Send in the B-Team: All About Vitamin B

There’s just no way around it. Essential vitamins are essential for health fitness and longevity, and none more so than the B vitamins. They do everything from helping to metabolize proteins and carbohydrates and help keep your energy levels up, to keep your brain healthy, to calming your nerves, keeping your muscles strong, aiding in digestion and supporting heart health. In men, B vitamins also support healthy testosterone levels and B vitamins play a critical role for pregnant women in preventing birth defects.

CAN YOU TELL IF YOU’RE DEFICIENT?

The short answer is, maybe. The problem is, our body usually doesn’t give us feedback on nutritional deficiencies until the deficiency is so severe, and so long standing, that symptoms actually develop. The further challenge with the B vitamins is that they are water soluble vitamins which means they are not stored in the body beyond a very brief window (a day or two depending). That makes dietary intake, either with foods or supplements, or ideally both that much more important. Here are some major signs of B vitamin deficiencies: digesting and intestinal issues like intestinal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, or nausea; nerve related issues like neuropsychiatric disorders, depression or anxiety, confusion or numbness or tingling in the feet and hands (peripheral nerve issues); artery damage from high homocysteine levels; skin issues like rashes, scaly skin on lips, cracks in the corners of your mouth; fatigue, anemia and weakness.

SO WHERE DO I GET B VITAMINS?

We always should look to eating the best, most well-rounded, nutritious diet first, and then supplement to offset any deficiencies. That said, foods in general have low concentrations of nutrients (in terms of milligram doses), and the nutrients they do have can be destroyed by cooking, cutting, refrigerating and storing. While it is very difficult to find foods with all of the B vitamins, the below are decent sources of one of more in the family: dairy such as eggs, milk, and cheese, organ meats like liver and kidney as well as chicken and red meat, fish, shellfish, dark green vegetables, whole grains, cereals, soy products and yeast. Remember, while one or two B vitamins can often be found in a particular food, you will likely be missing some or many of the other family members – and that is before cooking.

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?

The RDAs (government advised recommended daily amounts) are notorious for be low (often by a huge margin) as they don’t consider lifestyle, stress, underlying health conditions which can reduce nutrient absorption (such as various intestinal/bowel disorders), alcohol and activity factors. If you are working out regularly, the RDAs will likely NOT cover your needs. So consider them and absolute minimum.

For men, the recommended daily intake is:

• B-1: 1.2 mg
• B-2: 1.3 mg
• B-3: 16 mg
• B-5: 5 mg (RDA not established)
• B-6: 1.3 mg
• biotin: 30 mcg (RDA not established)
• folic acid: 400 mcg
• B-12: 2.4 mcg

For women, the recommended daily intake is:

• B-1: 1.1 milligrams (mg)
• B-2: 1.1 mg
• B-3: 14 mg
• B-5: 5 mg (RDA not established)
• B-6: 1.3 mg
• biotin: 30 micrograms (mcg) (RDA not established)
• folic acid: 400 mcg
• B-12: 2.4 mcg

CAN I TAKE TOO MUCH?

You’re unlikely to get too much vitamin B complex from your diet. That’s because B complex vitamins are not stored in the body as they are water soluble.  That means they are excreted in your urine daily.

That said, mega-dosing on any one particular B vitamin, such as niacin can cause a “niacin flush” which can feel uncomfortable and yield red blotches. If you megadose on B vitamins in general, taking many doses per day when you don’t have a deficiency, other symptoms could include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, skin conditions or excessive thirst.

WHY SUPPLEMENTS?

As mentioned above, even the best foods will likely not be able to deliver all the B vitamins you need in the right amounts to support optimal health and physical performance.  And too consider that you will probably need supplementation if you are a vegetarian or eat a vegan diet, are older (50+), are pregnant or have various health conditions (some of which are  mentioned above. Consider, or talk to your doctor about, the daily intake of a high potency B-complex supplement with a wide range of the B vitamin family.

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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.