B vitamins enable your brain to function better. Vitamin B2 can help migraine sufferers while B6 works with the brain’s neurotransmitters, particularly those that release serotonin. This can enhance your mood and relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Inositol also has mood-altering capabilities said to reduce depression and anxiety. Vitamin B12 and Choline may also help you reduce brain fogginess and improve memory.
B vitamins also speed up healing. B3 is used to increase a person’s energy to help with DNA repair and bodily healing. Pantothenic Acid works similarly to B3, but is more involved with actual wound healing. Biotin, when used in combination with chromium, shows promise to help blood-sugar control. The B vitamins have so many uses that taking a supplement can really improve your overall health.
B Vitamins Explained
Most of the B vitamins are recognized by their numbers: B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and B12. Others have names that people may also recognise, namely: Biotin, Choline, Inositol, Pantothenic Acid, and Para-Amino Benzoic Acid (PABA). B vitamins work in conjunction with each other, but also have unique benefits on their own. Folic acid, otherwise known as B9, is famous for preventing birth defects in pregnant women. Less well known is the fact that it is also useful for preventing cancer and lowering the risk of heart disease.
The B vitamins are actually a group of eight water soluble vitamins that often coexist in the same foods. When referring to all eight vitamins at once, it is known as the vitamin B complex. Each B vitamin plays a distinct role in metabolism and energy production. Eating a well balanced diet containing whole grain foods, meat, dairy, and vegetables is the best way to achieve a healthy balance of B vitamins. Oral Supplements are only partially absorbed but are sometimes medically necessary when absorption problems or malnutrition occur.
Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Thiamine can be found in cereal, meat, bread, rice, nuts, yeast, and corn. It plays a vital role in metabolism, nerve function, and generation of energy from carbohydrates. It is involved in RNA and DNA production and also plays an active roll in the Krebs cycle by converting carbohydrates to glucose. Thiamine can be used to treat anemia, paralysis, movement and memory disorders, energy loss and depression.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Riboflavin can be found in grains, meat, milk, peas, cheese, and eggs. Riboflavin plays an important role in maintaining mucous membranes, nerve sheaths, eyes, and skin. Riboflavin deficiency can lead to oral and skin problems as well as anemia. Riboflavin supplements can be used for preventing migraine headaches and cataracts and to treat blood disorders such as red blood cell aplasia and congenital methemoglobinemia. Riboflavin can cause the urine to turn a yellow-orange color, and large doses can cause diarrhea.
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Niacin can be found in meat, potatoes, legumes, milk, eggs, and fish. Niacin plays a vital role in metabolism and helps to maintain the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, and nerves. Niacin insufficiency can lead to a disease called pellagra which is defined as a set of symptoms that includes dementia, dermatitis, and diarrhea. Niacin is generally used for reducing high cholesterol and treating pellagra. However, cramps, nausea, itching, flushing and skin breakouts can occur if too much niacin is taken.
Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5)
Pantothenic acid can be found in legumes, meats, and whole grain cereals. Pantothenic acid helps with the breakdown of carbohydrates, amino acids and lipids. There is very little scientific evidence to support the use of vitamin B5 as a supplement.
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
Pyridoxine can be found in organ meats, fish, soybeans, butter, and brown rice. Pyridoxine plays an important role in metabolism and the production of amino acids. Low pyridoxine levels can lead to mouth irritation, skin and nerve damage, and confusion. Pyridoxine can be used to treat sideroblastic anemia and reduce high levels of homocysteine which is a substance thought to play a role in heart disease. An IV injection of pyridoxine can also treat some types of infant seizures. Overdoses of pyridoxine can cause nerve damage.
Biotin (Vitamin B7)
Biotin can be found in egg yolks, mushrooms, brewer’s yeast, and beef liver. Biotin is a critical coenzyme in the caroboxylation reactions of the Krebs cycle. It plays a vital role in the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose. Biotin is used to treat scaly dermatitis which is a skin disorder affecting mainly the scalp, face and torso. It is also used to treat hair loss, depression and exhaustion.
Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
Folic Acid can be found in liver, green vegetables, yeast and whole grain cereal. Folic acid is a very important vitamin for pregnant women because it plays a vital role in fetal brain and nerve development. It also helps with protein metabolism, DNA and hemoglobin synthesis, and red blood cell formation. Low folic acid levels can lead to birth defects, poor growth, mouth irritation and anemia. Folic acid can be used for reducing homocysteine levels in people with renal disease and to reduce the harmful effects of methotrexate. Large amounts of folic acid can result in poor zinc absorption and convulsions.
Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)
Cobalamin can be found in meat, liver, eggs, milk and poultry. It is the only B vitamin that does not exist in plants which can be a major concern for vegans. Like other B vitamins Cobalamin plays a critical role in blood cell formation, the metabolism of food, and DNA synthesis. Pernicious anemia, mouth irritation and brain damage are all major side effects of a Cobalamin deficiency. Most vitamin B12 deficiencies are due to the stomach’s inability to produce intrinsic factor which is an enzyme that helps the intestines absorb vitamin B12. Therefore, if vitamin B12 is administered it must be accompanied with intrinsic factor.
Vitamin B Deficiency
Vitamin B is available in dark green vegetables, grains, and meat, but the problem is getting enough in your regular diet. Deficiencies of vitamin B6 and B12 are very common in the general population. In addition, as one ages the ability to absorb vitamin B can become compromised, such as by stomach disorders or other prescribed medications. Pregnancy also draws heavily on your bodies vitamin stores. This is where supplementation is often considered.
Supplementation with B vitamins is usually done via a complex formula that has all 11 B vitamins in it; however, you can get just a single B vitamin if you prefer. For extreme deficiencies, shots of B12 may be recommended by a physician who wants to bypass the absorption mechanism altogether. Most people only need supplementation with capsules, tablets or liquids.
B vitamins shouldn’t be ingested on an empty stomach. They can make you nauseous if they are not taken with food. Ideally, the tablet should be taken after a meal and earlier in the day, not later. Since B vitamins boost energy levels, they can act as a stimulant and also cause a restless sleep. Look for supplements that have the recommended daily value and do not try to overload your system unless under a doctor’s orders to increase the levels substantially.
B vitamins tend to be very safe at recommended levels. However, they do turn the urine a strong yellow color, which is not harmful. However, if you take too much Niacin (B3), then you could cause some flushing and liver damage. You won’t be overloading your system with a regular multivitamin supplement, but sometimes doctor’s prescribed much higher doses of Niacin when they are trying to help patient’s control their cholesterol levels. One other vitamin with a serious side effect when taken in large doses is vitamin B6. It will cause nerve damage if taken in excessive dosages. To remain safe make sure that your vitamin B6 is only 200 mg or less each day.