Why do I think it was my diet? First, you should know where B12 comes from and what it does. For one thing, B12 is necessary to build red blood cells and keep the nervous system functioning. Low red blood cells means anemia, which leads to loss of energy. And I just thought it was my overindulgence in things liquid and the night-time activities. The vitamin is also essential for the nervous system, otherwise in the extreme you get dementia.
B12 deficiency can also be the result of a gastrointestinal disorder, which can reduce or block absorption of B vitamins. Hmmm, that’s very possible, considering the kinds of nasties you could ingest eating on the street, or even more likely, in a restaurant (Udon Thani, which is where I had my worst food poisoning ever, but that's another story). I'm going to investigate this angle with some more blood tests.
Typically, vegetarians are most susceptible to B vitamin deficiencies because they don’t eat the best sources for the vital vitamin that, generally speaking, are: meat, fish and cheese.
Specificially, good sources of B12 are: shellfish, red meats, fortified cereals, freshwater fish, fast-foods (believe it or not), each of which provide more than 30 per cent of the daily value of B12. Yoghurt, haddock, clams, tuna, milk, pork, eggs, some cheeses and chicken breast provide the lowest daily values. (See the entire list at the brilliant U.S. National Institutes of Health website.)
I never ate much meat during my six months there and frankly, the red meats on offer were, uh, suspect, and when I did eat the local “beef,” I was under-whelmed, to put it mildly. Really didn’t know a thing about the fish there and was often put off by the roadside choices so I didn’t partake.
I never eat standard cereals anymore because they contain wheat and sugar usually, which aggravate arthritis (I'm susceptible, thanks to genetics), among many other other things. Here at home, I eat breads and pastas made with the ancient grains (nutritionally superior by a vast amount) now in abundance here, namely spelt, kamut and red fife.
Now I did have a fair bit of eggs and chicken relative to other foods, but again the volumes were quite low. Throw in the fact I ate a lot of noodle soups and pork and chicken rice dishes, and I can conclude my sources of B12 vitamins were minimal.
So if I put two and two together and get, something like four or thereabouts, and I think I can see a possible pattern and reason why I had such a low B12-vitamin intake. Or I could be entirely wrong.
I also have to add that those over 50, like me, frequently have B deficiencies.
Back home I was told to take oral B12 supplement for 90 days and get retested. My B12 profile went from below normal (in other words, not to dire straits when they would immediately inject me in the butt) to well into the normal range. My B12 supplement now has gone from daily to just three times a week from every day. Plus I'm eating the right foods again.
I’m a little confused by actual dosages. The doc said the pills come in standard dosages. Not! I saw everything from 50 or so mcg (micrograms) to 1200 per tablet. The NIH website put the acceptable daily value at 6 mcg. A friend who’s a vegetarian, and more susceptible to B- deficiencies because of lack of meat intake, has a multi-vitamin regimen, which contains only 9 mcg of B12. Thing is, as noted above, that may be all he or anyone needs. Of course, see your health practitioner before embarking on self-diagnosis as to whether you’re deficient in B12 or not.
Overall, my diet here at home is profoundly better. Which is the one thing you can say about one’s home western country, the food variety and alternatives are practically limitless. If you need a supplement, they are readily available in synthetic or entirely natural forms.
And last, according to online medical reports, most people’s western diet gives them all the B vitamins they need. So no need to overdose with supplements. But it’s probably worth while getting a B12 test done during regular blood work if you spend a lot of time on a Thailand diet. Just in case.
And, did I mention everything I said above is based on my research and could be entirely wrong! Need I add that before you take any action, you should see your doctor or professional nutritionist?
U.K. Netdoctor web pages on B12 deficiency