Why Are B Vitamins So Important?
Many of our patients receive vitamin B-12 injections and have their vitamin B12 blood levels checked at their visits to our office. And I have been giving these injections and also advising patients of their B12 blood tests when those results come back from the lab. People want to know: why is this so important? What can I do to increase my levels of B vitamins? Let’s take a closer look!
The B vitamins are important for the formation of every cell in your body, particularly nerve cells. They aid in the transfer of energy from food elements to the body. They are considered to be “co-enzymes”, that is, they activate body enzymes. These enzymes perform thousands of essential activities in every body cell. Some B vitamins help to break down carbohydrates into glucose for energy, while others help to break down fats and proteins, aiding in the normal function of the nervous system, both mental and physical. Still others are responsible for the health of our hair, skin, and eyes. They promote cell growth and division, including that of red blood cells that help prevent anemia.
Research has shown that the B vitamins, particularly folate, B12, and B6 help lower homocysteine levels in the body. This is particularly important because homocysteine is a compound that attacks the heart muscle and encourages cholesterol deposits around the heart.
One of the first signs of B vitamin deficiency is fatigue. This symptom can be related to anemia or to simply not having enough B vitamins in your system for proper brain function. Long-term deficiencies can manifest as headaches and inflammation, as well as more serious ailments like depression, anxiety, or dementia. Adequate intake of B vitamins has also been hypothesized to reduce the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD or ADHD).
We all need folic acid (folate or vitamin B9) to help with the fomation of red blood cells and for gastrointesinal health and skin integrity. Symptoms of folic acid deficiency include nausea, diarrhea, ulcers, vomiting, sore tongue, and cracked skin on the lips and at the corners of the mouth.
Women of child-bearing age need adequate intake of folic acid. This is because the developing fetus needs folic acid to grow cells, tissue and organs. Inadequate levels of folic acid prevent closure of the Neural Tube of the fetal spine and brain, resulting in Neural Tube defects such as anencephaly (absence of the brain) or spina bifida (an opening in the spinal cord resulting in paralysis).
You can see that the B vitamins are crucially important for our health and well-being. Now let’s look at what foods are rich in B vitamins. Except for brewer’s yeast, there is not one single food that contains all of the B vitamins, although there are several foods that contain all but one. Eggs are one of the best foods rich in B vitamins, while alfalfa is the most well-rounded herb. Sources of at least four different B vitamins include mushrooms, chicken, beef, fish, cheese, milk, yogurt, whole grains, wheat germ, peas, green leafy vegetables, and broccoli. Vitamin B12 is almost solely found in animal sources, so vegetarians and vegans should take a supplement or eat brewer’s yeast on a regular basis.
The B vitamins are “water-soluble” vitamins. This means that they are excreted in the urine and can be fairly quickly eliminated from the body. Also, as we age, these vitamins become increasingly difficult to absorb, just at the time when they play a vital role in preventing or slowing memory loss and other mental degeneration. So it is important that we take supplements at every age to ensure that our bodies have these vital nutrients.
We have a variety of B vitamin supplements available at our office. Talk to your practitioner about which are appropriate for you!
Blessings to you,