Vitamin B Explained
B Vitamins are in the group of water-soluble vitamins. Excess vitamins are not stored in the body, but eliminated easily. Our bodies require a consistent intake of water-soluble vitamins to function.
Unfortunately due to industrial agriculture the nutrient levels in our soils are very low at best. If you are growing all your own organic food, using proper compost and fertilizer and picking it when its ripe, and you don’t have a compromised digestive system you may get enough nutrients. Lets be honest though, most of us are not in that category.
When severe deficiencies exist, simply eating more of the food that is deficient in nutrients will not help you. You will need to supplement.
B Vitamins are often referred to as “the energy vitamins”. They are a family of vitamins that are important for numerous functions in the body. These vitamins are crucial if you are experiencing prolonged stress. Your adrenal glands rely on ample B Vitamins to help you cope with stress.
B Vitamins are depleted much faster if you:
- Are stressed
- Eat the Standard American Diet (SAD)
- Drink alcohol
- Do drugs
- Have nerve issues like neuropathy
- Been sick or recently recovered from an illness.
Taking just one type of B vitamin at a time is not something you should do for a long period of time. Vitamins work together. Unless you have instructions from a Functional Medicine Doctor or Naturopath to take just one B Vitamin, stick with a complex. If you want to add more of one vitamin to your complex you can do that as well until your health issue is resolved. A good example of this is adding extra B12 if you have low levels in your body. Another example is extra B5 for adrenal issues or B1 for helping to restore nerve function.
Forms And Dosage
B Vitamins come in their standard form and also have a biologically active form. The biologically active form of the vitamin is good for people who have impaired absorption and digestive issues. It more easily penetrates the cell membranes. Absorption of the biologically active form increases 5 fold.
With B Vitamins, more is not always better. An example of this is taking high levels of Niacin. If you do this it can cause blurred vision, nausea and vomiting. Stick with the dosage on the bottle or the recommendation from a health practitioner or someone properly trained in the use of vitamins and supplements.
B1 – Thiamine
The active form is called Benfotiamine.
Thiamin helps with metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fat. It helps promote healthy nerve function and healthy aging. It is also responsible for proper nervous system and muscle function and the synthesis of DNA.
Specifically, the form Benfotiamine is very important to prevent the destructive process known as glycation. When your body is exposed to high blood sugar for long periods of time, this causes glycation. Benfotiamine blocks that process. Glycation can cause diabetic nerve damage in extremities and damage to your blood vessels and eyes.
High-sugar diets can also cause negative effects in the body. It produces accelerated aging of your cells and nerve damage. Thiamin can help combat this although you should still eliminate refined and artificial sweeteners.
Thiamin is also important for restoring the function of damaged nerves. 25mg 4x daily for 3 months can bring much healing and relief to damaged nerves. If you can’t find 25mg dosage, 50mg 2x daily can be taken.
B2 – Riboflavin
The active form is Riboflavin-5-phosphate.
Riboflavin helps your body convert protein, carbs and fats from food into energy. It helps with eye health, skin health and is necessary for normal cell growth and function.
You may be more susceptible to loss of B2 if you have a poor diet, have endocrine disorders, liver issues or chronic diarrhea. Oral contraceptives decrease the absorption of B2 and supplementation with a complex is advisable.
B3 – Niacin, Niacinamide
The active form is Inositol Hexaniconicotinate.
Niacin’s role involves converting protein, carbs and fat from food into energy. It helps your body with the synthesis of fatty acids, helps improve cholesterol issues and assists in regulating metabolic processes. This B vitamin helps your body to repair damaged DNA.
Deficiencies of niacin can cause a disease known as pellagra which involves dermatitis, insomnia, diarrhea, weakness, cognitive decline and death.
Niacin can cause uncomfortable flushing known as a “niacin flush”. It is completely harmless, but can have an uncomfortable sensation of warming and itching of the skin. Some companies use a sustained release niacin known as Niacinamide which doesn’t cause the flushing effect. Unfortunately there is a potential side-effect of liver damage, which of course is much worse than an uncomfortable “flush”.
Inositol hexanicotinate is a much better alternative if you cannot tolerate the niacin flush.
B5 – Pantothenic Acid
The active form is Calcium-D-Pantothenate.
Pantothenic Acid helps convert carbohydrates and fat from food into energy. It helps the body produce red blood cells, assists in healthy digestion and the production of hormones. It also plays a role in tissue generation, creating antibodies and promoting healing.
B5 is important for helping the body to produce hormones such as cortisone, and to produce hemoglobin. Your brain also needs B5 to create neurotransmitters. It can sometimes also help with wrinkles and gray hair (if the cause is a deficiency in B5 and not oxidative stress).
Deficiencies can include fatigue, neurological disorders including numbness, “burning feet”, cramping and weakness of the muscles.
The active form is Pyridoxal-5′-Phosphate.
Pyridoxine helps your body metabolize proteins and amino acids. Vitamin B6 helps the body release glucose that has been stores. It assists with hormone production and immune support. B6 also helps the body to produce neurotransmitters, which enhance brain health.
This B Vitamin is necessary for energy production in the body, tissue formation, red blood cells and healthy fat metabolism.
The Liposomal or active form (P5P) is preferred if you have impaired liver function or poor intestinal absorption.
B7 – Biotin
Biotin promotes healthy hair, skin, nails and mucus membranes. It is necessary to maintain cognitive function and helps your body to metabolize nutrients.
Deficiencies can include thinning hair, rash around the eyes, nose and mouth and fatigue. Low levels of biotin can also cause tingling in arms and legs.
Many biotin supplements come 1000 to 10,000mcg dosages. Start at a lower dosage unless you know your deficiency is very severe. Maintenance dosages for daily use should be on the lower side.
B9 – Folate or Folic acid
The active form is L-5-MTHF.
Folate helps the body to metabolize protein and amino acids. It helps the body to form red blood cells and DNA synthesis. B9 is very important for human growth and development, especially during pregnancy.
Folic acid is a synthetic compound that cheap supplements and foods that are fortified contain, which is not recommended.
Folate on the other hand, is derived from natural sources in leafy greens or biologically active supplements.
Anyone with a genetic polymorphism such as MTHFR should always supplement with the methylated (L-5-MTHF) form as folic acid can be harmful and ineffective in the long run for these individuals. There is no harm in supplementing with the methylated form if you are not sure whether you have a genetic issue.
B12 – Cobalamin (Methylcobolamin, Hydroxocobalamin, Cobamamide)
Cobalamin helps with food metabolism and producing energy. It helps the formation of red blood cells, DNA synthesis and promotes healthy brain and nervous system function. Vegetarians and vegans should supplement with B12.
Choose Methylcobalamin over the Cyanocobalamin form.
B12 is also necessary for your immune system to function properly. Many companies offer a sublingual tablet. This is a little tablet that dissolves under your tongue. It has direct access to your bloodstream and circumvents your digestive system. Our liposomal form is also highly bioavailable and is also good for people with compromised digestion and absorption.
For more information on using B5 specifically for Adrenal issues, please see this blog by Dr. Lam.