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Teen Vegetarian Sick, Tired, Craves Meat

Does this mean that maybe i should stop my vegetarian diet?

I'm 15 and i've been on a vegetarian diet for a little over a year, and lately i've been getting sick and worn down, i've become more tired as well. This week i've stayed home from school because of a low grade fever a nausea/headaches.

Could this be (vegetarian) diet related, because the only thing that sounds good to eat is meat. Every other food just sounds disgusting to me. Does this mean that maybe i should stop my vegetarian diet and go back to eating meat? - J. A.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice

Dear J. A.,

It sounds like you may be missing important vegetarian nutrition in your diet - such as B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, Iron, perhaps a few minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc etc. Not to mention protein. Being deficient in just a couple of those could make you feel like you do - pretty lousy. Maybe you want to eat meat because it will supply a lot of missing nutrients.

At 15 you're probably still growing, and that would make nutritional deficiencies even more likely. That's my best guess, but it could be something else. Best to find out for sure what the problem is. Go to a doctor for a checkup and blood tests for deficiencies.

It's up to you whether you eat meat. Sometimes if you become vegetarian quickly, and don't eat right, you have to go back to square one and start over. That happened to me in my early twenties. Read my bio for more on that sad story.

You can get everything you need from a vegetarian diet. But if you want to become vegetarian long term, it's helpful, necessary even, to learn about vegetarian nutrition, and how to feed yourself what you need for good health.

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It's best to get your nutrients from food, but nutritional supplements are a good backup, especially for someone in their teens. For right now, to give you a quick boost, I'd suggest starting on a good food based multivitamin. I recommend the women's one-a-day from Rainbow Light Vitamins.

You may need iron, but a lot of iron supplements don't actually go down well, or absorb well - they can cause constipation. Floradix is a good one.

Iron rich foods are whole grains, beans and lentils, green veggies, some herbs such as nettles, dried fruit, nuts and seeds, seaweed. Vitamin C rich foods should go with iron supplements, or iron rich foods, as Vit C helps absorption.

A multivitamin won't give you enough Vitamin B12, if you're deficient. You would need a separate B12 supplement. Methylcobalamin is more easily absorbed than cyanocobalamin, and sub-lingual tablets are best (dissolved under the tongue). Wonderlabs has a good product, which I use.

Go to this excellent page from the Australian Vegetarian Network, listing all the nutrients, their function in the body, and vegetarian sources.

I've attached the Savvy Veg Nutrition Report for you, and I recommend a book on vegetarian nutrition, 'The New Becoming Vegetarian', by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis. It's very easy to read and understand - a great daily reference. 'Becoming Vegan' is by the same authors.

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Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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