B12 crisis may be the cause of chronic fatigue in devotees
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):