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The B-Complex: Your Brain and Body's Best Friend

Updated: Feb 2

B vitamins get a lot of hype, and for good reason. This powerful family of nutrients is vital for a healthy mind and body. But what exactly do they do? Let's break it down.

Each B vitamin has a specialized role. Vitamin B1 keeps your nerves and heart happy. Vitamin B2 helps turn food into energy. Vitamin B3, the "chill pill," calms inflammation. Vitamin B5 forms healthy fats. Vitamin B6 builds proteins and red blood cells. Vitamin B7 makes enzymes for glowing skin and hair. Vitamin B9 prevents birth defects. And vitamin B12, the memory vitamin, sharpens focus.

Together, the B vitamin crew work as a team to power cellular functions throughout your body and brain. Deficiencies can lead to fatigue, confusion, and cardiovascular issues. That's why it pays to get enough from a balanced diet.

The best sources include meat, eggs, dairy, leafy greens, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains. Different foods specialize in different B vitamins, so eat a variety to reap the benefits. A B-complex supplement can also fill any nutritional gaps.

Give your body some B vitamin love. Your cells will thank you!

Can B vitamins help with chronic illness? B vitamins have been shown to be helpful with some chronic illness symptoms.

**All B vitamins are water-soluble. Toxicity with B vitamins is rare. Please ask a certified nutritionist or medical care practitioner for the recommended dosage.**

A table filled with vegetables and fruit with the caption vitamin B in a banner across the table.

B1 also known as thiamin

B1 plays a vital role in the growth and function of various cells. It also breaks down nutrients for energy. Only small amounts of B1 are stored in the liver, so a daily intake is necessary. A deficiency is rare, as most people meet the daily needed amount through their diets. However, if you are deficient it can affect the brain and heart. Signs of deficiency include but aren't limited to weight loss, memory loss, confusion, muscle weakness, peripheral neuropathy, and lower immunity. Thiamin is destroyed with high heat cooking or long cooking times and much of it is removed during food processing. Some foods rich in B1 are eggs, pork, green peas, sunflower seeds, asparagus, salmon, liver, avocado, fish, beef, oranges, spinach, brown rice, legumes, chicken, pistachios, sweet potatoes, tofu, yogurt, broccoli, and acorn squash. Some benefits of thiamine are boosting energy, helping fight depression, helping with sleep (along with B2).

B2 also known as riboflavin

B2 is a key component of coenzymes that give us energy, help grow cells, and break down fats, steroids, and medications. B2 is not stored in the body so a daily intake of B2 is necessary. Long-term deficiency of B2 can lead to some cancers and brain and heart disorders. Signs of a B2 deficiency include but aren't limited to a sore throat, swollen tongue, hair loss, skin rash, anemia, red eyes, and cracked lips. Groups at higher risk for B2 deficiency are pregnant women, vegans, and vegetarians. Some foods rich in B2 are spinach, almonds, salmon, chicken breasts, organ meats, eggs, cheese, milk, and yogurt. High doses of riboflavin have been shown to help prevent migraine headaches.

B3 also known as niacin

B3 works in the body as a coenzyme, it helps convert nutrients into energy, create and repair DNA, and exert antioxidant effects. Niacin also helps create cholesterol and fats. A B3 deficiency is rare since it's found in so many foods. Some of the symptoms of B3 deficiency are depression, memory loss, fatigue, and headaches. Groups at a higher risk for B3 deficiency are people with limited diets and alcoholism. Some foods rich in B3 are red meats, fish, brown rice, poultry, nuts, bananas, and legumes. Five science-based benefits of niacin are helping with cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure (a large study showed a 2% decrease), lowering the risk of type 1 diabetes, boosting brain function, and improving skin health.

B5 also known as pantothenic acid

B5 is used to make coenzyme A, which is a chemical compound that helps enzymes to build and break down fatty acids. B5 performs metabolic functions and helps in building fats. A B5 deficiency is rare, except for those that suffer from malnutrition. Some symptoms of B5 deficiency are muscle cramps, headaches, fatigue, trouble sleeping, numb hands or feet, stomach cramps, vomiting, and nausea. Some foods rich in B5 are broccoli, oats, brown rice, eggs, potatoes, yogurt, milk, nuts, avocado, mushrooms, beef, organ meats, and chicken breast. Possible benefits of pantothenic acid are relieving stress, improving heart health, building stamina, improving skin and hair health, and boosting the immune system.

B6 also known as pyridoxine

B6 is needed to break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It's also needed to maintain normal levels of homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. B6 supports immune function and brain health too. Signs of a deficiency are depression, confusion, lowered immunity, anemia, and skin conditions like dermatitis which is a red, greasy, scaly rash. Some medical conditions can interfere with absorption and put a patient at higher risk for a deficiency, like kidney disease, Crohn's disease, alcoholism, autoimmune disorders, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis. Some foods rich in B6 are tuna, salmon, chickpeas, poultry, beef liver, dark leafy greens, bananas, papayas, oranges, and cantaloupe. B6 helps create serotonin, which helps control your moods, mental stability, sleep, and cardiovascular function. B6 has been shown to help in beating panic attacks.

B7 also known as biotin

B7 helps assist enzymes in breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Vitamin B7 deficiency is rare, alcoholism can increase the risk of a biotin deficiency, as alcohol can block the absorption of B7. Some of the signs of a B7 deficiency are brittle nails, thinning hair, and scaly rashes around the eyes, nose, and mouth. Some foods rich in B7 are nuts, sweet potatoes, pork, avocados, salmon, eggs, and beef liver. Some of the benefits of B7 are improving hair and skin health, rebuilding tissue, assisting with cell growth, promoting fetal development, supporting nerve health, stabilizing blood sugar, boosting energy and mood, supporting thyroid function, and lowering cholesterol.

B8 also known as inositol

B8 is not actually a vitamin. Inositol is a type of sugar that influences both the body's insulin response and several hormones associated with mood and cognition. B8 has shown to be helpful in combating obsessive-compulsive disorder (according to Health Central).

B9 also known as folate

B9 is better absorbed from food sources. Approximately 85% versus 50% absorption through supplements. Folate helps form DNA and RNA and is involved in protein metabolism. It also breaks down homocysteine, an amino acid that is harmful to the body in high amounts. Folate is necessary to produce healthy red blood cells and is critical for rapid growth. Folate is a vitamin that is very important for fetal development and is often recommended during pregnancy. B9 deficiency is rare, however, there are conditions that put some patients at a higher risk like alcoholism, pregnancy, intestinal surgeries, and people carrying the MTHFR gene. Some of the signs of a B9 deficiency are weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, becoming winded easily, brain fog, hair loss, mouth sores, pale skin, and irregular heartbeats. Some foods rich in B9 are eggs, seafood, liver, whole grains, fresh fruits, peanuts, sunflower seeds, legumes, and dark greens. The benefits of folate are assisting in digestion, supporting brain and nerve function, adding in proper blood cell function, supporting the liver and heart, and improving hair, skin, and nails.

B12 also known as cobalamin

B12 is necessary for forming red blood cells. It also helps in brain function and development as well as the development of nerve cells. B12 also is needed to form DNA. Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in children ages 6 to 18 and very common in adults ages 19 and older. Measuring the B12 in the blood is not the best way to test for a deficiency. Blood levels of methylmalonic acid and homocysteine are better for detecting a B12 deficiency. Some of the signs of a B12 deficiency are various types of anemia, weakness, fatigue, tingling hands and legs, confusion, dementia, memory loss, and depression. Some factors that put people at high risk for a B12 deficiency are avoiding animal proteins, low stomach acid, digestive disorders, and malabsorption. Some foods rich in B12 are fish, liver, red meats, eggs, and poultry. Some of the health benefits of B12 are preventing birth defects, supporting bone health, reducing the chance of macular degeneration, improving mood, preventing memory loss, improving energy improving heart health, and improving hair, skin, and nail health.

There are many foods fortified or enriched with vitamin B. An enriched food means that nutrients that were lost during processing are added back in. Fortified and enriched foods, especially foods not formulated for children, may not be safe for all children. If possible, eat foods that are naturally rich in B vitamins versus those that are fortified or enriched. Use foods that are fortified or enriched as a second choice. Supplementing with B vitamins can be done with a good B-complex vitamin. B vitamins are water-soluble, so toxicity is unlikely. Look for a trusted brand with high-quality ingredients. Avoid all fillers and unnecessary ingredients. Always consult with your medical provider or a certified nutritionist for vitamin recommendations.

What's the best dosage for you? Dosages vary by age, symptoms, and medical conditions. Learn your optimal dosage and the best time of day to take your vitamins by scheduling a one-on-one vitamin consultation. Click here to fill out the contact form.


Harvard Health, Merck Manuals, Mayo Clinic, Educational Documents from CoE (my certification courses), EWG, Healthline, Zenwise

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