You don’t choose a vegan or vegetarian diet because you want to feel tired and depleted. You choose it because you know it can have a positive impact on your health, and the health of our planet. You know you can feel amazing and energized by eating a plant based diet.
But still. You have the question, IS my plant-based diet meeting my nutritional needs? Maybe you have seen your Medical Doctor and had your B12 checked. Maybe you intuitively know that must be more that you can look at to assess your plant based diet. Well, there is.
Plant Based Panel (aka the Vegan and Vegetarian Panel)
Complete blood count with differential
Looking at the size and shape of your red blood cells, as well as the numbers and health of your white blood cells. Essential for identifying anemia associated with low iron, low B12, or low folate.
The most well known nutrient deficiency in vegans. And for good cause. Low levels can cause long term nervous system damage and increase the risk of strokes and heart disease.
Vitamin D (25-OH)
A major health concern for Canadians, low levels of vitamin D are associated with osteoporosis, bone pain (including low back pain), increased incidence of colds and flus and long term risks of cancer. Dairy products are supplemented with vitamin D, and many supplements are not vegan friendly, leading to potentially higher rates of deficiency in people eating a plant based diet.
The storage form of iron, low ferritin levels can identify iron deficient anemia. Levels in vegans and vegetarians may be normal, but lower than the optimal range for energy production.
Total iron (TIBC)
Ferritin provides only a partial picture of iron levels. To have a comprehensive understanding of iron status the TIBC test is recommended. This helps you to understand how well your body is binding to, and using iron.
A by product of the breakdown of muscles, people eating an exclusively plant based diet often have lower than average levels of creatinine. However, very low levels can indicate that protein in the diet may not be sufficient. For this test to be accurate you should not do any intense physical exercise for at least 3 days prior to testing.
Another measure of protein status, low levels of albumin can indicate that a person is not getting enough protein in their diet. Other conditions can cause low albumin, so this test is done with basic liver and kidney function tests.
Liver function tests (ALT and AST)
Essential for detoxification and the maintenance of good health, a liver function panel is recommended for everyone, regardless of their diet.
While plant based diets are naturally low in artery clogging saturated fats, some people have a genetic tendency towards high cholesterol levels. So even with a plant based diet, lipid (cholesterol) screening is recommended every few years.
Getting the Panel
I offer the Plant Based Panel at both of my Toronto clinic locations. It can be done during the first visit, or during any follow up visit. I use LifeLabs to perform the blood draw and results are typically back within a week. As a Naturopathic Doctor my laboratory tests are not covered by OHIP, but they may be covered by your private health insurance plan. If you have questions, or want to book in and get your levels checked, just get in touch!