B vitamins are water soluble vitamins, which means they can dissolve in water and are not stored in the body. The body utilises them quickly and excretes any excess in the urine.
B vitamins are derived from a healthy, balanced diet, but they can also be taken in supplement form in either a complex formula or individually. Each one contributes to specific bodily functions and we may need more of some of these forms depending on what health challenges we face.
B vitamins are especially important for the nervous system and, as building blocks, play a vital role in maintaining energy levels, brain function and cell metabolism. They are also important for the production of red blood cells, proper nerve function, hormone and cholesterol production, cardiovascular health and healthy muscle tone.
In pregnancy, B vitamins are vital for the healthy development of the fetus. Shortages of these vitamins can result in miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and birth defects.
Signs of Vitamin B deficiency include:
- Cracks around the mouth
- Bleeding gums
- Scaly skin on the lips
- Swollen tongue
- Irritability or depression
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Poor methylation due to genetic variants
Certain underlying health conditions can prevent the absorption of B vitamins. These include:
- Celiac or Crohn’s Disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases
- Alcoholism or excess alcohol use
- Kidney disease
It’s also important to remember that certain medications deplete B vitamins and other nutrients so the need to use a supplement may apply for those on chronic medications.
The following make up the family of B Vitamins:
- B1 – Thiamine
- B2 – riboflavin
- B3 – niacin
- B5 – pantothenic acid
- B5 – pyridoxine
- B7 – biotin
- B9 – folic acid
- B12 – cobalamin
Methylation is a biochemical process involved in a wide range of functions in the body.
A molecule called a methyl group is added to another substance, such as DNA or a protein, which allows the receiving substance to be able to function optimally. In people with genetic variations, the enzyme production involved in the conversion and utilisation of B vitamins is compromised. This means that they would absorb a lower percentage of the vitamin than a person without the variation should it be in an unmethylated form. If a person knows that they have this genetic variation, it would be advisable for them to supplement with activated or methylated B vitamins.
Apart from healthy immune, nervous and cardiovascular system activity, methylation is important for the detoxification of heavy metals and for hormonal balance.
Methylation is an example of an epigenetic process that is essential for the maintenance and function of our DNA and thereby our heath.
B vitamins are important for a healthy methylation cycle. Vitamins B2, B6 and B12 are needed for the activity of enzymes used in the methylation cycle, whereas B9 (folate) helps to produce the necessary methyl groups.
Vitamins B5 and B6 are important for supporting the nervous system, cognitive function, mood and cortisol balance.
Since B vitamins are supportive of the nervous system, our requirements may be higher during times of stress.
Signs that you may need to support methylation are:
- Prolonged fatigue
- High homocysteine
- Family history of cardiovascular disease, anxiety or depression
- Low serum B12 and / or folate
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Chronic constipation
- Poor mood
- Genetic SNP’s
Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 10 September to learn more.
Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am