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To B11, B12 or Not to B? That is the Question……

Posted 12-13-2008 at 11:32 PM by shastastar
Updated 12-13-2008 at 11:40 PM by shastastar
There has been such a lively discussion on this topic that I felt it was worth its own blog entry. While we are all working very hard toward good health and vitality either within the context of a macrobiotic diet or outside that context, the question of whether to supplement or not to supplement is an important one. Wherever you fall philosophically on that spectrum, the next question is what supplements you may or may not need.

Now since blood tests can certainly root out many deficiencies and (so I don’t get sued) it is always a good idea to check with a medical professional before beginning any supplements. If you do make the decision then to use vitamin and mineral supplements then there is the question of the quality of the supplement you are using, whether it is synthetically generated / meat derived / or plant derived and of course then also how it is processed.

Kushi comments before his entry into the supplement market and infomercials that, “ Synthetic vitamins produce a wide range of effects depending on the source of the vitamins, the processing method and type of capsule used. On the surface, vitamin and mineral supplements can boost vitality and produce a glowing look, but deep within they can disturb natural digestive, circulatory, and nervous functions. Endocrine functions can easily be disrupted, as hormones are secreted in quantities that are too great or too little” (38 The Macrobiotic Path To Total Health)

Many times making the decision to use a supplement versus trying to get all of your vitamins and minerals from food is based on trying to correct a deficiency quickly in the short term. That is using a supplement for a few weeks / months to get your body in balance and corrected while bringing your diet up to speed to maintain the correction. To do this alone with food would usually be a much slower process and would in some cases require consuming large amounts of certain foods that throw off the macrobiotic balance as a whole. This is especially true if you have difficulties with absorption of vitamins and minerals which most of us in fact do. Remember that with each substance we put in our bodies, the great chemical reaction that is the human body changes and the stasis balance is maintained in a different way.

While the general consensus is that in the world of macrobiotics supplements are generally not thought to be necessary, it appears that recently there has been some movement on this issue ( See Previous Blog Entry “ Another One Bites The Dust”). Now I am not one to promote the nutritional supplement industry in any way shape or form. They seem to almost be as bad as the pharmaceutical companies, many managed by big business and developing what insiders call “neutraceutical” products that are basically plant derived drugs such as ephedra, ginseng, guarana, hoodia, etc that because they are naturally grown do not receive the same scrutiny, safety testing etc ( in the US) as pharmaceuticals, and also fall under a separate set of guidelines in terms of ingredient labeling etc than what normal food products do.

That being said, macrobiotic practices frown on the use of drugs in general as drugs are said to be extremely yin and not good in terms of a balanced dietary / intake approach. Many of the plant derived substances I mentioned above are promoted for metabolism, energy boosts, dieting etc but in my humble opinion would fall into the classification in macrobiotics as drugs. There are really not any nutritional / energetic necessities that can be obtained from these substances to prevent disease
So then there is a difference between taking a supplement for what I am going to coin as “vanity” purposes ( ie to speed weight loss or gain short term energy) and taking a supplement for “health” purposes ( ie to make up for a dietary insufficiency or some pre-existing condition that inhibits digestion of the proper amount of vitamins and minerals and herbs).

Since macrobiotics frowns on the use of drugs ( again consult your doctor before stopping or starting any medications or supplementation), from this point forward I will only be addressing the question of supplementation for “health” purposes. Bear in mind that those of us following macrobiotics are eating what would qualify as “unfortified food” meaning food that is not artificially vitamin fortified and therefore our exposure to these extra vitamin sources is much lower than the general population.

There was an interesting experiment that a professor of mine did at university where he took “Total” brand cereal and chemically extracted the iron that had been added to it and created metal iron filings right in front of our eyes. Yes small almost microscopic dust like pieces of metal had been sprayed on the cereal for its vitamin fortification process. And it isn’t just “Total”, almost all cereals are fortified using a similar micro powder coating process. I found a You Tube video that actually proves “Total” cereal is magnetic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9s8CbP7ExY

So many if not the majority of health practitioners pass out supplements to their patients for everything from iron deficiency, to weight loss assistance, to lower cholesterol, and numerous other health complaints. In the US when you become pregnant doctors are all too keen to pass out a large bag on your first pregnancy appointment full of samples of different pre-natal vitamins so that you can choose the one that you are the most keen on for your prescription. You can also get numerous different prenatal vitamin formulas over the counter ( without doctor permission) at your local market. I am not going to even get into the idea of whether or not to use prenatal vitamins while you are pregnant or nursing. I am not opening up that can of worms. There are many good reasons to take supplements during pregnancy as a preventative measure against deficiency. Folic Acid deficiencies in pregnancy are directly linked to birth defects including spina bifida and are in most cases prevented with supplementation. Adequate fatty acids such as Fish / Flax / Evening Primrose Oil are said to help with pre-natal brain development. Selenium deficiency in pregnancy has been linked to lung problems / asthma after birth.
Not to mention the fact that it is well known that your body will take everything it needs for the baby preferentially over the mother’s needs. Meaning that if your vitamin / nutrient intake is insufficient, the mother’s body will find what it needs for the baby and leave the mother deficient, which of course then leaves the mother in poor shape to nurse the baby after he or she is born. Good prenatal nutrition and diet is very important and supplements can assist a mother to be in staying healthy and nutritionally balanced during pregnancy and nursing.

From my experience most doctors are egregiously mis-informed or uninformed on how to recommend vitamins and supplements. They either are unaware, go with whatever the pharmaceutical rep that gave them the samples told them in their marketing companies pre-packaged literature or they recommend whichever brand is going to provide them with a free vacation somewhere to learn about the merits of their product.
In the US these practices are quite common for over the counter nutritional products ( such as Ensure which is handed out to doctors that treat cancer to give to their patients as a liquid food that helps combat nausea, and baby formula samples which are given along with a bunch of similar goodies to new moms at the hospital in the United States) as it is thought that because people respect their doctors, the recommendation carries more weight. Many doctors when questioned about supplements at least in the United States are either unaware or dismissive of concerns.

Most patients won’t think twice about something that their doctor recommends. We as followers of the grain in a macrobiotic context always question if there is not perhaps a better way. We find our own path, but how exactly do we go about charting a path that is outlined as mostly forbidden and not addressed in macrobiotic literature?

In my mind the most important thing when venturing down the path of supplementation is moderation. It is easy to get carried away with lots of different herbs or huge multivitamins that are difficult to swallow. In terms of yin and yang, supplements are similar in the body to eating an egg. Part of way eggs are considered an extreme food is because they contain an entire chicken. Eggs flood your system with all of that raw yang animal energy. Supplements have a similar effect even if they are vegetable based. They are a concentrated form of a vitamin or mineral that would normally slowly trickle out of your food and into your system, but instead the supplement floods your system with a concentrated yin ( in the case of vegetable herbal supplements). So moderation is definitely key.

Perhaps within the confines of a macrobiotic diet start with much less than what is recommended, see if the problem is solved, or if your system truly needs more. If you have digestive difficulties or are incapable of digesting certain substances, then you need to be extra careful with supplements. Also take care to balance the supplement against another energy in your diet by examining the source of the supplement ( vegetable or animal) and the other ingredients to find which foods you need to add to your diet to balance the supplement out energetically.

If you are following the macrobiotic diet then make sure that your supplements are vegan in origin. If at all possible, use the herbal plant source ( buy or grow in your yard) and brew your own tea rather than taking a pill. If you are going to use liquid herbs, look at the alcohol content as many herbal formulas are distilled in alcohol ( usually around 20%) and weigh this in terms of your macrobiotic energies / intake.

So now on to the named topic at hand, B 11 / B12 supplementation

While kelp / seaweed can be a natural source of B12, the vitamin and mineral content of sea vegetables in general is very dependent upon the ocean environment and what minerals are available in the water around the sea vegetables as they are growing.

Obviously then if you are eating farm raised even organic farm raised sea vegetables they are more limited in terms of their natural mineral exposure. If you are eating wild sea vegetables while the mineral content may be more diverse, it is kind of a roulette what you are getting. In the US to create food labels samples of food product are taken randomly and then analyzed in a lab which determines vitamin / caloric / mineral content. Based on an average of what they see in the sample.

Then at regular intervals new samples are tested and the labels are changed. In between who knows what the mineral / vitamin contents are. I checked all my seaweed packages this morning. None of them show any percentage of B 12 or B 11 because they are not required to for the most part in the US as follows in this quoted source


“The ability of a strict vegetarian diet to supply adequate amounts of B12 remains controversial, despite increasing evidence in support of vegetarianism and its nutritional adequacy. The controversy is fueled by two somewhat divergent schools of thought. One school emphasizes the fact that most animals, including humans, are capable of storing long-term supplies of B12.
In humans, these stores may last for twenty years or longer. Given this potential for storage, a daily requirement for B12 is regarded as highly unlikely.
A second school of thought, however, points to the unreliability of plants as sources of B12. For strict vegetarians who eat no animal products whatsoever, this unreliability may pose a problem. Since no plant is capable of making B-12, the amount of B12 in plant food depends upon the relationship of the plant to soil and root-level microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, molds, and fungi) which make the vitamin. Cultured and fermented bean products like tofu, tempeh, miso, tamari and shoyu may or may not contain significant amounts of B12, depending upon the bacteria, molds, and fungi used to produce them. The B12 content of sea vegetables also varies according to the distribution of microorganisms in the surrounding sea environment.
Unfortunately, reliable nutrient analyses are often unavailable for consumers of these products, and labeling for B12 content is not required. In general, tofus, tempehs, and sea vegetables tend to be more consistent sources of B12 than misos, tamaris, and shoyus. Depending upon the medium in which they are grown, brewer's and nutritional yeast can also be significant sources of B12 in a strict vegetarian diet."

So there you are, the B Vitamin level in plants is completely dependent on the soil in which it is grown. So I guess we can do the ultimate macrobiotic thing and grow our own food in soil that is richly fertilized with a natural form of B12 to make sure that the vitamin is readily available for the plants to absorb from the soil. Or count on your bodies ability to make and store B12 for long periods of time.

Bottom line is that there is almost always a choice to supplement or not to supplement, and that is a question that you need to use your own macrobiotic compass to answer. If you do supplement it’s best from a macrobiotic perspective to supplement sparingly and short term with vegan sources.
Total Comments 30


  • Old Comment
    Here's a couple just to get you started





    The second site is a little "iffy" in that there are opinions stated, and sources cited that I haven't had time to research yet, so may want to take that one with a grain of salt
    Posted 12-16-2008 at 06:09 PM by ostarella ostarella is offline
  • Old Comment
    Thanks Star-
    I didn't see anything in there that was specific to MB and parasites, that was more what I was looking for. Am I missing something in one of the articles you linked? #2 and #3 were more about B12 and I couldn't get the link on #4 to come up.
    I know about the problems associatied with parasites etc, I just was looking for something specific in Macrobiotics that addresses this issue.

    Posted 12-16-2008 at 07:15 PM by shastastar shastastar is offline
  • Old Comment
    Ah, sorry - thought you were just looking for general info. Haven't seen anything that really addresses MB specifically in this area. I think because it's more a "universal" problem in that anyone could be affected. But I'll do some further checking - it would be interesting to find out if there's some organic or natural way to get rid of any that might be present.
    Posted 12-16-2008 at 07:20 PM by ostarella ostarella is offline
  • Old Comment
    Thanks for that info.
    Ostarella - B12 is produced by bacteria so any fermented product may have it. If you know what yeast extract/marmite tastes like, if the Natto has a similar taste, it probably is a good source of B12?
    Don't recall anything about MB & parasites specifically. It is only v recently that the medical profession has accepted that stomach ulcers is associated with heliobacter infection. Perhaps MB to ease stomach ulcers would help with H infection too?
    Posted 12-17-2008 at 04:08 AM by deebeelicious deebeelicious is offline
  • Old Comment
    Finally found something from the MB "community" on parasites (although it's a bit old, I would assume it's still somewhat relevant


    Actually, there are a lot of interesting short articles on that site


    including this:


    which kinda ties in with DBs blog from today.
    Posted 12-18-2008 at 10:30 AM by ostarella ostarella is offline
  • Old Comment
    So they seem to be 'against' parasites!

    Interesting they mention roasted rice (and roasted adzuki beans) to remove the parasites. Someone else was telling they ate a lot of roasted rice as a snack, 'chew, chew, chew'!

    Hmmm, 2 separate suggestions for it - that's strong 'karma' I should try it?

    Edit - looks like some of them aren't too keen on Michio's new supplement either!
    Posted 12-18-2008 at 12:21 PM by deebeelicious deebeelicious is offline
    Updated 12-18-2008 at 12:29 PM by deebeelicious
  • Old Comment
    Here's another quote from Jessica Porter's book, which ties in with O's last link.
    "George Ohsawa told his students never to believe a thing he said. ..To believe blindly, without 'discovering' was to be a slave, so one must go out (and in) to find the truth, never borrowing it cowardly from another. ... After eating whole grains for a while (which are themselves natural and united), your preceptions may change. Have fun. Live. Don't be a slave to this book, or any other. In macrobiotics, to learn and explore as a free being is encouraged. Discover for yourself."
    Posted 12-18-2008 at 12:26 PM by deebeelicious deebeelicious is offline
  • Old Comment
    I think I need to start reading more George Ohsawa and worry less about Kushi, frankly.
    Posted 12-18-2008 at 03:55 PM by ostarella ostarella is offline
  • Old Comment
    I agree, George Ohsawa seems to have the upperhand in insight over Michio Kushi here. ... And I like it when teachers or writers tell you not to believe them and to start thinking on your own!
    Posted 12-19-2008 at 08:11 AM by asmay asmay is offline
  • Old Comment
    Agreed - the best teachers don't just teach you "things" - they teach you to think.

    As to Kushi, I'm just getting more and more disillusioned with him and his organization. It all seems to be about money and cashing in on the market. One can't help but think his philosophy has turned from the grain to the green...
    Posted 12-19-2008 at 09:11 AM by ostarella ostarella is offline
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