Our patients all know that we offer supplemental injections of the vitamins B6 and B12, but many probably don’t know exactly what these vitamins are used for. Below is a description of the vitamins and what benefits they can offer you. If you have any questions please be sure to ask us at your next visit!
B6 – (pyridoxine) is a water soluble B vitamin involved in more bodily functions than almost any other nutrient. It affects both physical and emotional health, but cannot be stored by the body. It is excreted in the urine, and the recommended daily allowance in adults is 2 mg/day, and even more is required for pregnant and lactating women. In fact, the human body requires B6 for the proper function of more than 60 different enzymes. A deficiency can be associated with over 100 different health conditions including heart disease, anemia, autism, asthma, carpal tunnel, diabetes, depression, epilepsy, immunity, kidney stones, morning sickness, osteoporosis, and PMS symptoms (especially food cravings, water retention, and hormonal imbalance).
Signs and symptoms of Vitamin B6 deficiency are characterized by depression, glucose intolerance, anemia, cracking of the lips/tongue, seborrhea (dandruff) and eczema, convulsions, and impaired nerve function, particularly brain function and the synthesis of our RNA and DNA. B6 is also crucial for the production of hydrochloric acid, which is essential for digesting food by breaking up fats and proteins. Hydrochloric acid also destroys ingested bacteria and other microorganisms. Adequate hydrochloric acid is necessary for proper absorption of protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and iron). B6 can also promote a better weight loss by its mildly stimulating effect on the thyroid.
B6 can be depleted by FD&C yellow#5, medications such as theophylline, dopamine, isoniazid, penicillamine, antidepressants, the diuretic hydralazine, and especially birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. Other conditions that can increase the risk of B6 deficiency include alcoholism and high protein diets (considered 25-35% of daily calories, rather than 10-15%).
Some common food sources of B6 include chicken, eggs, meat, spinach, nuts and seeds, brussel sprouts and cauliflower.
Note: B6 is one of the few water soluble vitamins that may become toxic if consumed in extremely large dosages (over 1000 milligrams a day) for extended periods of time.
B12 – Cobalamin, another B vitamin, is a bright red crystalline compound because of its high content of cobalt. It is the most chemically complex of all the vitamins, and due to the interestingly striking dark red color of its crystals, vitamin B12 has been called “nature’s most beautiful co-factor.” It is also considered special because even though it is water soluble, it can be stored in the liver for many years.
It works directly along with folic acid in many of the body’s processes particularly preventing anemia and regulating red blood cell and iron utilization. It is also involved in the synthesis of DNA, and the insulation sheath (the myelin sheath) that surrounds nerve cells and speeds the conduction of the signals along the nerve. This vitamin is also required for proper digestion and absorption of the food we eat, as well as cellular longevity. It prevents nerve damage, maintains fertility, and because of the protection of the myelin sheath, promotes normal growth and development of the nervous system. B12 is strongly linked with acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which assists memory and learning, and B12 may also assist in enhancing sleep.
The recommended dietary allowance of B12 is 2.4mg per day in adults, and more is required in pregnant/lactating women. Vitamin B12 is bound to protein when ingested, therefore hydrochloric acid and gastric protease in the stomach are required to release the free form. The free form of B12 is found in fortified foods and supplements, but must combine with intrinsic factor (produced by cells in the stomach) before it is absorbed. B12 injections provide higher available serum concentrations, and have been found to improve energy, help the body’s ability to fight stress, protect immunity, improve peripheral neuropathy, and even support thyroid function to help regulate energy.
Studies have shown that older adults, vegetarians, those who have undergone gastric surgery, those with pernicious anemia (lacking sufficient intrinsic factor), and those with gastrointestinal disorders such as Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease are at greater risk for B12 deficiency. In addition, drug interactions that can lead to B12 deficiency include proton pump inhibitors (ie omeprazole), H2 blockers (ie ranitidine), chloramphenicol, and metformin. It is recommended that B12 levels be checked periodically if you are taking these types of medications, and this should be discussed with your doctor. In addition, some studies indicate that taking calcium supplementation improved B12 absorption while taking metformin.
Common food sources include: eggs, seafood, milk, low-fat cheese and meat. Fortified cereals and yeast products can also provide B12 sources for vegetarians.
Note: All vitamins work together like an orchestra so take your daily multi and calcium (women) too! They are just as important.
Written by Greenlite Educator and Certified Nutritionist Elaine, and Greenlite staff physician Dr. Allison Helms.