In my practice, there is rarely any time that I say something would be good for everyone. B vitamins are one exception.
B vitamins are involved with many biochemical reactions in the body – especially the nervous system. They are crucial to energy production within your cells. B5 is especially important in adrenal (stress) function and immunity. B6 is important in the synthesis of most neurotransmitters, which transmit messages in the central nervous system, and metabolism of amino acids, which are the building blocks to neurotransmitters. B12 is essential for myelin synthesis and therefore optimal neurological function.
The most common mental-emotional symptoms of B vitamin deficiency include tiredness, nervousness, irritability, depression, foggy headedness, insomnia and PMS. Neuropathy, fatigue, difficulty walking, dizziness, nerve pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and pernicious anemia are common manifestations in the physical body. Skin rashes, mouth sores and chapped lips can also be a sign of deficiency.
Your body does not synthesize B vitamins on its own. B vitamins are water soluble, which means your body doesn’t store them. You must get them in your diet (or supplements) daily. When under high demand, the body can become deficient in as little as 3 weeks. The body’s demand for B vitamins also increases with age, pregnancy, poor dietary choices like sugar and caffeine, vegan diet, medical conditions like cancer or digestive disorders, genetics, medications like birth control pills, antibiotics, ulcer/GERD medications, anti-depressants and alcohol or cannabis use.
With a balanced diet, it is easy to get good amounts of B vitamins daily. Foods like whole grains, meat, seafood, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, raw almonds, sunflower seeds, dark leafy vegetables, mushrooms and avocado are great sources of B’s. Brewers yeast, or nutritional yeast, is incredibly high in many B vitamins and is a tasty addition to many foods like salad dressing, stuffed peppers, pasta and popcorn.
Something that can feel overwhelming when selecting a product to try is knowing how to choose the right one for you. Twenty-five percent of the population has a genetic mutation called an MTHFR deficiency – this means we can’t “methylate” well or convert some key nutrients into their active form. Selecting an activated B complex is essential. Look on the label for pyridoxal-5-phosphate or “P5P” instead of pyridoxine (B6). Make sure folic acid is 5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF. B12 will be listed as methylcobalamin and B2 as riboflavin-5-phosphate. If that sounds like too much to remember, just ask your natural health care provider or health food store employee which B vitamins are activated and they can point you in the right direction.
Another consideration is B vitamin injections. When taken orally, we absorb less than half of what we ingest. A shot will bypass the gut and allow the vitamins to directly enter the bloodstream, offering 80% to 90% absorption. If you have lower digestive vitality, gastro-intestinal issues, pernicious anemia, are over 50 years old, or feel like you’re particularly depleted, B vitamin injections should be strongly considered.
Side effects can include flushing, nausea if you take them without food, or difficulty sleeping if you’re sensitive and take them at bedtime. Most of these symptoms resolve once your body has adjusted to taking them. If you’re looking to boost your energy, cognitive function and mood, increasing your intake of B vitamins might just do the trick!
Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.