Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, helps the body turn food into energy. Since B vitamins are water soluble, the body can easily run out of B6, so it is important to consume foods that contain it. Some of the best sources of B6 include brewer’s yeast, wheat bran, wheat germ, liver, kidney, heart, cantaloupe, cabbage, milk, eggs, beef, green leafy vegetables and whole grains.
Vitamin B6 controls levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood, which may be key to lowering susceptibility to heart disease and stroke. It is also used to make several neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to another. These chemicals are important for processing thought and are responsible for telling the body to make hormones that influence mood and the body’s sleep cycles.
Women use vitamin B6 for premenstrual syndrome (PMS), depression related to pregnancy, the birth control pill, and symptoms related to menopause. A study found that 30 mg/day of B6 may help reduce morning sickness. Vitamin B6 is important for the health of babies because during pregnancy and infancy, vitamin B6 is used for brain development and to support healthy immune function.
Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods. The richest sources of vitamin B6 include fish, beef liver and other organ meats, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, and fruit (other than citrus). In the United States, adults obtain most of their dietary vitamin B6 from fortified cereals, beef, poultry, starchy vegetables, and some non-citrus fruits. About 75% of vitamin B6 from a mixed diet is bioavailable.
Isolated vitamin B6 deficiency is uncommon; inadequate vitamin B6 status is usually associated with low concentrations of other B-complex vitamins, such as vitamin B12 and folic acid. Vitamin B6 deficiency causes biochemical changes that become more obvious as the deficiency progresses.
Vitamin B6 deficiency is associated with microcytic anemia, electroencephalographic abnormalities, dermatitis with cheilosis (scaling on the lips and cracks at the corners of the mouth) and glossitis (swollen tongue), depression and confusion, and weakened immune function.
Individuals with borderline vitamin B6 concentrations or mild deficiency might have no deficiency signs or symptoms for months or even years. In infants, vitamin B6 deficiency causes irritability, abnormally acute hearing, and convulsive seizures.
End-stage renal diseases, chronic renal insufficiency, and other kidney diseases can cause vitamin B6 deficiency. In addition, vitamin B6 deficiency can result from malabsorption syndromes, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Certain genetic diseases, such as homocystinuria, can also cause vitamin B6 deficiency. Some medications, such as antiepileptic drugs, can lead to deficiency over time.
Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include:
- Weak immune system
- Itchy rashes
- Scaly skin on the lips
- Cracks at the corners of the mouth
- Swollen tongue
- Irritability or nervousness
- Can’t remember dreams
- Swelling of hands, feet or ankles
- Unable to close hands into tight, flat fists
- Soreness, tenderness, weakness of thumb muscles
- Greasy scaliness on skin near nose, mouth, eyes
- Muscular twitching
- Greenish tint to urine
- Poor co-ordination in walking
- FEMALE: Nausea of pregnancy; acne worse during periods; swelling of face, abdomen or extremities during menses
For people who stay within the recommended daily dose of Vitamin B6, or slightly above, the use of a supplement is likely to be safe, However in saying that, it is always best to check with a health professional before taking a supplement, especially for people with an existing health condition and those who are taking other drugs.
by Janice Buckler
Janice Buckler, BSc, RHN is the owner of Natural Legends Nutritional Consulting and a Registered Holistic Nutritional Consultant™ professional using BioScan MSA (meridian stress assessment) Technology which can help detect many illnesses and so natural remedies can be set up that works for “you”.
To learn more about Holistic Heath and BioScan MSA Technology for to my website at natural-legends.com or follow me on Twitter @JaniceBuckler