If you have ever experienced fatigue, depression or anxiety, it may be caused by something as simple as a B vitamin deficiency. Collectively known as vitamin B complex, there are eight B vitamins that are essential to overall bodily function.
“We can’t survive without B vitamins,” according to Dr. Cory Tichauer of Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic in Medford. “B vitamins help your body repair itself.”
Dr. Kristin Plunkett of Naturopathic Medical Clinic in Grants Pass agrees. “B vitamins are necessary for metabolism, energy, memory and nerve cell health,” she says.
What do B vitamins do?
All B vitamins have different jobs according to Tichauer. “Certain B vitamins target certain conditions,” he says. “For instance, B6 is used for diabetes, numbness and tingling, depression and anemia. B1 is used for alcoholism. B12 is used for immune function. B5 and B12 are good for adrenal fatigue, for people under lots of stress, those who work the night shift. For muscle aches, try B2.”
B2 is also good for migraine relief, says Plunkett. “Research shows that B2, also known as riboflavin, can decrease migraines by 50%. Migraine sufferers who take 400 milligrams of B2 once a day can see results within three months.”
B vitamins are involved in the prevention of infections, growth of red blood cells, good eyesight and healthy brain function. B vitamins are also important for muscle tone, healthy appetite and cardiovascular health. “B3, in particular, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, and reduces plaque in arteries,” says Plunkett.
Who needs extra Bs?
“Pregnant women, people over 60, vegetarians and those with other health conditions will need extra supplementation,” Tichauer says. “For those struggling with severe fatigue, lassitude, brain fog, poor libido and generalized achiness, I would say that it is worth at least trying a B12 lozenge with a B complex for several weeks. Many clinics offer affordable walk-in B12 injections, which would be an even better option.”
Underlying health conditions, such as celiac disease, HIV, Crohn’s disease, kidney conditions, alcoholism, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, can prevent your body from absorbing vitamin B which can lead to deficiency.
“People who use proton pump inhibitors to block stomach acid should be particularly careful,” warns Tichauer. “Stomach acid is necessary to process B12. As we get older, our bodies produce less and less. Medications that reduce stomach acid can cause a deficiency.”
Plunkett reiterates the problem with acid blockers. “Stomach acid must be present to absorb B vitamins. A deficiency can cause pernicious anemia, which can create neuropathy. People who take these medications need injections or supplemental dosing of B6 and B12.”
Tichauer says the Food and Drug Administration sets daily requirements known as RDA (recommended daily allowance) for children and adults, but that these are the minimum needed to avoid deficiency.
“Given the polyvariant nature of B vitamins, all of them have some indirect impact on immunity, so I would always recommend a good B-complex with methylated forms of the B vitamins,” he says. “The most recognized B vitamins for immunity are B12, B6, B5 and folate. These supplements can be used on your own, but caution should be exercised when taking vitamin B6 as one can create problems if using too much. I would suggest the average consumer not use more than 50 mg of B6 unless under the guidance of a qualified health care practitioner.”