What are the functions of the various vitamin B and the symptoms of deficiencies?
- Vitamin B1 – Thiamin. Helps to convert carbohydrates into energy and acts a as a cofactor in the metabolism of amino acids, glucose and lipids. Without an adequate amount of thiamin in the system, the immunological response that produces antibodies against an invading pathogen suffers. Deficiencies of this result in beriberi characterized by a loss of reflexes, loss of speech, burning and tingling throughout the body and muscle wasting.
- Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin. Helps to metabolize fats and medications, regulates skin health and plays a role in energy production, growth and development. It is also a cofactor in the reaction of other B vitamins and without enough riboflavin, we start to notice symptoms including cracked lips and burning eyes.
- Vitamin B3 – Niacin. Plays a role in building a compound known as NAD and its co-partner, NADP. These are critical to mitigating the damage of chronic systemic inflammation and the vitamin is also crucial for helping to protect against cholesterol related disease. Deficiencies of niacin manifest as a condition known as 'Pellagra' which is characterized by the 4 D's: dermatitis, dementia, diarrhea, and eventually death.
- Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid. This vitamin has the ability to reduce inflammation and benefits wound healing. Though deficiencies can show up as depression, insomnia, burning feet and fading hair colour.
- Vitamin B6– Pyridoxine. This vitamin has an inverse relationship with inflammatory markers including IL-6 and TNF-α while symptoms of deficiency include weakness and sleeplessness.
- Vitamin B7 – Biotin. This important vitamin is critical for four major enzymes known as carboxylases that help us synthesize fatty acids and metabolize amino acids for energy. Without enough biotin, you may notice brittle nails, decreased appetite and hair loss. Early research has also looked at the role of high-dose biotin in treating multiple sclerosis.
- Vitamin B9– Folic acid. This vitamin is critical for the metabolism of amino acids and the proper division of cells, especially the red blood cells! When pregnant women lack folic acid, the fetus can develop sometimes lethal neural tube defects and healthy people can develop anaemia with large red blood cells.
- Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin. Like folic acid, this plays a large role in the division of red blood cells and also the function of nerves and brain cells. Without enough vitamin B12, cells have trouble communicating leading to fatigue, chronic pain, infertility and cognitive decline.
What is the best way to consume B vitamins to ensure they're absorbed into the body?
Depending on the source of the vitamins, their absorption into the body, a metric known as bioavailability, can differ for each one. Many are absorbed in a part of the small intestine known as the jejunum, but there are many factors which can impair its absorption including alcohol. When dietary absorption ranges from 11-65% for vitamin B12, one can see how factors that interfere with its absorption could put us at risk of deficiencies.
What foods contain B vitamins?
Lots of foods are good sources of vitamin B, but some have a greater amount of a specific nutrient than the others.Vitamin B12 for instance, is richer in steamed shellfish such as clams or mussels, although for those with a shellfish allergy, you may want to turn to baked salmon instead or dairy products. Vitamin B1 can be found is wholegrain and nuts; bananas and legumes are a good source of vitamin B6; avocados and yogurt are rich in B5 while B9 can be found in dark, leafy greens such as spinach or broccoli.
Are there ways to improve nutrient absorption?
An in-vitro study was performed using a plasmolysed yeast whole-food preparation known as Bio-Strath. This study used human intestinal cells and exposed one set to the formula. Various nutrients were added to each dish and the intestinal cells exposed to Bio-Strath demonstrated a higher uptake of minerals and vitamins including iron, magnesium, zinc and thiamin. The uptake of thiamin, for example, was 10x higher than the cells that were not exposed to the preparation.
When the gut is inflamed, it reduces the ability of the intestinal cells to absorb nutrients. The Western world has a diet that is high in omega-6 and low in the anti-inflammatory omega-3s. The focus should be on boosting omega-3 in the diet to help subdue gastrointestinal inflammation so you better absorb dietary and supplemental nutrients. Sources of these important agents are cold-water fatty fish such as herring, salmon or mackerel as well as nuts and seeds. Vegan options such as VeganOmega3 are also available, and forego the fishy aftertaste!