Vitamin B6 Deficiency: Signs and Symptoms - Paula Owens, MS

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Vitamin B6 Deficiency: Health Benefits of Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 - Paula Owens, MS Holistic Nutritionist and Functional Health PractitionerVitamin B6 is a nutrient involved in energy metabolism, nervous system function, and several human biochemical processes. It’s essential for healthy adrenal, immune, and cognitive function. There are three different natural forms of vitamin B6: pyridoxine, pyridoxamine and pyridoxal—all of which are found in foods. The most active form of vitamin B6 is pyridoxal-5-phosphate (PLP or P5P), which serves as a co-factor in more than 150 enzymatic reactions. Dietary B6 must be converted in the liver to pyridoxal-5-phosphate before being used in biochemical processes.

Vitamin B6 Health Benefits and Functions

  • Regulates sleep, appetite and mood
  • Crucial for mental and emotional health
  • Amino acid, protein and fatty acid metabolism
  • Neurotransmitters: metabolism of norepinephrine acetylcholine and allergy regulator histamine depend on the P5P form of B6. Supports production of GABA, serotonin and dopamine
  • B6 is a synergist to magnesium and zinc. Adequate magnesium is important to the functions of B6; B6 is necessary for zinc absorption; a B6 deficiency must be ruled out whenever a zinc deficiency is detected.
  • Vitamin B6 is needed to make essential CoQ10 and taurine
  • Production of the hemoglobin portion of red blood cells
  • Reduces histamine
  • Helps make melatonin, an important hormone that supports the body’s natural sleep cycle and cellular health.
  • Vitamin B6 (along with B12 and folate) play an important role in lowering homocysteine. Increased homocysteine increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, clotting, and depression.
  • People who don’t get enough B6 in their diet have a higher risk of heart disease
  • Balances blood sugar
  • Helps with PMS symptoms, progesterone production and reduces estrogen dominance
  • Required for production of hydrochloric acid (HCL)
  • Helpful in managing inflammation and irritable bowel disease (IBD)
  • Essential for maintaining carnosine in skeletal muscles
  • Helps to detox harmful oxalates, yeast metabolites, excess estrogen and other toxins
  • Maintains the balance of sodium and potassium in the body

In a study of women who experienced PMS symptoms of anxiety and irritability, 200-800mg per day of vitamin B6 was shown to increase progesterone and reduce estrogen, improving symptoms.

Common Signs and Symptoms of B6 Deficiency

  • Inability to recall dreams
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Cracked lips, sore mouth, inflamed tongue
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • PMS and estrogen dominance
  • Water retention; B6 acts as a natural diuretic and helps prevent water retention
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Weak neck flexors
  • Morning sickness, nausea during pregnancy
  • MSG sensitivity
  • Hypochlorhydria
  • Increased homocysteine (>8). B6 deficiency can also be associated with an increased C-Reactive Protein (CRP) independent of homocysteine levels.
  • Trigger finger
  • Dry skin, dandruff
  • chronic deficiency of vitamin B6 and zinc may indicate a condition called Pyroluria
  • Burning or tingling in the extremities
  • Impaired platelet function and clotting issues

Poor dream recall can be due to a Vitamin B6 deficiency.

Eye Health. Vitamin B6 reduces the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that can cause vision loss.

Cancer. Studies have shown that B6 can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Low B6 status contributes to the onset and/or progression of tumors, especially GI tumors. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (April 2017) concluded that vitamin B6 deficiency is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Rheumatoid Arthritis. Low B6 has been associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Some studies also suggest that people with RA may need more B6 because chronic inflammation lowers B6 levels.

Heart Disease. A US Nurses’ Health Study found that those with a higher intake of Vitamin B6 from both food and supplements had a 34% lower risk of coronary artery disease. Another study with over 40,000 middle-aged individuals for 11.5 years reported a 48% lower risk of myocardial infarction in those with the highest intake of vitamin B6. [J Am Coll Nutr. 2008.]

Pregnancy. It’s important for women to maintain an adequate B6 status throughout reproductive years. B6 deficiency has been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth and early pregnancy loss. The body has an increased need for vitamin B6 during pregnancy. It’s important for maintaining hormonal and fluid balance of the mother and for healthy development of the baby’s nervous system. During pregnancy, vitamin B6 helps control morning sickness and nausea. Maternal B6 deficiency can increase the risk of autism. In double-blind trials, vitamin B6 combined with magnesium resulted in behavioral improvements in roughly one-third of autistic children.

Kidney Stones. Years ago, Harvard researchers demonstrated 10mg of vitamin B6 taken with 100mg of magnesium daily reduced calcium oxalate kidney stone incidence by over 90%.

Are you at risk of vitamin B6 deficiency?

B6 deficiency affects the entire body and is associated with a number of adverse health effects, higher levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, poor blood sugar control, and an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

  • Oral contraceptives, hormone therapy and estrogen hormone replacement therapy
  • Antidepressant use may require more vitamin B6
  • Prescription and OTC drugs including high blood pressure drugs, diuretics, antibiotics, some antidepressants, bronchodilators, NSAIDs, corticosteroids, chemo drugs, Parkinson drugs, and some drugs for rheumatoid arthritis interfere with B6 metabolism
  • Consuming a diet high in processed carbohydrates
  • Exposure to pollutants, pesticides, glyphosate and other agricultural chemicals increase the risk of B6 deficiency
  • Hospitalized patients
  • Estrogen dominance
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Fatty liver (NAFLD)
  • Heavy alcohol use, alcoholics
  • Seizures, epilepsy, MS, Crohn’s and IBD
  • Depression, OCD and schizophrenia. People with mood disorders, anxiety, ADHD, depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia, alcoholism and OCD should be screened for pyroluria via a simple urine test. Those with pyroluria have reportedly improved with higher daily doses of vitamin B6 and zinc.

The Best Food Sources of B6

  • Organic, grass-fed meats including turkey, beef, chicken and particularly organ meats such as liver
  • Pasture-raised eggs
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Spinach
  • Legumes

Vitamin B6 Supplementation

B vitamins are water soluble, meaning the body does not store them. In order for B6 to be used by the body, it must be converted to pyridoxal-5-phosphate before being used in biochemical processes. Vitamin B6 Deficiency - Paula Owens, MS - Holistic Nutritionist and Functional Health PractitionerThis conversion process takes place in the liver. Individuals with compromised liver function have difficulty making this conversion and consequently may be at risk of a vitamin B6 deficiency.

If supplementing with vitamin B6, it’s important to use the active form of B6, pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P). Supplementation with P5P can prevent vitamin B6 deficiency.

If pregnant or breast-feeding, always seek the expertise and advice from a qualified practitioner prior to supplementing with P5P.

Do you have a B6 deficiency? A functional blood chemistry analysis is one the best methods of self-care. A blood chemistry analysis is a smart investment in your health, identifies your unique nutrient deficiencies and can help to bring your body chemistry into balance.

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