Vitamin B Complex (One Big Happy Family)
Unlike the other vitamins, Vitamin B is a complex in both senses of the word. It’s a complex complex. If that sounds funny, read it a few more times. The reason they call it Vitamin B complex is due to the numerous B vitamins that are contained within its family, most labeled with a subscript. Without one the rest don’t work, so it is very important not to EVER take a multivitamin that doesn’t contain the whole family. I dont suggest taking multivitamins at all though. Get them from whole foods produced by Nature. It’s kind of like a big Catholic family with 7 kids. My dad would appreciate the Catholic humor having grown up in a Catholic family of 6 kids. Every B vitamin is water soluble, which means the body does not store them. It also means you must be fully hydrated to absorb and utilize them. Better stay hydrated! Vitamin B1, known as Thiamine, is part of TPP (thiamine pyrophosphate) and is used in the metabolism of carbohydrates. It is critical in the production of energy as well as in the functioning of our nerve cells. With even the slightest deficiency you will start feeling fatigued and depressed. Severe deficiency of B1 is known as Beriberi, which can be prevented by eating most nuts and seeds. Vitamin B2, Riboflavin, is one that is harder to come by but just as important. I have personally had a troubled experience with severe Riboflavin deficiency. I can promise you it is not fun or pretty. In fact it’s extremely painful. Signs of it are a burning of the eyes, lips, mouth and tongue. An inflamed, sensitive left side of the tongue (beefy red appearance) and cracked corners of the mouth will lead to a life of misery because you feel like you can’t eat anything. It hurts to open your mouth to the point of you feeling depressed. And since it is involved in energy production there is a good chance of that occuring. This is the vitamin that gives urine it’s yellow-green appearance when it is in excess. It can be obtained in almonds, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, kale and broccoli to name a few sources. Vitamin B3, Niacin, can be made in the body provided there is enough protein in the diet. The amino acid Tryptophan is used to create Niacin, but you may want to be safe and consume some swordfish, eggs, sesame and sunflower seeds, or almonds to get enough of this important vitamin. It is the building block of the coenzymes NAD and NADP. Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide and Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Phosphate respectively. These two are involved in many different chemical reactions on a daily basis. This vitamin is also used in the production of energy as well as in fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Vitamin B5, or Pantothenic Acid, plays an important role in energy production along with its brothers B1, B2, and B3. It is also a component of Coenzyme A (CoA), which is involved with the utilization of fats and carbohydrates. The most important role for B5 though is probably it’s use in the manufacturing of erythrocytes, or red blood cells. This vitamin can be obtained from animal livers if your up for that, or from more reasonable sources such as mushrooms, pecans, sunflower seeds, cashews, avocados, broccoli, kale and cauliflower. The next family member goes by the name Pyridoxine, or Vitamin B6. This brother is extremely important for a few reasons so please don’t mistreat him. B6 is crucial in maintaining immune function and hormone balance as well as being used in the production of proteins, including DNA, chemical transmitters and red blood cells. To earn this guy’s respect, you must consume some bananas, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or avocados. Vitamin B9, known as folate or folic acid, works side by side with Vitamin B12 in the synthesis of DNA. I’d say that’s pretty critical! It is needed for cell division especially for the red blood cells and cells of the gastrointestinal tract. It got its name from the word “foliage” because it is found in high concentration in most dark green leaves like spinach, kale, and swiss chard. It can also be found in cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, almonds, pecans, and avocados. Last of the immediate family is Vitamin B12, cobalamin. The center piece of B12 comes from the metal Cobalt, which has a bright blue tint to it. B12 is used to activate its brother B9 so they can team up for their use in cell division and the production of DNA. This vitamin creates havoc for vegans and vegetarians because it is only found in animal products such as eggs, salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, beef, oysters and clams. At the end of the day, this huge family is needed everyday if you want to live a healthy and happy life.
Sometimes it is referred to as vitamin H and I have heard others relate it to the vitamin B complex so I will give it it’s own small write up. Biotin helps the body to manufacture and utilize both fats and amino acids. It also aids in fatty acid formation and can promote normal functioning and development of the nervous system, sweat glands, skin and hair. It can be synthesized from our own healthy intestinal bacteria so it’s not often talked about, but you can find it in cooked eggs, walnuts, pecans, almonds, cauliflower and mushrooms.
Choline to some could be part of the vitamin B complex, but it deserves its own write up because it is a reach to include it in the vitamin B family. Choline can be formed from either of the amino acids methionine or serine. It works together with some of the B vitamins in the metabolism of fat which is why some people would potentially include it as part of the big vitamin B complex. A deficiency can cause problems in the liver known as fatty liver disease. It is the precursor to the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine, which is released in the synaptic gap between two nerve cells to make sure nerve impulses get fired correctly. It is also a major component of cell membranes so that many nutrients can permeate into and out of our cells during proper transmission. Sources of choline are egg yolks, preferably in a liquid and not solid state, red meat. It can also be obtained in much smaller amounts from potatoes, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and oranges. This is why foods should be consumed in a variety rather than eating the same foods on a routine basis.