On the social media sites I follow, the topics of Vitamins D, Vitamin B12, or fatty acids such as EPA and DHA seem to run in cycles.
Today’s whole food, plant-based doctors have differing opinions on whether or not we should add these supplements to our diets, so the confusion is understandable. Plus, many people are being advised by their health care providers to supplement (often because today’s lab test ranges are set too high, which turns everyone into a patient).
If you do have concerns, however, that you might actually be deficient in a certain vitamin or nutrient, Ulta Lab Tests is the organization I highly recommend where you can order your own blood tests. Right now the test for B12 is about $26, the Vitamin D test runs around $40, and the Omega-3/Fatty Acids test is $48. The variety of tests they offer is extensive! Plus they have sales year round, so prices may vary.
Here’s how it works: Create an account on their website, order the blood tests (and pay) online, and choose any one of the many blood draw facilities in your area for the test. Then print out the order. You can make an appointment at the facility or go on a walk-in basis. (Note: The printed order will tell you if you need to fast.)
Once you visit the draw facility, the results will post to your account online within a day or two. What you do with the results is up to you. If you truly have a nutritional deficiency, you have several options:
- First, determine if you’re truly deficient. Some labs, for example, consider Vitamin D to be low if it’s under 30 nanograms/milliliter (ng/mL); however, the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test is considered normal at 20 to 50 ng/mL. Less than 12 ng/mL indicates a deficiency.
- Monitor yourself while taking steps to be proactive with your diet and lifestyle, and then repeat the test in a few weeks. (I recommend a second test, no matter what. Too often we make health decisions based on ONE test, which I’ve seen backfire on many occasions.)
- Explore the root cause of why the deficiency exists:
- Low Vitamin D? How often do you get out in the sun? The sun is the source of 90% of our Vitamin D. Here’s how much sunshine you need.
- Low B12? Begin (or increase) your supplement. (Note: Vitamin B12 is the only supplement plant-based eaters are advised to take. Read why and how much we should take here).
- Low in Fatty Acids? Consider consuming ground flax seed every day. The body converts Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) into other fatty acids such as EPA and DHA. Here’s a good article on the topic by a pharmacist.
- Consider short-term supplementation, if warranted, to resolve the issue. But do your homework first! Many supplements are harmful when taken in high quantities.
- Of course you can always see your doctor if all else fails. Again, do your homework before agreeing to treatments. This topic is spelled out in detail in the “How to Manage a Temple” chapter of The “Plan A” Diet.
You are your #1 healthcare advocate! Take advantage of that privilege by being proactive in your health decisions. There’s a place for modern medicine, but you’re the one who will be affected by any and all medical decisions. Reap the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet, exercise, sunshine, and other wise lifestyle choices.