B-Vitamins are crucial to overall nutritional balance, nervous system and hormone regulation, but often difficult to maintain in adequate levels using diet alone. While a well-balanced diet helps to provide food sources, there are also factors that interfere with how you absorb B vitamins, such as eating a vegan or vegetarian diet, Celiac disease, Chrohn’s disease, frequent use of heartburn medications, a high intake of alcohol, and age is another factor – as we get older, we need larger amounts of some B vitamins.
A nutritional deficiency test for B vitamins is something I frequently recommend because you can have no symptoms at all or be conditioned to dealing with a variety of symptoms depending on what type of vitamin B you lack. Symptoms can range from fatigue and confusion to anemia or a compromised immune system, memory loss, anemia and many more including depression. Skin rashes also can occur.
Here’s a rundown of the most common types of vitamin B: what they do, which foods contain them, and why you need them:
Thiamin, also known as Vitamin B-1 is a critical energy nutrient involved in the conversion of food to energy, particularly carbohydrates. Thiamin also plays a key role in nerve, muscle, and heart function and is also essential for the body to metabolize glucose.
Severe B-1 deficiency is called Beriberi and can impair heart function, although severe deficiency is rare. Moderate deficiency can be been linked to chronic fatigue, gut issues, neuro and muscular degeneration, heart muscle damage, edema, and problems with eye health.
Thiamin deficiency can also cause various symptoms including depression, irritability, abdominal pain, weakness, and fatigue. Some of the foods that are high in Thiamin include pork, fish, asparagus, and brown rice.*
Riboflavin-5-Phosphate is the most bio-available form of Vitamin B-2. This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant which increases blood flow, protects the digestive tract, and is an important co-factor when taken with other B-Vitamins.
Vitamin B-2 also helps with the Thyroid by aiding the production of the Thyroid Hormone T4. It also helps the Adrenal gland secrete hormones making it a critical component of overall health.
B2 is all about energy, it is used in our bodies for metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, as well as for DNA and RNA metabolism. B2 maintains energy and is linked to healthy hair & skin. It also promotes the growth of organs, connective tissue, eyes, mucus membrane, and supports the immune system.*
Niacin, also known as Vitamin B-3 is used by your body to turn food into energy. It helps keep your nervous system, digestive system and skin health.
Niacin also helps with energy production as Niacinamide is a precursor of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which is essential for oxidation reduction reactions, nutrient metabolism and ATP synthesis
Important for health circulation, Niacin also supports the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Some of the foods which are high in Niacin include Tuna, chicken, pork, avocados and brown rice.
Vitamin B6 works with iodine and helps with thyroid hormones production. It is known as a balancing vitamin which is important when it comes to energy, vitality, and mood.
Vitamin B-6 also works as a co-factor involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters like Serotonin, Dopamine, Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, and Gamma-AminoButyric Acid (GABA) which is why it is so important for mood and mental wellbeing. Meat, bananas, and dark chocolate can be great food sources of Vitamin B6.*
Folate (also known as Vitamin B-9) is an essential nutrient, but especially when it comes to growth, the nervous system, and brain development. Folate is commonly found in prenatal vitamins due to the important for fetal development.
Folate also protects the heart by removing homocysteine, one of the causes of heart attacks. It is also involved in the control of cholesterol. One of the signs of folate deficiency is anemia which indicates how important it is. Folate can be naturally found in foods such as spinach, beef liver, asparagus, leafy greens, and avocado.* Look for L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate form of folate, because it is more easily absorbed than folic acid
Vitamin B-12 is crucial to health, especially in the areas of metabolic and cellular processes, red cell blood production, nerve, and neurological function.
Although you don’t need much, Vitamin B-12 deficiencies are surprisingly common, especially for people following plant-based diets as B-12 is primarily found in meat, fish and dairy.
Vitamin B12 deficiencies generally happen one of two ways. Either a person is not getting enough B12 in their diet, or they are simply not metabolizing the B-12 they are taking in.
Absorption issues can result from inadequate intrinsic factor (aka I.F, a protein secreted in the stomach which works with B-12), digestive enzyme issues, or organ damage from chronic illness like Crohn’s Disease and Celiac Disease among others.
Symptoms of deficiency vary depending on severity. The most common include fatigue, constipation, decreased appetite, tingling in the hands and feet, impaired memory, depression, and soreness of the tongue.*
Biotin (named after the Greek word for life (biotos), is an essential micronutrient which allows us to break down other nutrients for the body to use. Your body needs biotin to regulate blood sugar, and to maintain a healthy metabolism.
It also plays an important role working with your thyroid to stabilize hormone production, and helps your body metabolize fats and carbohydrates. Common sources of Biotin are: meat, eggs, yeast, and avocados are all sources of biotin.*
Pantothenic Acid, also known as Vitamin B-5 is a water soluble B-vitamin that plays a role in energy production, metabolism, and blood-sugar control. Pantothenic Acid helps to synthesize fat, carbs, and hormones like thyroid. adrenals, and sex hormones.
Pantothenic Acid is also a great immune system booster as it healps with gut health and the absorption of other nutrients. Pantothenic Acid is commonly found in foods like beef, chicken, beans, milk, and eggs.*
Here are my suggestions for high quality B vitamin supplementation:
Best for Stress: Thorne Stress B Complex
Free of all major allergens, including soy, dairy, and yeast.”
Best Certified Organic: Pure Synergy B Complex
“Even the fillers and tablet coating are organic.”
Best for Energy: Pure Encapsulations B Complex-Plus
“Helps improve mental and physical energy during the day.”
I always recommend taking a nutritional deficiency test and consulting with your doctor before adding any supplements into your routine.
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