Did You Know...? Importance of B-Vitamins

Many people ask me what are the most important supplements to take, and in response, I wrote this blog some years back. In summary, I generally recommend a high-quality multivitamin, probiotics, omega-3 and vitamin D. And then additional supplements based on individual needs (always in accordance with your doctor/health practitioner).

But on top of these, I find more and more patients show symptoms of benefitting from additional B Vitamins.

Studies show that vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the leading nutrient deficiencies in the world, leading to anemia and many other health issues. Like most other B-vitamins, vitamin B12 is needed for liver detoxification, hormonal balance, helps with stress/adrenal fatigue, benefits your mood, energy, memory, heart, skin, hair, and digestion!

One key reason for this deficiency is STRESS. The current epidemic of stress is depleting our supply of B vitamins, and that ends up robbing of us energy (and more). Also, not eating a wide variety of healthy, nutrient-dense foods can also impact us (often vegetarians/vegans come up short!). Other factors linked to b-vitamin deficiencies include weight-loss surgeries and long-term use of birth control.

  image: nutrafol.com

image: nutrafol.com

I always recommend a B-complex during my detox programs, as it supports detoxification pathways. But for so many people, it's beneficial to take some extra B-vitamins on a regular basis (and to make an extra effort to get your b-vitamins from food, too).

So why are B-vitamins so important, and who benefits from taking a supplement?

The complex of B-vitamins are crucial in order to stay healthy, happy, energetic, to keep hormones balanced (and fertility strong), hair/skin healthy, and to keep toxins from accumulating in your body.

There are many signs that you may be low in come b-vitamins, including:

  • anemia
  • low energy
  • weak and brittle hair
  • imbalance in your hormones (including fertility issues)
  • unstable mood / depression
  • high levels of stress
  • muscle weakness and numbness

B vitamins are often recognized as a group (as they mostly work in synergy), but each of the B vitamins performs a unique and important function in the body. For a bit more detail, here is a list of the individual B-vitamins that you want to include in your daily diet (and why):

  • Cobalamin (B-12). Vitamin B12 is primarily known for its role in production of red blood cells, and ensuring we get enough oxygen to all the cells in our body. Also, as mentioned above, B12 is key for the activation of the liver detox pathway that helps detox the heavy metals and histamines. B-12 has important effects on your mood and supports a free flow of neurotransmitters. It also helps the body to secrete melatonin. (So have trouble sleeping? You may be low in B12!)

Note: Nowadays, we’ve discovered that a large part of us have MTHFR mutations (an estimated 70%!) so its recommended to find a supplement of B12 in methylated form (methylcobalamin) to better absorb and utilize the vitamin.

Food sources include: animal protein (especially liver), fish & seafood (including wild salmon and cod), eggs, tempeh, bee pollen, sea vegetables/seaweed and algae (including chlorella, spirulina).   

  • Folic Acid or Folate (B-9). Folate (like B-12) is a needed inducer of several of the detoxification pathways. It breaks down homocysteine, an inflammatory agent produced by the liver if not properly converted. Folate has direct mood elevating properties, helping to boost serotonin production. For childbearing women, folate in the system will help to prevent neural tube defects and their resulting brain and nervous system damage to the baby. It also supports healthy sperm production in men.

Food sources include: dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, bananas, cantaloupes, beans & chickpeas, liver

  • Biotin (B-7), is a water-soluble vitamin needed for the metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids and glucose. This means that when we eat foods that are sources of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, we NEED vitamin B7 (biotin) in order to convert and use these nutrients for proper psychological functioning. Biotin is also key for supporting the health of our hair, nails and skin.

Food sources include: organ meats (liver), eggs, avocado, cauliflower, berries, fish (like wild salmon), legumes and mushrooms.

  • Pantothenic acid (B-5). Pantothenic acid provides support for both Phase I and Phase II detoxification, and more specifically, the elimination of inflammatory substances. It plays an important role in production of adrenal hormones and is vital for coping with stress. All the steroid hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, will be produced only with sufficient B-5 in the system.

Food sources include: avocado, mushrooms, liver, soybeans, banana, collard greens & broccoli, sunflower seeds, lentils, broccoli, brown rice, eggs, whole grains

  • Pyridoxine (B-6). Sufficient levels of B6 keep the liver functioning optimally by promoting the proper flow of fat and bile to and from the liver. Also, B6 has one of the most dramatic mood-elevating effects of all the B vitamins. It can help to correct brain metabolism dysfunctions that cause depression. It heightens serotonin production. It binds to estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, helping to detoxify excess amounts of these steroid hormones, helping to reduce the risk of hormone-related cancers.

Food sources include: spinach, walnuts & peanuts, eggs, fish, chicken/turkey, beans, sea veggies/seaweed, whole grains

  • Thiamine (B-1). Thiamine is needed to produce energy. Like all the other B-vitamins, it activates Phase I of detoxification in the body (where foreign substances are initially broken down into intermediates for excretion). Balanced levels of thiamine also support energy and mental clarity. Thiamine also helps to metabolize glucose. Note: Women addicted to carbs/sugar are often thiamine deficient!

Food sources include: eggs, liver, whole grains, nuts & seeds, peas, legumes, seaweed and most vegetables

  • Riboflavin (B-2). Deficiency in vitamin B2 can inhibit Phase II of liver detoxification (that eliminates bacterial toxins). B2 is also necessary for essential fatty acid metabolism, which improves energy production in certain nerve cells. B2 is involved in proper thyroid function. And lastly, it's key for healthy hair. Without sufficient B2, hair strands could not be built properly and you hair may appear dry and brittle.

Food sources include: whole grains, legumes, green leafy vegetables, chicken, fish, seaweed

  • Niacin (B-3). Like B1, B3 supports Phase I detoxification. Niacin also helps to regulate blood sugar levels. It also has an indirect effect on serotonin levels (“feel-good” chemical), because the body uses tryptophan (the amino acid that is the precursor to serotonin production) to produce niacin. Niacin also promotes the release of growth hormone. Lastly, it supports healthy hair by ensuring your hair follicles receive the needed nutrition.

Food sources include: liver, turkey & chicken, sesame & sunflower seeds, brown rice, whole grains, barley, almonds & peanuts, seaweed.

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Which B-Complex Supplement is best (and when to take one)?

For some people, especially when depleted, it’s hard to get all the needed B vitamins from food, and that’s when a supplement is extremely helpful. I especially recommend taking one: when doing a detox (and usually recommend a gentle food-based detox/elimination diet), if/when you’re extremely stressed, when you suffer from hormonal imbalances, if trying to get pregnant, or if you’ve been on the birth control for a long time. However, ALWAYS check with your doctor and health practitioners before taking any supplement.

I generally suggest looking for a B-complex that has all of the above vitamins, and ideally in their metabolically active form (so we can use them readily without having to convert them, especially for those with MTHFR genetic defect (methycobalamin). Most importantly, I always suggest looking for a HIGH-QUALITY supplier, and make sure it’s made with non-GMO ingredients, free of gluten, dairy, soy, yeast, sugar, and artificial colors.

I take Jarrow B-RIght, and other recommended brands include: Thorne Research Basic B complexIntegrative Therapeutics Active B-ComplexPure Encapsulations B-Complex PlusMegaFood B-Complex and Garden of Life Raw B-Complex (these last 2 come from real food which I like). Again, make sure to check with your practitioner to see which is right for you.

Love and detoxifying, mood-enhancing, hormone balancing B-Vitamins,

Mariana