Why You Should Be Taking B Vitamins | sheerluxe.com

Why You Should Be Taking B Vitamins

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The human body needs 13 different vitamins to survive and thrive, but did you know B vitamins account for eight of these? Playing an integral role in our wellbeing, the vitamin B complex – spanning from B1 to B12 – is responsible for myriad aspects of our health, be it supporting a healthy immune system and metabolism to helping our bodies convert food into energy. But with so many B vitamins, and each serving a very different function, where to start when it comes to supplements? We did some delving...

First things first – why are there so many B vitamins?

The vitamin B umbrella spans vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin). Together, these vitamins are referred to as the vitamin B complex – they work both collectively and individually in the body and are often found in the same foods. However, it’s worth noting that they are also a group of eight chemically distinct vitamins, with each one performing unique functions with specific benefits.

So are each of the B vitamins equally important?

Not exactly. While we need all B vitamins for healthy metabolic and nerve function and to provide us with the mental alertness and energy to simply get through the day, not all B vitamins are created equal. As Dr Frank Lipman explains, the two most important Bs are B12 and folate (B9). B12 is crucial to the proper functioning of your brain and nervous system, which means it plays a vital role in mental clarity and focus as well as in emotional balance and calm. “Lack of B12 makes your body more vulnerable to physical and emotional stress. It’s crucial we have adequate amounts of this vitamin, especially as the body can’t produce it on its own – it must be sourced from our diets,” he adds.

Folate, meanwhile, is a key defender against brain fog, irritability, depression and other responses to physical and emotional stress. It also helps you repair DNA and has significant anti-ageing benefits. Moreover, it’s essential for pregnant women as a deficiency can cause neurological birth defects.

Although the terms folate and folic acid are used interchangeably, it’s important to know the difference. “Folic acid is a synthetic type of B vitamin used in supplements and fortified foods, while folate is the natural form found in foods,” explains Dr Lipman. The other important B is B6 – it’s involved in over 100 cellular reactions throughout the body.

Okay. What are the signs of a deficiency?

It depends on what type of vitamin B you lack. The most common deficiency is B12 deficiency, which is relatively common (up to 40% of us, according to recent studies). It causes lethargy, fatigue, weakness, anaemia, memory loss, neurological problems and even psychiatric problems. Vitamin B deficiencies in general can cause all sorts of ailments ranging from headaches, irritability and confusion to a weak immune system, dry skin, frequent bruising and wounds that require a long time to heal. Muscle weakness, a lack of coordination and numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes are also common symptoms of a deficiency. If you’re unsure whether you’re deficient, it could be worth getting tested – make an appointment with your GP.

How do you become deficient in the first place?

While a poor diet can often lead to deficiency, those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol (alcohol denatures the structure of B vitamins) could also be at risk. At the same time, if you suffer from Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease or have an immune system disorder such as Grave’s or lupus, it could be worth getting checked out. You can also develop a deficiency if you follow a vegan diet or are a vegetarian who doesn’t eat enough eggs or dairy products to meet your B12 needs.

Where can you find B vitamins?

Rich sources include meat such as turkey and liver as well as plant sources like legumes, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, chilies, tempeh and molasses. Interestingly, fermented foods also help the gut to synthesise and supply B vitamins, so if you don’t eat kimchi, sauerkraut or kefir on a regular basis, invest in a good-quality probiotic and take daily.

On a Similar Note

What about spirulina? I’ve heard this is a great source of B12?

This is an interesting one – while many health practitioners claim algae such as seaweed, spirulina and chlorella are rich in B12, they actually contain pseudo vitamins that look and act like the vitamin, but may not be used by the body in the same way. 

Is it possible to consume too many B vitamins?

B vitamins are water soluble and eliminated in urine so it’s tricky to overdo it. Side effects are uncommon although taking particularly large doses may cause temporary nausea, insomnia and restlessness. The only exception is B6 – taking too much over a prolonged period of time can result in neurological problems.

Should you be taking a daily supplement?

With B vitamins involved in so many of the body’s operations, it’s easy to see how coming up short can affect how well you feel on a given day. In this light, countless health experts agree that treating your body to a B complex supplement is a no-brainer, especially if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Recent studies have also suggested pregnant women could benefit from taking additional B3 (as well as B9) in order to prevent miscarriages and birth defects such as heart, kidney, vertebrae and cleft palate problems.

What should you look out for when buying a supplement?

When buying a B complex supplement (a cocktail of all eight of the B vitamins), keep in mind that roughly 50% of us have a genetic mutation that makes it difficult to process some of the Bs. Dr Lipman suggests looking out for ones containing methylated forms of folate and B12 to feel the maximum benefits.

B12 Complex, £10.25 | Terranova

B Complex Plus, £22 | Wild Nutrition

B-Complex B6, £6.90 | Viridian

 

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