B-vitamins are probably the most misused of all vitamins; here’s the lowdown:
- B vitamins are called B1, B2, B2… Because they are meant to Be together. Long ago, B vitamins were considered a single vitamin — just as vitamins C and D are today, but now scientists understand the Bs as a complex of chemically distinct vitamins often found in the same foods and functioning together and most efficiently as a group.
- The vitamin B-complex consists of 13 nutrients that have similar roles in acting as coenzymes in production of energy and in the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates (Tom Petrie, BS, CDN) B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12 and B17 — and the nutrients that are considered honorary B vitamins because they meet some but not all of the requirements of a classic B: PABA, biotin, inositol and choline
- Certain of the B vitamins can be manufactured by the healthy yeasts and bacteria of the gut microbiome
- All the B vitamins are multi-taskers – having their own benefits and also acting as catalysts and coenzymes (they enable processes that wouldn’t happen efficiently in the absence of B’s)
- They are all water soluble and are not stored very well in the body. Thus, they are needed daily to support their many functions. Deficiencies of one or more of the B vitamins may occur fairly easily, especially during times of fasting or weight-loss or with diets that include substantial amounts of refined and processed food, sugar, or alcohol.
- Because modern western diets are so highly processed, most of the population, even the ‘well-fed’ are deficient in B vitamins
- There are many deficiencies and no known toxicities of the B vitamins, so supplementing even in therapeutic doses is really of no concern
Those over age 65, vegans and vegetarians, and A and AB blood groups are less efficient at absorbing vitamin Bs, especially B12 through ordinary digestion because of a decrease in the acidity of the stomach
- Deficiencies in many of the B complex vitamins can cause symptoms relating to fatigue – muscle weakness, lack of coordination and wasting away of muscle mass are all possible symptoms. Pain or soreness in the muscles or joints may also result. In certain cases of deficiency, numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes may occur. Mental effects, such as confusion, headache, insomnia or irritability, may result from deficiencies in B complex vitamins. An increased sensitivity to light is another possible symptom. Anemia is also a common symptom of vitamin B deficiencies. Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, may also develop.
- B vitamins play a critical role in heart health. Bs are crucial to methylation, the process by which protein and DNA are produced and sustained in the body; they can lower levels of the amino acid homocysteine, reducing the risk of a cardiac event; and they are pivotal in creating neurotransmitters responsible for brain function and mood.
- The B vitamins are vital to the metabolism of all our cells and, in particular, the cells of the nervous system; together with vitamin C, they help maintain an efficient adrenal response to stress
- Stress is our number 1 robber of B vitamins. People with high levels of stress plough through much more vitamin B and therefor need to supplement in higher doses
Next week I’ll highlight each B’s purpose and deficiency symptoms and how best to rebalance.