6 Key Vegan Supplements That Can Improve Your Health
A healthful Guide for the herbivore
Within several months into the vegan diet I learned that I absolutely could not thrive on a plant-based diet without the help of supplements. Disheartened I was because I intentionally ate a plentiful and nutrient dense diet yet experienced deficiencies.
I later discovered that in most cases, consumers are unable to yield the maximum nutritional value from crops due to the decline in the quality of the soil. In the early stages of my plant-based journey, I tried all sorts of nutritional recommendations for the vegan but I wasn't having the best outcome.
I quickly discovered I was experiencing a host of signs and symptoms related to my nutrient deficiencies: rigid and brittle nails, mental fogginess and mood-swings. My blood-work then confirmed my suspicions. From then on, I made the necessary changes, "swallowed the pill" and took supplements.
Since then, my blood-work has improved, my symptoms have subsided and I have made it a personal mission to spread awareness on how to maintain a healthy vegan lifestyle with the help of supplements.
It should be noted that the body is very complex and not all vegans will experience the same severity of deficiency due to genetic predispositions, normal gut flora, digestion, and other variables.
MajoR Keys For The Vegan:
A vitamin B12 deficiency is thought to be one of the top leading nutrient deficiencies in the world. And it plays a major role in so many aspects of our health: mood, hair and nail quality, proper digestion, mental cognition and more. Lack of this essential vitamin can cause a variety of health issues: pernicious anemia (related to the intrinsic factor), cognitive decline, premature graying, neuropathy, and memory loss.
The majority of vitamin B12 comes from animal products; which makes this vitamin pretty crucial to the vegan's health. To some degree B12 can be found in certain vegan options: fortified plant-based milk, nutritional yeast, algae (Spirulina) and sea vegetables.
B12 is critical to the bodies normal function. I experienced signs of deficiency early on in my vegan journey, although I was in the reference range (200-900 pg/mL). My PCP, who is vegan / vegetarian friendly, was concerned with my numbers and advised that I be put on supplements. He explained that although the B12 reference range is broad, ideally one should be within the 650-800 pg/mL mark - I was around 280. Thankfully, with the help of B12 supplements, my levels have increased since then!
I take TreolifeVM, it's a complete multivitamin that includes a generous amount of B12.
Omega 3's are essential fatty acids that are not produced in the body. They help assist with circulation, oxygen uptake, neurological function and cell membrane maintenance.
There are 3 types of Omega 3's: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The vegan diet offers a variety of ALA, one of the three amino acids, which is found in some plants, flaxseed, walnuts, and certain oils. On the other hand, DHA and EPA are the more preferred omega 3 sources (according to most practitioners) and are found in certain fish (Tuna and Salmon) and in micro-algae. Some suggest that ALA is sufficient for the vegan diet and other healthcare providers and nutritionist argue that the body needs all 3 fatty acids. With such polarizing views, you'll have to make this educated decision for yourself. Perhaps try it with and without to see if you experience any abnormalities. Due to the signs and symptoms I experienced, I personally think it is important to have all three omega fatty acids. I will say that I have noticed improvement just by adding a vegan Omega 3 supplement to my daily diet; it has granted me back my mental clarity and focus.
Some S&S associated with Omega 3 deficiency: soft peeling or brittle nails, attention problems, poor concentration, emotional sensitivity, and memory issues.
Vegan foods with ALA: flaxseed, walnuts, perilla oil, hemp seeds.
Vegan foods with DHA & EPA: Sea vegetables/ micro-algae and vegan omega 3 supplements.
I take TreolifeEFA, it's a formulation of Fatty Acid Oils (EFA's) with Vitamin E and Co-Enzyme Q-10.
Iodine is an essential mineral that helps make thyroid hormones; thyroid hormones help control the speed of metabolism. The body does not naturally produce iodine and it must be supplied by your diet or supplements. Lack of iodine can cause hypothyroidism, goiter (swollen thyroid gland), unexpected weight gain, dry flaky skin, and hair loss.
Vegan food sources that offer sufficient Iodine: e.g. mangos, iodized salt, kelp, dried seaweed or kelp supplements.
Vitamin D is a hormone that helps metabolize minerals and partners with calcium to strengthen and densify the bones of the body. Sufficient vitamin D and calcium throughout the lifetime can help ward off osteopenia and osteoporosis. The sun has the ability to supply humans with ample amounts of vitamin D; however, due to 9-5 office jobs that run the world and a "damaged the ozone layer", most don't get as much contact with the sun or are simply trying to avoid it. This new-age has got us chilling in the A.C, unlike our ancestors that lived in the pre-industrial age and spent many hours outdoors tending to their crops.
Lack of D vitamin can cause fatigue, depression, bone loss, hair loss, muscle pain and white spots on the nail bed.
Some vegan sources of Vitamin D: e.g. mushrooms, fortified orange juice, fortified plant-based milk, and then you've got the good ol' vitamin D supplements. If your vitamin D value is severely low, your PCP may recommend taking vitamin D3 50,000 IU (once a month) until your levels are normalized. Once your values are within the recommended range they may suggest either taking a lower dosage, 5,000 IU (once a week) or give you the green-light to transition into vitamin D rich meals.
Iron is a component of hemoglobin. It works hand-in-hand with oxygen transportation via the red blood cells. Lack of iron can cause insufficient oxygen transportation throughout the body; thus causing anemics to often experience cold hands and feet.
Lack of iron can cause cold extremities, hair loss, dizziness, fatigue, lightheadedness, brittle nails, pale skin and shortness of breath.
Some vegan sources of iron include: dark leafy greens partnered with Vitamin C, beans, dried apricots, blackstrap molasses, moringa - drumstick tree and iron supplements.
Probiotics help manage normal gut flora. When the bacteria in the gut is regulated it then facilitates in the process of nutrient absorption. A lack of normal microbiota can cause nutrient deficiency/ undernourishment. I always like to say, you aren't what you eat, but what you absorb!
Some vegan probiotics sources include: kombucha (my choice option), kefir yogurt, kimchi, and probiotic supplements.
Go Get Your Labs Done!
I consider these to be the most important supplements and food options in my vegan diet. S&S may vary from vegan to vegan; however, blood-work is one of the most practical indicators of basic nourishment! Make sure to visit your PCP if you are experiencing any of the S&S listed above. You can ask them to run a full panel blood test.
Stay Healthy, Stay Curious & Stay Nourished
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. There are no financial ties to any supplement companies, pharmaceutical companies, or to any of the products mentioned in this post. This post is not meant to treat, cure, prevent, or diagnose conditions or diseases and is meant for educational purposes. As always, please consult your doctor before trying any new treatments or supplements.