Unfortunately, it’s easy to run a deficit of Bs.
They’re water soluble, which means the body must use ’em or lose ’em. Any excess is eliminated daily in sweat or urine, so B vitamins must be replenished regularly. And if you’re fasting, dieting, or consuming too much coffee, sugar, or processed foods, chances are you’re operating in the negative.
Why should you “B” careful? These vitamins have often been likened to spark plugs for the body—igniting a vast number of biochemical reactions. Magically, B vitamins both destress and energize us. Also, healthy hair, eyes, skin, liver, and GI tract can all be traced to adequate levels of B complex.
These nutrients are called a “complex” because naturally occurring B vitamins are never alone. They’re always joined together in foods (like yeast, liver, vegetables, and seeds) and perform best when they accompany each other.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) boosts the body’s energy production. Specifically, B1 helps metabolize glucose, converts carbs to fat for future energy, and is crucial for heart function and muscle tone. B1 may be helpful for depression, fatigue, digestive problems, and mental and nervous system illnesses.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) metabolizes carbs and fats, ensures that cells “breathe” in enough oxygen, and helps the body grow. Riboflavin may be helpful for eye fatigue, cataracts, vision problems, skin conditions (such as acne and eczema), general fatigue, and stress.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) also breaks down proteins, fats, and carbs to supply energy to cells. In addition, it stimulates circulation, aids digestion, helps lowers cholesterol, and supports brain function. Large doses (50 mg or more) may produce a harmless “flush” caused by vascular dilation. Niacin may be helpful for fatigue, stress, depression, and teeth and gum problems.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is commonly known as the “antistress” vitamin because it helps the adrenal glands produce hormones that combat stress. It also kicks up the metabolism and may help prevent aging and wrinkles. B5 may be helpful for adrenal fatigue, headaches, and insomnia.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is especially important for balancing hormones in women. It’s particularly adept at metabolizing protein and works with the immune system to make antibodies. B6 may be helpful for PMS, morning sickness, stress, skin conditions, and high blood pressure.
Vitamin B7 (biotin) is a relative newcomer to the B family. It helps the body create new skin tissue and metabolize fat properly, making it a natural for weight-loss programs. Biotin may be helpful for skin and hair problems and muscle pains.
Vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid) is abundant in leafy greens and fresh, unprocessed foods––hence our modern-day deficiency. B9 helps produce all cells in the body, form DNA, and break down protein. Folic acid may be helpful for depleted adrenal glands, stress, psoriasis, restless leg syndrome, and anemia.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is stored by the body so it can take years for a deficiency to show up. B12 is essential to the health of the nervous system; boosts energy by stimulating the body’s use of proteins, carbs, and fats; and helps synthesize DNA and RNA. This vitamin may be helpful for fatigue (particularly in the elderly), insomnia, memory problems, and osteoporosis.