As a journalist, I learn plenty of interesting things. Some stick with me, some don’t, and some have the potential to change my life.
This year has been a strange one for me. Even though nothing bad has happened, save for a few unexpected problems with the house, I’ve struggled with multiple bouts of the blues. These inexplicable feelings of sadness come out of nowhere and stay for a day or three, and then vanish as quickly as they appeared.
Being the analytical person that I am, I’ve tried to figure out where these troubling feelings were coming from. Did I need more exercise? More social contact? Was I worrying too much about things I couldn’t control?
I journaled. I went back to kickboxing, which had always helped me stay sane and happy in the past. I made a point of seeing friends on a regular basis. Everything I did seemed to be just a Band-Aid on the problem. While my “blue periods” didn’t seem severe or prolonged enough to be clinical depression, they were disturbing.
Complicating the problem were some minor health issues–more migraines and headaches than usual, and a stomach that still hadn’t recovered from my trip to Bali at the start of the year. I was about to drag myself to the doctor–reluctantly, since I had an inkling some nasty medical tests were in my future–when I was assigned to interview a naturopath.
As fate would have it, the naturopath specialized in digestive issues and mild depression and anxiety. At the end of our interview, I mentioned I was having some problems and would like to come and see her. As she provides 15-minute free consultations with prospective patients, she offered to tell me what she could right then, over the phone. After making sure she was truly okay with this and not in any way feeling pressured by my position, I told her what was going on.
In turn, she told me something that made my ears prick up.
She said the first thing she would do is check my levels of Vitamin B12.
This really struck me, since my medical doctor had diagnosed me with low levels of this vitamin years ago, and told me to “eat more red meat.” I took her advice for a time, but then went back to my normal diet of eating very little meat at all.
What my doctor didn’t tell me was how dangerous a B12 deficiency can be. If it’s left untreated, it can lead to blindness, cancer, and even death. (Which might have been a good thing to mention–I would have taken it more seriously.)
A quick Internet search confirmed the naturopath’s hunch–every single one of my symptoms, from exhaustion to the blues and mood swings to headaches and digestive issues, can be caused by a lack of Vitamin B12.
I didn’t have to wait for an appointment with the naturopath to test the theory. Taking a Vitamin B12 supplement certainly wouldn’t hurt me, so I started right away. It’s been four days now. Since then, I’ve had no digestive issues at all. I’m still tired, but I haven’t had a headache for the first time in weeks. It’s too early to say if the supplements will banish the blues, but I’m hopeful.
This got me to wondering…how many people are put on medication when a vitamin supplement is all that was needed? How many are going through the same thing I was?
Vegetarians and vegans are at a high risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency, since the vitamin is found in animal protein sources. Women who are on the pill are also at risk.
Have any of you heard of this problem or experienced something similar? I’m going to keep tabs on how I’m feeling and make that doctor’s appointment if there’s no change, but so far I’m feeling pretty good.
And to think it all could have been resolved with a simple reminder to take my vitamins!
* In hindsight, I should add that this post was in no way meant to suggest that some people do not need or benefit from anti-depressants. If you suspect you have clinical depression, please see your doctor.