B vitamins are critical for energy production, restful sleep, stress reduction, cognitive performance, and for proper functioning of the nervous system. If you’re running low on energy, have anxiety or depression, don’t sleep well, or have sluggish brain function, taking a high-quality vitamin B supplement may be your best bet even if you’re eating a nutrient-dense diet. Here’s a quick rundown of the health benefits of B vitamins.
B Vitamins And What They Do
8 vitamins comprise the vitamin B complex. Following is a list of the individual vitamins, along with the role they play:
1. Thiamine (B1) : Helps to convert nutrients into energy. Vital for the functioning of the nervous system.
2. Riboflavin (B2): Is an antioxidant, helps in the production of red blood cells and immune-system antibodies. Plays a role in metabolism.
3. Niacin (B3): Important for DNA production and repair, cell signaling, metabolism, and the production of hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach. Proteins cannot be broken down into amino acids without hydrochloric acid.
4. Pantothenic acid (B5): One of my favorite B vitamins that helps fuel healthy adrenal function.
5. Pyridoxine (B6): Needed for amino acid metabolism, and the production of neurotransmitters and red blood cells.
6. Biotin (B7) Regulates gene expression and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.
7. Folate (B9) Necessary for protein metabolism, cell growth and division, and red and white blood cell formation.
8. Cobalamin (B12): Is essential for DNA and energy production, neurological function, and the development of red blood cells.
The Health Benefits of B Vitamins
B vitamins benefit the body in many ways. They help enzymes do their job, are involved in cellular metabolism to release energy from fat and carbohydrates, and are needed for proper brain development and function. Several of the B vitamins, including biotin, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine act as coenzymes in the citric acid cycle to produce energy.
Also called the Krebs cycle or TCA cycle, the citric acid cycle is a series of chemical reactions that all aerobic organisms use to release energy through the oxidation of acetyl-CoA derived from food. Oxygen and nutrient transportation and red blood cell formation are also dependent on B vitamins.
A healthy appetite and digestion require B vitamins, as does good eyesight and muscle tone and contraction. B vitamins, notably folate (B9), is vital for preventing neural tube defects, like spina bifida and anencephaly, during pregnancy. Hormone production, healthy cholesterol levels, and optimal nerve function also require B vitamins.
|Necessary for healthy immune function||Needed for energy production & metabolism||Methylation & gene expression||Supports heart & brain health|
|Supports liver health||Promotes healthy gums, teeth, skin & hair||Promotes collagen synthesis||Prevents neural-tube defects|
|Regulates appetite & digestion||The anti-stress vitamin||Supports muscles, tendons, ligaments & joints||Reduces cancer & cardiovascular risk|
The Anti-Stress Vitamin
B vitamins are often referred to as the anti-stress vitamins because they work synergistically with the immune system to produce immune cells to defend against infectious agents. Healthy energy levels are associated with healthy immune function.
When energy levels wane the body is more prone to pathogens. This is why people with malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies are more susceptible to infections. B vitamins are necessary for optimal energy production in the body, and have also been found to reduce cancer and cardiovascular-risk.
You’ll want a daily dose of B vitamins to support collagen synthesis for healthy gums, teeth, skin, hair, and connective tissue. They’re also needed for methylation and gene expression, liver health, and healthy joints, tendons, and ligaments.
Conditions Associated With B-Vitamin Deficiency
Many of us today may not be getting enough B vitamins in our diet. Factors include: inadequate nutrition, unhealthy farming practices, genetic predispositions, age, alcohol-use, medications, medical conditions, or stress, all of which increase the need for vitamin supplementation.
For instance, older people have a harder time absorbing B12 from the food they eat due to decreased stomach acid, pregnancy and lactation obviously increase the need for B vitamins, particularly folate (B9), which is imperative for proper neurological development in the fetus.
People with diseases of the GI tract, including Crohn’s disease, colitis, and Celiac disease are prone to developing a B-vitamin deficiency caused by absorption issues, as are those who drink alcohol regularly. Bariatric surgery has been found to create a deficiency state as a result of alterations in the digestive tract and stomach acid.
Certain commonly prescribed medications can deplete B vitamins because of how they impact stomach acid and intestinal bacteria. Birth control pills, proton pump inhibitors, beta blockers, antidepressants, antibiotics, and metformin, a drug prescribed for PCOS and diabetes, can all deplete B vitamins.
Veganism and vegetarianism are also problematic as animal products contain plentiful amounts of B vitamins, whereas, they are not naturally-occurring in plant foods. The B vitamins were previously thought to exist in analog form in plants, but that has been found not to be the case. Methylation defects, such as having the MTHFR genetic mutation, can also increase the need for methylated B vitamins, particulary folate, B12, and B6.
B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning our bodies can’t store them, unlike the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. For this reason, it’s important to either obtain B vitamins from your diet or supplement every day to maintain your stores. Since our bodies excrete them on a daily basis, they must also be replenished daily.
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Signs You Need More B Vitamins
Symptoms that signal a vitamin B deficiency are dependent on the particular B vitamin that you’re lacking. For instance, a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause peripheral neuropathy, or numbness and tingling in the extremities, fatigue, confusion, and even dementia. In fact, low levels of B12 can mimic the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Immune dysfunction, declines in cognitive function, general malaise, problems with balance, loss of appetite, and weight loss are all possible symptoms associated with inadequate supplies of B vitamins. The potential symptoms caused by a deficiency can be quite diverse and varied.
Skin problems, including rashes, vitiligo, angular stomatitis, and hyperpigmentation may be caused by malabsorption of B12 and other B vitamins, especially if other reasons for the condition have been ruled out. Anemia is another symptom that could be indicative of not having enough B vitamins as they directly correlate with red blood cell formation.
Foods That Are Rich In B Vitamins
Eating a balanced diet is the best way to reduce the likelihood of developing a vitamin B deficiency. Supplementation will further cover your bases.
- Red meat
- Fish and seafood
- Liver and other organ meats
- Lentils, beans and chickpeas
- Wild rice and bulgur
- Nuts and seeds
- Wheat germ
- Leafy greens
- Citrus fruit
- Blackstrap molasses
- Sunflower seeds
- Nutritional yeast
- Fortified foods (breads and cereals)
Grass-Fed Desiccated Beef Liver Capsules
My favorite B vitamin supplement is grass-fed desiccated liver pills. Not only do you get impressive amounts of all the B vitamins in a food-based form, they’re also packed full of the fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, K, and E, in a highly-usable form. Vitamin A is in the form of retinol, or preformed vitamin A.
Liver pills are an extremely nutritionally-dense superfood. They’re a tremendous source of bio-available heme iron, CoQ-10, (which is an expensive supplement), choline, Hyaluronic acid, proteins, peptides, and the minerals zinc, copper, and chromium.
The cattle are humanely raised on pastures in New Zealand without the use of chemicals, pesticides, GMOs, hormones, fillers, or flow agents. The capsules are 100% freeze-dried to preserve the cofactors and nutrients. Liver pills stimulate the liver to detoxify, which is a considerable added benefit since we’re bombarded with toxicity on a daily basis.
Liver is loaded with nutrition, but unfortunately, most of us don’t have the stomach for it – or the nose. On the other hand, liver pills give you the best of both worlds. The capsules provide all the nutrition you’d get when eating liver, but without the drawbacks. They’re easy to take and are affordable.
B vitamins are necessary for the body to function normally. They’re the building blocks of good health. In a perfect world, eating a nutritious diet should assure you’re getting enough of these crucial vitamins, however, if you’re pregnant or nursing, are vegan or vegetarian, have the MTHFR mutation, are over 50, drink alcohol, or have underlying gastrointestinal issues, please consider supplementation.
Do you have any of the symptoms of a B-vitamin deficiency? Let me know in the comments:)
(1) healthline: B-Complex Vitamins: Benefits, Side Effects and Dosage
(2) Friday Harbor Drug: When Drugs Deplete Nutrients You Need
(3) The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association: Nutritional Deficiencies After Gastric Bypass Surgery
(4) National Institutes of Health Office Of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B12
(5) US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Multiple B-vitamin inadequacy amplifies alterations induced by folate depletion in p53 expression and its downstream effector MDM2.
(6) Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source
(7) ScienceDirect: Citric Acid Cycle
(8) Medicine LibreTexts: Vitamins Important for Metabolism
(9) MedlinePlus: Anencephaly
(10) BrainMD: Do You Really Need All 8 B Vitamins?
(11) Vegan Health: Vitamin B12
(12) US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Cutaneous lesions and vitamin B12 deficiency – an often-forgotten link
Disclaimer: This article is strictly for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice. Please be diligent and always do your own research in regard to any material I present on this site. I claim no responsibility for any distress, whether it be physical or emotional, that may occur as a result of the information you obtain from my blog.