As veganism and meat-eschewing are on the rise, a lot of us are forgetting to maintain the vitamin and mineral levels we need as we curate our new diets.
A vegan diet is generally healthy, low in cholesterol and protective of heart disease, but its followers must take vitamin B12 supplements or risk a condition that causes permanent numbness in their hands and feet, experts say.
B12 is the vitamin you natural derive from animal products, meaning that those who opt-out of this are often lacking.
Most people get their vitamin B12 from milk, but the plant-based substitutes do not have high enough levels to protect adults and children from peripheral neuropathy, which is irreversible.
Fatigue, weakness, numbness and tingling in your hands and feet, constipation, anaemia, problems with balance and walking, and even issues with your memory can arise are all potential outcomes of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
In fact, it can even cause irreversible nerve damage if it’s left untreated for too long.
Thankfully, it’s easy to treat.
Many people resort to B12 supplements to get the job done, but recently, B12 injections, which can be administered by a doctor or self-administered, are becoming a more and more popular alternative.
Of course, the idea of getting your vitamins via needle is a little intimidating, so we went through the ordeal to give you the skinny on what getting your vitamins via a syringe is really like.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for human health. It plays a key role in the function of the brain and nervous system, and it’s crucial to red blood cell production in the bone marrow. It also aids in DNA synthesis and is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Some months ago, I found myself (someone who eats well, exercises and drinks copious amounts of water) getting so tired after a working day that I contemplated getting a taxi home rather than walking 20 minutes.
This happened on repeat, leading me to believe that I wasn't eating well enough. Meanwhile, I was adding extra meals to my working day because I needed the energy to function.
Then, Carrie-Ann Moran, Head of Fashion & Textiles at The Rediscovery Centre (a fellow vegetarian/vegan hybrid) insisted that I follow up with my doctor and take the plunge, noting that it would "change my life".
I booked one the next day and never looked back. Now, I get them when I need them (every 2-3 months) and instantly feel galvanised upon entry.
For needle-phobes: the whole procedure lasts less than 15 seconds, a numbing agent is used and thus, the whole rigmarole feels genuinely not more than a pinch.
Without trying to sound hyperbolic, they have absolutely changed the way I tackle the day. Both psychically and mentally I feel far more awake and don't see myself pining for bed by lunchtime.
I, personally, haven't experienced side effects – but for context's sake, B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, so it’s unusual to have any adverse consequences.
Though that said, some people have found that too much can cause diarrhoea and itchiness. Still better than a prolonged hangover feel.
Disclaimer: I have and still do pay for every one of my B12 shots – which can be expensive in bulk (€100+) but will last you for months – I just want to share the wealth.
Main image by @sofiacoelho