Supplement Sunday: B Vitamins
There are 8 different B vitamins : B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 & B12
Each of these B vitamins has a slightly different function and role, yet they work together as a team to support many processes in our body.
B vitamins may be used to support & improve:
nervous system health
brain health & cognition
fertility & pregnancy
ear, nose and throat health
liver & kidney health
bone and muscle health
Here are the B vitamins broken down individually:
B1: Thiamin ~ plays a big role in energy and supporting our nervous system. It may be useful for conditions involving our nervous system as well as overall cognitive support.
B2: Riboflavin ~ plays a big role in energy as well as the synthesis of our neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine (otherwise known as adrenaline). It is also highly involved in energy production and the synthesis/conversion of other B vitamins. This vitamin may be useful for preventing or treating migraines as well as psoriasis.
B3: Niacin ~ plays a big role in energy and our metabolic processes. This includes breaking down alcohol and other toxins and making other vitamins. More specifically B3 may be used to support and treat various heart conditions including high cholesterol. It can also be used topically to improve acne, wrinkles and photo-aging.
B5: Pantothenic acid ~ plays a big role in energy, and our body's ability to make fats, ketones (ever heard of the keto diet?), acetylcholine and our red blood cells.
B6: Pyridoxine ~ helps our steroid hormones (such as cortisol our stress hormone as well as our sex hormones) do their job, keeps our immune system strong, as well as metabolizes amino acids, fats and carbohydrates. This vitamin is often researched for its role in fertility & pregnancy as well as mental health.
B7: Biotin ~ think healthy hair, nails and nerves.
B9: Folate ~ Important during pregnancy due to it's role in DNA synthesis, neurotransmitter synthesis and nervous system support. This B vitamin works alongside B12 and can be used in a wide variety of conditions including those of the heart, skin, nervous system, immune system and overall health.
B12: Cobalamin ~ plays a big role in energy, the metabolism of our food, DNA and red blood cell synthesis as well as brain and nervous system support. This B vitamin is highly powerful and deserves its own post. This is due to its ability to support and improve heart health, skin health, gut health, bone and muscle health, neurological health, mental health and much more.
We can obtain most of these B vitamins through the foods that we eat.
Foods they can be found in:
This depends on the specific B vitamin but in general: fish, oysters, clams, beef, chicken, eggs, leafy green vegetables, enriched grains, nuts and dairy (yogurt, cheese, etc). These vitamins are also found in high quantities in animal liver products (for those of you that are adventurous...).
As with most vitamins and minerals, there are optimal levels within our body that we want to maintain.
What happens if we have too little?
Depends on the type of B vitamin but can cause any of the following: fatigue, insomnia, brain fog, depression, anxiety, headaches, muscle weakness, neuropathy, PMS, run down immune system, nausea, hair loss, dry skin, cracked lips to carpal tunnel syndrome and cardiovascular disease.
This is when supplementation may become necessary:
B Vitamins often come in a B-complex form. This includes different amounts of all of the B-vitamins for overall health effects. There are also supplements that contain just one or a couple of the B vitamins for more targeted effects.
What happens if we have too much?
In general, when these vitamins are taken in excess they can cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
Have you ever heard of the Niacin flush? Vitamin B3 can be used for heart health but has side effects such as heat, redness and itching. Luckily, there are many "non-flush" options out there now.
There you have it! A quick but thorough rundown of what B vitamins can do for us and our health :)
Bennett, M. (2001). Vitamin B12 deficiency, infertility and recurrent fetal loss. The Journal of reproductive medicine, 46(3), 209.
Bianchi, A., Salomone, S., Caraci, F., Pizza, V., Bernardini, R., & D Amato, C. C. (2004). Role of Magnesium, Coenzyme Q~ 1~ 0, Riboflavin, and Vitamin B~ 1~ 2 in Migraine Prophylaxis. Vitamins and hormones, 69, 297-312.
Dieticians of Canada. (2019). B vitamins. Retrieved from https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/B-Vitamins.aspx
Examine. 2020. Accessed online: examine.com
Gaby, A. R., (2011). Nutritional medicine. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, Concord NG.
Hodis, H. N., Mack, W. J., Dustin, L., Mahrer, P. R., Azen, S. P., Detrano, R., ... & Hwang, J. (2009). High-dose B vitamin supplementation and progression of subclinical atherosclerosis: a randomized controlled trial. Stroke, 40(3), 730-736.
Hvas, A. M., Juul, S., Bech, P., & Nexø, E. (2004). Vitamin B6 level is associated with symptoms of depression. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics, 73(6), 340-343.
Mahan, L. Kathleen., Escott-Stump, Sylvia., Raymond, Janice L.Krause, Marie V. (Eds.) (©2012) Krause's food & the nutrition care process /St. Louis, Mo. : Elsevier/Saunders,
Stanger, O., Fowler, B., Piertzik, K., Huemer, M., Haschke-Becher, E., Semmler, A., ... & Linnebank, M. (2009). Homocysteine, folate and vitamin B12 in neuropsychiatric diseases: review and treatment recommendations. Expert review of neurotherapeutics, 9(9), 1393-1412.