B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that exists in three major chemical forms: Pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine.
Being water soluble it is necessary to replace this vitamin every day from your diet and B6 plays such a crucial role in so many functions of the body that a deficiency can have a huge impact on your health.
What is B6 necessary for?
It is required for over 100 enzymes that metabolise the protein that you eat. Along with the mineral Iron, it is essential for healthy blood. The nervous and immune systems also require vitamin B6 to function efficiently. It is also necessary for our overall feeling of wellbeing as it converts the amino acid tryptophan, which is essential for the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin in the brain.
Without B6 you would not be able to manufacture haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. Once the haemoglobin is produced the vitamin also helps increase the amount of oxygen it can carry. A deficiency therefore is one of the leading causes of anaemia and I shall be covering the components that make up our blood and the most common forms of anaemia during the next few days.
Without a healthy immune system we are at the mercy of any bacteria or virus that takes a fancy to us. A complicated biochemical interaction is required to ensure we can fight off infections; the food that we eat plays a vital role in producing the white blood cells that form the defence system. B6 ensures that the food that eat is metabolised efficiently thus producing enough of these cells.
Additionally B6 helps keep your lymph system healthy by maintaining the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes. The lymph system runs parallel to your circulatory system and is the battleground for the white blood cells and the viruses.
Blood sugar levels can fluctuate depending on the types of food that we eat particularly carbohydrates. If you are not eating sufficient calories your body uses B6 to convert stored carbohydrate or other nutrients to glucose to maintain normal blood sugar levels. This is one of the reasons that people on crash diets can suffer dizziness and fatigue. Without sufficient intake of food they are not replenishing their B6 on a regular basis. Because they are taking in too little calories for their body to function and they do not have B6 to convert any stored energy, they become weakened.
The balance of chemicals in our brain affects our feeling of well-being. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin and dopamine are required for normal cell communication. In research lower levels of serotonin have been found in people suffering from varying degrees of depression and also migraine headaches. The research is not conclusive but at B6 is needed for the manufacture of these neurotransmitters it makes sense to ensure that there are adequate amounts being taken in through diet.
What are the signs of B6 deficiency?
With a balanced diet, which includes wholegrains and fruit and vegetables, it is unusual to find a B6 deficiency in a healthy adult.
- The elderly are more at risk due to reduced intakes of food resulting from lack of appetite and a general wearing down of internal systems and functions such as food metabolism.
- People who are perpetual dieters and in particular those who follow restricted food type diets are at risk as well, although unfortunately it is usually only when the deficiency has become critical that the symptoms might appear.
- One of the early signs will be changes to the skin with inflammations such as dermatitis.
- Another affected area is the mouth and Glossitis is a condition where the tongue becomes swollen and sore.
- Because of the role of B6 in our chemical balance within the brain, depression is not unusual.
- A lack of B6 may have an impact on PMS symptoms and also regularity of periods.
- In severe cases a person might suffer convulsions and as you will see from the post later in the week on anaemia, the quality of our lifeblood is compromised.
- Alcoholics tend to eat poorly which will restrict both their intake of B6 and its availability but alcohol also causes the destruction and loss of any B6 that is consumed.
- If you have an asthmatic child and they are on the prescribed medication theophylline they may require supplementation with B6 as the drug destroys B6 in a similar way to alcohol. You must talk to your doctor first however before taking or giving anyone B6 if they are already taking a prescription drug.
- Taking too much vitamin B6 in supplementation form can lead to some nerve damage particularly in the arms and legs. This might result in tingling sensations or numbness. Usually the symptoms disappear when the supplementation is stopped. Do talk to your doctor before stopping the supplement if you are taking it on his advice.
What are the areas where increasing intake of B6 in food or supplements might be helpful?
- Certainly I have found that adjusting a woman’s diet and including B6 rich foods has helped with PMS and menopausal symptoms. Scientists are still debating the effects of B6 in supplement form on these two conditions and there is some evidence that suggests taking B6 in supplement form is less bio-available and therefore could lead to toxicity. I use a spray form of multi-vitamin that contains B-complex including B6 which is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
- There is some evidence a deficiency of some of the B vitamins including B6, Folic Acid and B12, may result in increased levels of homocysteine, which is an amino acid in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are linked to heart attacks and strokes due to its ability to damage arteries or encourage platelets to clump together as a clot.
Best food sources of Vitamin B6
As always I prefer to include nutrients within our normal diet and as you will have seen from the previous posts on the other B vitamins, there are many foods that you can include daily that will ensure that you have sufficient B6 for normal function.
These foods include wholegrain carbohydrates like brown rice, porridge oats, walnuts and sunflower seeds, bananas, avocados, salmon and tuna, dried fruit such as prunes and raisins, eggs, wheatgerm, poultry and meats such as lamb.
©sallygeorginacronin Just Food For Health 1999- 2018
A little bit about me nutritionally.
A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.
All available in Ebook from: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2
And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6
Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html
Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally