By Carol B. Blair, BS, CNC, DiHom
The B complex family of vitamins is extremely important for the nervous system, and a deficiency of even one can cause malfunction of the nervous system. Of course, they play other roles too because they are essential for all bodily functions from energy production to the formation of healthy red blood cells. The B vitamins are water-soluble so they are not stored in the body and need to be replenished regularly.
Some individuals have difficulty processing the B vitamins, and for those individuals I recommend co-enzymated forms that are more bioavailable. These are not typically found in the average B-complex vitamin, but our knowledgeable staff can help you find one. Food-based Bs are also easy for the body to assimilate.
Here is just a sampling of what the eight B vitamins in a typical B-Complex can do for you:
- B-1 (thiamine): one of the chief nerve relaxants; required to burn glucose and turn carbs into energy; deficiency can cause an enlarged heart.
- B-2 (riboflavin): necessary for red blood cell formation and for the metabolism of carbs, fat, and protein; reduces wrinkles around the mouth.
- B-3 (niacin): helps regulate gene expression, the synthesis of fatty acids, and cholesterol; a severe deficiency causes the 3 Ds–dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia.
- B-5 (pantothenic acid): a major stress nutrient; important for fatigued adrenals; converts choline to acetylcholine for proper brain function; reduces insulin resistance.
- B-6 (pyridoxine): responsible for more enzymatic reactions than any other B vitamin; important for the brain because it aids in proper gene expression, and the synthesis and function of neurotransmitters. Important minerals like zinc and magnesium can’t work without B-6.
- Folic Acid: helps form new cells; low folic acid causes certain anemias, some forms of restless legs, high homocysteine levels, and neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
- Biotin: is best known for hair, skin, and nails but it is also necessary for adrenal and thyroid function and balancing blood sugar. Requires vitamin E to work.
- B-12 (cyanocobalamin): must be converted in the body to the active form methylcobalamin so the latter is the better form. B-12 is necessary for proper cell division, good memory and energy. Methylation is important for detoxification and cancer prevention. B-12 helps reduce homocysteine and helps regulate the sleep cycle. Deficiency is associated with fatigue and poor memory as well as pernicious anemia which is fatal if undetected. This is best taken sublingually in the morning.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what B vitamins can do for you. Food sources include: legumes, nuts, brown rice, egg yolks, dairy, fish, and chicken. If you feel fatigued, depressed, or have a poor memory, I would highly recommend starting with a good B-complex. My favorite is Natur-Tyme’s B-Healthy which contains some co-enzymated forms for better bioavailability. It also has higher amounts of biotin for the hair and extra amounts of pantothenic acid for stressed adrenals.