Where do you get your B-12 bacteria?

The first question everybody always has about the whole foods, plant-based diet is, "Where do you get your protein?" You can almost predict the question as you're talking to somebody about how you eat. And yet, none of us, I'm pretty sure, know anybody who suffers from a protein deficiency, even among those of us who eat no animal products at all. That is, people on a WFPB diet do not seem to suffer from protein deficiencies.

But do we get all the other nutrients we need? I believe we do, with the one exception of vitamin B-12, which actually isn't a vitamin at all. It's a bacteria. So, maybe the better question is, "Where do you get your B-12 bacteria?" But nobody ever asks that question.

And yet, from everything that I've read, it is extremely important that vegans and those following a whole foods, plant-based diet take B-12 supplements. While our bodies can and do store B-12 in the liver for as much as three years in some cases, I personally am not willing to gamble on how much B-12 I have stored. For one thing, there have been correlations found between lack of B-12 and Alzheimer's disease. According to the Harvard Medical School, B-12 deficiencies can lead to a number of serious issues including depression, paranoia, memory loss, incontinence and more. At a less extreme level, B-12 deficiency can cause numbness or tingling in the extremities, staggering and balancing issues, anemia, jaundice, etc.

B-12 is also essential to making red blood cells and nerve cells. And that seems like it might be important to me.

The source for B-12 in humans is animal products, and as followers of the WFPB diet, we are not eating animal products. And that creates the dilemma for us. Fortunately, B-12 does not originate in animals though. It is a bacteria that originates in the ground and is consumed by animals who feed on plants close to the ground. So, it can be available to us in pill form. And it is.

Please don't leave dirt on your vegetables hoping to get B-12 that way. I can't emphasize that statement enough. First, dirt has other bacteria and nasty things like E-Coli in it that you really don't want to eat. That will make you sick in other ways. Secondly, you want to wash any pesticides and other contaminants off of your fruits and vegetables too (and yes, even organic fruits and vegetables have pesticides on them --- but that's a whole other subject). So, don't think of dirt as a way to get your B-12. It's not.

We need to get it from pills. I take a sublingual methylcobalamin form of B-12. While I personally take a fairly large dose (5,000 mcg per day), our bodies actually need very little B-12. Again, according to Harvard Medical School, we can get by on 2.4 mcg per day. The problem is that our bodies need to absorb the B-12, and not all of us are good at B-12 absorption. That's especially true for those of us over the age of 50 and also for those with Celiac's disease. Taking higher doses can alleviate that.

So, that's where I get my B-12 bacteria. Where do you get yours?