans?

    Candidas, did you ever write a blog post about the importance of play?

  • Kaisori 08/10/2007 4:34am (10 years ago)

    Having suffered fairly severe B12 deficiency in my life, I can vouch for this article. I'd like to underline the point about getting a blood test and avoiding the analogs that can screen B12 deficiency. I went undiagnosed for years. Although I have long since brought my B12 levels up and maintained them through periodic shots, I have never recovered from the nerve damage the deficiency caused.

  • dave 07/10/2007 3:37pm (10 years ago)

    Nice well thought out article with some lovely facts
    Vitamin B12 difficincy goes mainly undiagnosed with few seeking or asking medical intervention, for those of us who grow our own veg. it is well worth taking up your suggestion of using cow dung as a fertaliser.
    Do you think as devotees we should be making individuals aware of this when they change to a more healthy diet?

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