The B complex group has got eight vitamins, and vitamin B6 is one of them. Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 was discovered in 1932, and research on it is still on-going.
It`s been discovered that most people get enough B6 in their diet, however, people who are deficient in other B complex vitamins, such as folate and B12 are likely to be deficient in vitamin B6 as well. Vitamin B6 deficiency is more common in people with kidney, liver, digestive or autoimmune diseases. Smokers, alcoholics, obese people, and pregnant women are also likely to suffer its deficiency.
Did you know that B6 is involved in over 150 enzyme reactions? It also enables the body to process the protein, carbs, and fat that are consumed. It is also necessary for the functions of the nervous and immune systems. That’s not all, as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
How do you Know you’re Vitamin B6 Deficient?
Sore, Glossy Tongue
Vitamin B6 deficiency may make the tongue swollen, sore, smooth, inflamed or reddened. This condition is called glossitis.
The glossy, smooth surface of the tongue is as a result of the loss of papillae — the bumps on the tongue. Glossitis causes difficulties in talking, chewing, and swallowing. Consuming adequate levels of vitamins B6 and B12 can treat glossitis
Depression, irritability, and anxiety can be worsened when there is a deficiency of vitamin B6. This is so because vitamin B6 is involved in the making of various neurotransmitters such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which control anxiety, depression, and feelings of pain.
In addition, studies have shown that a daily intake of 50–80 mg of vitamin B6 supplements may help with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) such as anxiety, moodiness, irritability, and depression. The production of serotonin — a chemical that contributes to well-being and happiness — is a reason vitamin B6 is useful in controlling PMS.
Weakened Immune Function
Who doesn’t know that a well-functioning immune system is important for the prevention of infections, inflammation, and various cancers? Vitamin B6 deficiency negatively affects the immune system, specifically by causing a decreased production of antibodies needed to fight infections.
A vitamin B6 deficiency may also reduce the production of white blood cells, including T cells which regulate immune function and help it respond appropriately.
People who have autoimmune disorders, sadly, can have increased destruction of vitamin B6. This could lead to a deficiency.
Have you had that red, itchy rash called seborrheic dermatitis? It’s a sign of vitamin B6 deficiency. The rash may appear on the scalp, face, neck or upper chest. It’s got an oily and flaky look. It may also cause swelling or white patches.
“Why does vitamin B6 deficiency cause skin rashes?” You may wonder — well, it’s because it is the vitamin which aids the synthesis of collagen, needed for healthy skin. Consuming vitamin B6 actually clears up seborrheic dermatitis quickly.
Cracked and Sore Lips
Ever heard of cheilosis? It is a condition that is characterized by sore, red and swollen lips with cracked mouth corners. Vitamin B6 deficiency has been found to be one of its causes. Anyone who has had cheliosis would confirm that it is a painful experience, as cracked areas may bleed and even become infected. It also makes eating and talking difficult. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin B6 treats cheliosis.
Asides vitamin B6 deficiency, a deficiency in folate, iron, or riboflavin, and some other nutrients can also cause cheilosis. What else? Weathers that are sunny, dry or windy could also be factors.
Tiredness and Low Energy
A vitamin B6 deficiency may cause constant tiredness and sluggishness. Why though? Here’s the reason: vitamin B6 plays a vital role in the production of hemoglobin — the protein in the red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout your body. Anemia is the result of inadequate hemoglobin, and fatigue, dizziness, and other weakness prepared factors are outcomes of anemia.
Tingling and Pain in Hands and Feet
Peripheral neuropathy is caused as a result of vitamin B6 deficiency.
This condition has got symptoms such as burning, shooting, and tingling pain in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. It’s commonly called the “pins and needles” feeling.
Besides, a constant intake of the inactive form of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine HCl) from supplements can cause neuropathy. This is because large amounts of inactive B6 can compete with and block the active form of vitamin B6 in the body.
Inadequate levels of vitamin B6 may cause seizures with symptoms such as rolling eyes, muscle spasms, and jerky arms or leg. Convulsions and loss of consciousness are also possible symptoms.
A deficiency of vitamin B6 causes seizures in newborns. Studies show that such cases were first recorded in the 1950s when babies were fed infant formula with insufficient vitamin B6.
Homocysteine is a byproduct created during protein digestion. A deficiency in vitamins B6 and B12 and folate may result in the abnormally high blood level of homocysteine. Increased homocysteine levels result in various health complications: heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease are some of them. When homocysteine is at its peak, damage in blood vessels and nerves may be experienced.
But why wait to treat it? Your homocysteine level can simply be checked with a blood test. Elevated homocysteine can be lowered by taking B6, B12 and folate supplements. Of course, there are other factors that may be responsible for high homocysteine such as some other poor eating habits and unhealthy physical activities.
Foods High in Vitamin B6
Because the body isn’t able to store vitamin B6 in high quantities, it is vital that the vitamin is consumed regularly. And of course, it is not one of the world`s impossible tasks, as vitamin B6 is widely found in many animal and plant foods; it is also added to fortified foods like breakfast cereals and nutrition bars.
The reference daily intake (RDI) of vitamin B6 for non-pregnant adults is 1.7 mg.
Here are some of the foods that naturally supply vitamin B6, as well as their common serving sizes
- Banana, medium-sized (118 g) 22%
- Baked potato with skin Small (138 g) 21%
- Sunflower seeds, roasted 1 oz (28 g) 11%
- Avocado 1/2 fruit (68 g) 11%
- Halibut, cooked 3 oz (85 g) 32%
- Sirloin steak, broiled 3 oz (85 g) 29%
- Skinless chicken breast, cooked 3 oz (85 g) 26%
- Lentils, boiled 1/2 cup (99 g) 10%
- Roasted pistachios 1 oz (28 g) 19%
- Sweet red pepper slices, raw 1 cup (92 g) 16%
- Prunes 1/4 cup (33 g) 14%
- Skinless turkey breast, roasted 3 oz (85 g) 40%
- Pork loin, roasted 3 oz (85 g) 33%
- Wild-caught coho salmon, cooked 3 oz (85 g) 24%
- Frozen Brussels sprouts, boiled 1/2 cup (78 g) 13%
Forms of vitamin B6 in animal sources and fortified foods and supplements are generally better absorbed than the form found in plant foods. hence people who eat only plant foods may need more B6 to make up for this difference. Regular consumption of a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, fish, and legumes, can enable one to easily meet their vitamin B6 needs.
Vitamin B6 isn`t so wonderfully celebrated, however, it is one nutrient that is absolutely beneficial. If you notice that you have any of the stated signs of its deficiency, do see a doctor.
Fortunately, vitamin B6 deficiency is easy to avoid; all that is required of you is healthy food intake. What are you waiting for? Eat healthily already!