View Full Version : Explaining my vitamin deficiency to work colleagues

Nov 17th, 2011, 02:54 PM
This is a long one, you'll probably need a big cup of tea for it!

I am off sick at the moment, not feeling well. Pretty sure I have a vitamin deficiency, 99 per cent sure it's B12 (maybe others, not sure). Have been feeling unwell for about 2 weeks, and asked to be sent home last Tuesday- I'm going to back to work on Monday coming, but I haven't got the blood test results back yet. I went to the doc & told him what I thought it was & he was a bit off with me. I was really respectful and polite with him, but he knows what I'm like, I go to him usually knowing what is wrong with me and ask for a diagnosis and a sick note and usually refuse drugs except when I have to take them. He knows I always find herbs to take etc. He doesn't usually have a problem with that. I asked him for the MMA test and he'd never heard of it, pulled a big face and started checking his pc right in front of me and then said it wasn't verified to be any good etc. His tone was off - the chair I sat in was quite a distance away from him and he only came close to get blood from me. If he'd had checked my eyes ( I was so stressed I forgot to mention them) he would have seen there were at least signs of an infection, maybe more clues to other stuff. He knows what I'm like, that I'm a wheat free (for a few months) vegan (nearly 5 years and before that vegetarian for years) and also high raw since Nov 2008, (but more cooked on and off for several months now). He always confused vegetarians with vegans - he's not up to date with stuff I feel and he even slagged himself off for not knowing about the MMA test before he dismissed it as crap, and I detected a tiny bit of smuggery. In his favour though, he did always mention B12 and it's importance, and that's where I seem to have fallen down lately. I was drinking loads of soya milk quite happily in my tea for nearly 4 years but then gave it up 'cos I heard it was unhealthy (on reflection I might have fallen for a bit of propaganda there, not sure) - If I'm going to take phyto-oestragens from plants I'd rather get them elsewhere. I've just started taking Maca. Anyway I'm not really into heavily processed food if I can help it. It didn't even occur to me that now I'd stopped the soya milk I was getting virtually no b12 supplements, didn't cross my mind. I take various superfoods but lately sporadically, and am usually fairly careful with my health, It's just lately my attention was elsewhere.

I've been having bad stress symptoms, my adrenals feel a bit shot, I've had mood swings and my system feels weak and a bit ragg'd. I've been a little gibberish and bursting into tears for the last few days in work when telling colleagues in my team the way I've been feeling. I think this could be partly due to maybe a vit deficiency, (I keep thinking B12 or other B's again - pains and tingling up and down the hands and feet and numbness etc) and also my hormones I think, I'm just turned 50 and have been told I'm menopausal (Doc deduced that, he didn't test me). When I saw him there on Monday he dismissed all of my stress symptoms as menopausal, I don't think that's the sole reason. I think there may be a physical thing wrong with me and it's being exacerbated by hormones. I've had some stress in the family a wee while ago (we've 2 family members with cancer) so I think that has played a part. I expected some kind of reassurance from him to stop me panicking (I thought I may have damaged my nerves), but after staring at him incredulously for a few seconds I walked out of there feeling like I looked like a stupid idiot self-opinionated bonehead vegan! AArgh! (and as docs are private here in Jersey that 'consultation' cost me 34) My head is usually very together about stuff. I was telling all this to my good pal and colleague in work and she said she's sorry but she feels that I'm not doing it all properly and she doubts that my diet is safe (she doesn't agree with the raw food thing) . My other best friend also questioned my vegan diet yesterday, and when I was asking my manager to let me go home she intimated that I should be thinking about getting HRT - ****'* sake! I know that if I'm right about the vit defic and that's the reason I'm in this state it's no-one's fault but my own but I'm dreading the I told you so's and so much for Sandy's diet! etc. I feel there's a lot of flack coming my way and it's adding to my stress. I wish I'd never even ******* told anyone about my eating habits but that's not the easiest of things when you work in an office and are in close confines with folk, they see me with wierd super food smoothies and I eat salad every day for lunch. They'd all just love it if I walked in to work saying I was wrong whilst munching on a sausage buttie!. No disrespect to my doc (I'm changing to a more open-minded one soon) but now I'm 50 I think he's just going to write everything emotional off as menopausal.

I'm back to work this Monday and will be collecting a sick note at lunchtime. I don't even know what the doc's going to write on it re: my reason for being off work. In a way I feel it doesn't matter what the reason is for work - I'm worried that anything is going to be looked at as my own fault (which it is) for following a wacky diet (no it's not!) and even worse for not doing it properly. Maybe I should put my hands in the air and just say - yes it was my fault I slipped up on my B12 but really, it really is the best diet. I feel like I'm always trying to convince people lately and prove things to folk, I shouldn't care so much about what people think.

Phew! Now that's off my chest I'd like to deeply thank any of you that read this. I wonder If any of you have similar experiences of feeling like a numpty for slipping up on things and then getting sick, and also feebly trying to fight your corner when no-one takes you seriously. Does anyone have any advice on what I can say to folk? By the way, I'm never going to get into this predicament again, I've started on some superfoods already, B12 tabs, cut down on alcohol ( I wasn't drinking loads), I'm doing EFT regularly, wearing quantum balance crystals as and when I need to and I'm going to bump up the raw and teaching myself Quantum Touch to add another dimesion to the Laying On Of Hands that I do. Might learn Tai Chi also. Got my little tool kit and I'm gonna get cracking !

Thanks for listening and Fluffy Huggy Kitten-Nosed Blessings to you All. San x

Nov 17th, 2011, 03:09 PM
Hello Sandy,

I'm sorry that I don't have anything worthwile to add here, but I read your whole story and wish you that you get better soon.

Regarding communication with your colleagues, maybe you might blame it on "something with hormones/menopause/etc" rather than a lack of B or other vitamins if you are afraid that they might critisize your vegan lifestyle otherwise.

Nevertheless, do what you consider right, maybe get another doctor's opinion and hopefully your family members with cancer get over it ...

Best regards,

Nov 17th, 2011, 03:36 PM
Others might correct me but I think it's unlikely that you would get a B12 deficiency after 1 year. What makes you think it's a vitamin deficiency couldn't it just be a virus?

A friend of mine was always tired so she decided it must be because of her diet. She started eating meat again and two years later she's was still tired. Why wasn't she considering the fact that she had a 5 hour commute everyday and has doubled her work load because of redundancies. I'm not saying you are necessarily wrong but if you are vegetarian or vegan diet it's always the first thing that's looked at whereas if you ate meat you wouldn't even consider it.

Nov 17th, 2011, 04:23 PM
I'm from Canada and I'm not sure if there are different privacy laws where you are but unless this is a chronic issue that HR or a union (not sure if you have either) are involved why you are sick is only your business.
I would saw it’s a bug because this time of year they are rampant and you are building up your immune system. I usually throw in it’s a stomach thing and people try to not get to deep in that type of illness :thumbsup:

I do not know about raw diets enough to speculate on that or any of the health issues. For myself I took out "Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-based Diet!" by Jack Norris, RD and Virginia Messina. Made up a chart of what vitamins etc.. I should watch out for and then made sure I'm covered.

I have had issues with the western medical system for ever really but still think they have a place but someone who on average might have one course on nutrition is not going to dictate what I eat. I even had a dietitian almost beg me to eat a egg. Not because this was the only way to get the "right" protein in particular but because it was a compact and easy way to carry it around with me. LOL I'm guessing she has many clients around the town carrying eggs everywhere…yuck ;)

Anyway hope you feel better soon *Hugz*


Nov 17th, 2011, 05:09 PM
Not because this was the only way to get the "right" protein in particular but because it was a compact and easy way to carry it around with me. LOL I'm guessing she has many clients around the town carrying eggs everywhere…yuck

My goodness....this made me laugh too loud. Laughing in a quiet office = not good. But a good laugh. Thanks. You should have been like "a chicken leg is easy to carry...want me to carry that in my purse too?!" just kidding...aye that was funny.

LG is right Sandy, blame it on something common so they don't ask. You definitely should not feel forced to tell me exactly why you were ill. Most people I work and go to school with just say "stomach virus" or "ate something bad". I have a couple vegetarians in my graduate program and some of them (although not completely sure) have eating disorders. They usually just blame their absences on a cold or a stomach virus. If comes to it, just tell them you were on the toilet for a good while, but you're doing fine now.

Mymblesdaughter is correct as well...b12 is stored in the body until it is all used up. The body only uses a very small amount....if you were on B12 vitamins or eating foods fortified with B12 it would take WAY longer than a few weeks to do you any harm. B12 vitamins and supplements have approximately %500-%1000 than we need. That is ALOT of b12....and if you take it everyday, chances are it would take a very long time to develop such a deficiency. Anemia, however, is possible if your iron levels are too low.

Nov 17th, 2011, 05:11 PM
Please do not underestimate the process of perimenopause or menopause. I have had many interesting symptoms and it especially affects me mood-wise. However, that is not a case for HRT by any means. I am using some bio-identical progesterone cream that is very helpful.

Nov 17th, 2011, 07:19 PM
Others might correct me but I think it's unlikely that you would get a B12 deficiency after 1 year.
Some studies suggest that as much as 39% of all non-vegans have low B12 levels, and that's before one is taking the bioactivty level of their B12 into consideration: a blood test may show that someone has B12 in their blood, but the B12 isn't active - so for real,proper B12 testing, one needs to check MMA and homocysteine as well, which normally isn't done.

So yes - Sandy... IMHO, if you have a deficency, the vitamin that you're most likely in as a vegan is B12.

And - if you would not have been a vegan, there would be a an at least 90% (some say 99%) chance that you had a vitamin deficiency - as discussed eg. in this thread: Nutrient deficiencies more common in meat eaters than in vegans? (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?24-Nutrient-deficiencies-more-common-in-meat-eaters-than-in-vegans)

Help! Need To Explain Myself To Work Colleagues About My Vitamin Deficiency
No, you don't need to explain anything at all... just like they don't need to explain their deficiencies in...
• calcium
• iodine
• vitamin C
• vitamin E
• fiber
• folate (B9)
• magnesium
• Omega-3
• Phytochemicals/anti-oxidants/flavinoids and so on...
...to you.

It's that simple. :-)

But if you want to do it, that's of course perfectly fine. And, for the records, it is usually suggested that all people above 50 take B12 supplementation, so it's a good chance that you would have had a B12 deficiency as a non-vegan as well.

Vitamin B9 (folic acid/folate) defincies are so common among non-vegans that

I do not know about raw diets enough to speculate on that or any of the health issues. For myself I took out "Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-based Diet!" by Jack Norris, RD and Virginia Messina.
Hmm.... What was the name of the two dieticians who - for years - have published wrong info about how to compare B12 results, in that they messed up the very conversion table covering the two B12 units (pg/ml to pmol/L and vice versa) again? That was... Jack Norris and Virginia Messina, which - for the records also have different minimum B12 requirement suggestions than all other dieticians on the planet. Sorry, but IM-not-so-HO Jack Norris does more harm than good. He has - after many years - finally updated at least the ph/pmol conversion part of his B12 info on his website, but there are still books being sold all over the planet with these wrong conversion tables in them, and all calculations based on this conversion tables are wrong. If you make a book about mathmathics, and start up by mixing up 'divide' and 'multiply', the resulting calculations may bot be so good...

I even had a dietitian almost beg me to eat a egg.
I'm not not surprised, but we don't need eggs for protein, and dieticians say all kinds of things about B12 - but egg is a particularly poor source of B12. They contain B12, but for reasons that still are being discussed, the human body has a problem absorbing it. Show him/her these:

One more thing about B12/B9 (folate/folic acid) deficiencies:

Since the advent of mandatory folic acid fortification in 1998, neural tube birth defects have dropped by 20 to 30 percent, and studies have shown that far fewer people have low levels of folate in their blood.
(Source: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vitamin-b/)
In other words, B9 deficienciy is so common among non-vegans that large amount of babies have been born with birth defects. B9 is easy to get on a vegan diet. Apparently, around 9% of the US population also are B12 deficient (as opposed to only have 'low' levels. B12 deficenies can also cause serious damage, and B12 is important for all of us. Mandatory B12 fortification is being discussed in some countries.

The circa 28 million B12 deficient US citizens don't usually get children with birth defects, but those who do, aren't accused for being irresponsible for living on SAD (Standard American Diet). But since most people aren't vegans, a vegan who would get health problems due to some deficiency (let alone a child with birth defects), could risk getting comments from a non-vegan - at least if the non-vegan was malinformed enough to assume that vegans are deficient in more nutrients than non-vegans.

So - for such reasons (and of course, health reasons), we nee to pay extra attention to the deficencies that are more common among vegans than non-vegans. Eating vegan is becoming more mainstream (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?29108-Eating-vegan-quot-It-s-all-so-much-more-mainstream-now-than-seven-years-ago-quot) for every year, but it will take some decades before it's really common, which is why it's great that more and more vegans are becoming health oriented.

Oopps - that was a long post. All I meant to suggest was 'ignore your collegues, but focus on being healthy'. :)

PS: This may be useful: The world's largest organization of dieticians (http://www.eatright.org/about/content.aspx?id=8357) agree with us. Instead of explaining anything about some nutrient you may be deficeint in, why not just tell them about internet and Google and ADA? :)

PS2: About B12 for people over 50 (not particularly meant for vegans):
What Vitamins Does a 50 Year Old Woman Need? (http://www.livestrong.com/article/230325-what-vitamins-does-a-50-year-old-woman-need/#ixzz1dzY0L8TT)
What Vitamins Should a Woman Take Daily? (http://www.ehow.com/about_5438819_vitamins-should-woman-daily.html)
Vitamin B12 (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/926.html)

Nov 17th, 2011, 08:40 PM
@Korn. Is there a book you would recommend then?


Nov 17th, 2011, 09:33 PM
I've started on some superfoods already, B12 tabs, cut down on alcohol ( I wasn't drinking loads), I'm doing EFT regularly, wearing quantum balance crystals as and when I need to and I'm going to bump up the raw and teaching myself Quantum Touch to add another dimesion to the Laying On Of Hands that I do. Might learn Tai Chi also. Got my little tool kit and I'm gonna get cracking !

The highlighted two are definitely a step in the right direction! A good idea regardless of if the problem is B12 or not.

Nov 19th, 2011, 11:12 AM
Hi Ladygold, be prepared for looong post (which, in my defense, kind of sums up half of the other posts I've written on this forum!) :)

@Korn. Is there a book you would recommend then?

I can't, from the top of my head, think of one single book about vegan nutrition that I could recommend, but there are loads of books and articles out there, and massive amounts of literature on B12. Many sites/organiazations offer free info about vegan nutrition on internet. Vegan Society has published two books about vegan health (see below) - which don't quite agree with each other*.

If you really want to dive into this, buy a few books and compare them. :)

*There has been 'trends' regarding what's true and not true about vegan nutrition:

A bit simplified:

• 1940s: In the beginning, vegans just ate vegan food and hoped that it was as healthy as the food they used to eat.
• A little later, B12 was identified. Many assumed that one had to eat liver or other animal products to get enough B12.
• In the 1960s/1970s, various theories (eg books by George Oshawa, Mishi Kuchi etc) claimed that one easily could get B12 from certain (non-fortified) soy products, of seaweeds like spirulina and other animal-free sources.
• 1980s/1990s: Next; 'everybody' started to assume that all B12 from plant products was unreliable ( = 'inactive B12 analogues'), that B12 analogues existed only in plants, and that the only possible, reliable, animal free B12 source is and have always been 'cultivated' B12.

Humans are tool makers, and nothing is wrong with use various techniques in order to cultivate B12, and thus offer fermentation based B12 (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?4093-B12-from-plant-fermentation)/B12 fortified foods/B12 supplements), but read on...

• Then came internet, with PubMed's and other research libraries, Amazon and so on available for hundreds of millions of people. Any interested person could spends hours, weeks or years on looking up existing studies, interpret and misinterpret them.... and try to sort out what's reliable and non-reliable information. The slow process of getting the real facts about plant based nutrition has been speeding up a lot since then.

The real problem with some of the Jack Norris/Vegan Society (1980s/1990s kind of) writings is that while many diehard vegans find it OK, sceptics and... 'critical' vegans (in lack of a better word) find it inconsistent, and sometimes very misleading.

It's sad that - in addition to things Norris has been involved in (eg his three sites: veganhealth.org, veganoutereach.com and jacknorrisrd.com), the only source I can think of from the top of my head which create a lot of unnecessary and misleading confusion actually is vegansociety.com - run by the very organization who starte dit all. Look at this video, for example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=PcWeKHJksxY#t=6 7s

While this clip may seem nice and inspiring for many vegan wannabees, many non-vegans (and dieticians) will wonder about the self-contradictions...

How can they claim that babies and children cat get all the nutrition they need through a 'plant vegan' diet, and in the same video talk about calcium as something "which you can get from fortified food"? And why claim eg. that that B12 is something you eg. can get from 'some soya products'.... when they also claim that the only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12?

Both Vegan Society, Norris and many others - including myself - disagree in the old assumption that eg. miso and tempeh (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?253-Why-does-(some)-tempeh-contain-B12) (two soya products) generally can be seen as reliable sources of B12.
IMHO it's important both to not state anything which can keep old myths alive, and also avoid to 'throw the baby out with the bathwater' and claim that there are no (non-fortified) animal-free products out there which may prove itself to be used as a reliable B12 source. If one wants to spread that theory (yes - it's only a theory), one should at least try to document it, or better: encourage a discussion about the available studies.

I asked a Vegan Society rep once why they didn't have their own discussion forum few years ago, and he said that they were more interested in activism than disucssions. The obvious problem with that is that in order to spread any kind of message, one needs to sort out what that message isfirst. Most of all, it's important to offer a discussion about these topics with... non-vegan laymen and professionals.

Vegan Society distribute stuff which is both wrong, misleading and self-contradiciting. But if you stay away from material which Norris and Vegan Society has been involved in - or, alternatively read it properly and compare it with other sources (eg. scientific research published on sites like PubMed), you should be able to find lots of useful info. Just remember that there's a lot of cross-referencing and cross-quoting going on, so check if people just insist they they know what they are talking about, or if they post references to proper reseach.

IMHO this stuff is important to deal with ASAP, because there are so many myths out there about vegans needing to worry about more nutrients than non-vegans. Any misleading/false info in media - especially if they come from vegan 'authorities' - will definitely contribute to keeping those old myths alive.

We definitely don't need to create new myths either, eg. one claiming that B12 will never be a problem if you only eat 'varied' food. B12 is highly dependent on natural bacteria, and in the anti-bacterial, chlorified, non-organic and denaturalized world, we can't take it for granted that 'varied food' is all it takes to become healthy. And maybe it's not that important - in real life, practical terms - if good B12 was freely available in rivers, soil etc 1000 years ago either. But that discussion is very important from an ideological/philiosphical point of view.

IMO every health authority (especially the pro-vegan ones) informing about B12, calcium etc for vegans need to stress the fact that non-vegans have their own set of nutrients they need to pay special attention to. Non-vegans have loads of nutrient deficienies. If w don't keep emphasizing that fact, the average reader will get the impression that vegans need to worry about more nutrient deficiencies than non-vegans.

All we need to do is to to look at how living on a vegan diet appears for someone who have never done it, have no particular interest in it, and who is raised on a diet full of animal products, and then adjust the way we inform about health and nutrition based on how they assume it would be to live on plants alone - in terms of health, taste and so on. If we don't, it will take forever before most people get that vegan food is at least as healthy and tasty as what they currently eat.

Nov 19th, 2011, 12:00 PM
Why isn't that vegan mom in the newspaper? It's always the crazy ones feeding their kids only orange juice.

Nov 21st, 2011, 04:39 PM
@ Korn

Thank you :) There is a lot of information out there and I am trying to be as healthiest as possible and this will help me.