Supplements Every Vegan Should Know About
There are 3 vitamins that are recommended to maintain good health in vegans: B12, Vitamin D3, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Vitamin B12 is the supplement that is most often spoken about, as it is very difficult to get this nutrient from a plant-based diet.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness; heart palpitations and shortness of breath; pale skin; a smooth tongue; constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas; nerve problems (tingling, muscle weakness, and difficulty walking); vision loss.
B12 is made by bacteria present in the soil, and because we are not regularly eating dirt with our veggies, the best way for vegans to get their B12 is to take a supplement. In factory farming, it is now common for animals to be injected with B12, as these poor creatures are rarely, if ever, allowed outside to eat the grass and other plants and seeds that would contain the bacteria needed for making B12 in their bodies.
Symptoms of Vitamin D3 deficiency are falling sick or getting frequents infections; feeling tired all the time; pain in your bones, especially your back; depression; impaired wound healing; bone loss (osteopenia); hair loss; muscle pain.
For those of us who live in northern climates, or who spend most of our time indoors, we need a Vitamin D3 supplement to keep our bodies and minds healthy. If you’re able to enjoy daily sun exposure – about 15 minutes on skin that has not yet had sunblock lotion applied to it – then you may not need to take a supplement. The best thing is to have your doctor check your Vitamin D levels, especially if you have any of the above symptoms of deficiency.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Symptoms of Omega-3 Fatty Acid deficiency: skin is dry, rough, and sometimes bumpy; hair is dry, brittle, and dull, and you can be prone to dandruff; nails tend to be soft, peeling, or can be brittle; excessive thirst; sleep is difficult; it’s hard to focus, to pay attention; mood swings can be excessive, depression, or anxiety. It is believed by healthcare professionals that healthy levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids are important to prevent age related dementia.
A vegan Omega-3 Fatty Acid supplement is usually made from seaweed and algae, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts. It may smell a bit “fishy”, as the seaweed and algae give off that characteristic scent. It is best to take an Omega-3 Fatty Acid supplement at night.
There are other supplements that some vegans may need if they are experiencing some health issues. Those will be discussed in future articles. In the meantime, take your B12, and consider Vitamin D3 and Omega 3 Fatty Acid supplements if you’re experiencing any symptoms related to deficiencies of those nutrients.
Dr. Judith Fiore, ND is a naturopathic doctor in practice for 19 years. She has lectured at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and authored a featured column in the magazine, Creating Families, published by the Canadian Infertility Awareness Association. Dr. Judith is a proud vegan, and strives to support vegans, those transitioning to veganism, or those who wish to follow a primarily plant-based diet, to live full and healthy lives.