Some years back, I woke up one morning with an excruciating pain in my right hand and wrist. The pain was so much that I had to seek medical help. When the diagnosis came, they called it carpal tunnel syndrome; it’s also called pinched nerve
I was expecting to be given a jaw-breaking named drug but alas, I was given a drug called neurovit forte and the components are vitamins B1, B6 and B12! So as usual, I discussed the condition with my father. Yes, I always discuss things like this with him because he is the real scientist (a professor of Botany) while I am an English language graduate – a self-taught scientist.
He had a story to tell me too! He told me about a family friend of ours whose daughter suffered paralysis and after a series of tests, it was discovered that she lacked one of the B vitamins! She was given doses of the particular B vitamin, and she recovered!
So, I said to myself: what’s so special about this vitamin B complex? . Ok, let’s go on the journey together to unravel the mystery behind this vitamin that keeps our body going well like a well-oiled machine.
B vitamins play a vital role in maintaining good health and well-being. As the building blocks of a healthy body, B vitamins have a direct impact on your energy levels, brain function and cell metabolism.
B vitamins are water-soluble, which means your body does not store them. They are excreted from the body daily and for this reason, your diet must supply them each day.
Most people get the recommended amounts of these vitamins through diet alone since they are found in a wide variety of foods. However, factors like age, pregnancy, dietary choices, medical conditions, genetics, medication and alcohol use increase the body’s demand for B vitamins.
The B vitamin family is made up of eight B vitamins, they are:
B1 helps the body make healthy new cells. It’s often called an anti-stress vitamin because of its ability to protect the immune system. This vitamin is necessary to help break down simple carbohydrates.
Get it from: Whole grains, peanuts, beans, spinach, kale, blackstrap molasses and wheat germ
This B vitamin works as an antioxidant to help fight free radicals (particles in the body that damage cells). It may also prevent early aging and the development of heart disease. Also, riboflavin is important for red blood cell production, which is necessary for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Several studies suggest B2 can help stave off migraines, but more research is needed to be sure. Be careful, while sunlight does the body good, ultraviolet light reduces the riboflavin content in food sources.
Get it from: Almonds, wild rice, milk, yogurt, eggs, Brussels sprouts, spinach and soybeans
One of the primary uses for niacin is to boost HDL cholesterol (i.e. the good cholesterol). And the higher a person’s HDL, the less bad cholesterol they will have in their blood. Vitamin B3 deficiency is very rare in developed countries, though alcoholism has been shown to lower B3 levels in some individuals. Niacin, used topically and ingested, has also been found to treat acne.
Get it from: Yeast, red meat, milk, eggs, beans and green vegetables
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
You can find small amounts of vitamin B5 in just about every food group — its name even says so. Pantothenic comes from the Greek word pantothen, meaning “from everywhere.” In addition to breaking down fats and carbs for energy, it’s responsible for the production of sex and stress-related hormones including testosterone. Studies show B5 also promotes healthy skin with the ability to reduce signs of skin aging such as redness and skin spots.
Get it from: Avocados, yogurt, eggs, meat and legumes
Along with fellow B vitamins 12 and 9, B6 helps regulate levels of the amino acid homocysteine (associated with heart disease). Pyridoxine is a major player in mood and sleep patterns because it helps the body produce serotonin, melatonin and norepinephrine, a stress hormone. Some studies suggest vitamin B6 can reduce inflammation for people with conditions like rheumatioid arthritis.
Get it from: Chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon, lentils, sunflower seeds, cheese, brown rice and carrots
Because of its association with healthy hair, skin and nails, this B vitamin also goes by “the beauty vitamin.” It may help people with diabetes control high blood glucose levels too.
Get it from: Barley, liver, yeast, pork, chicken, fish, potatoes, cauliflower, egg yolks and nuts.
You may have heard another name for B9 — folic acid — which is the synthetic form used in supplements and fortified foods like cereal and bread. Studies suggest folate may help keep depression at bay and prevent memory loss. This vitamin is also especially important for women who are pregnant since it supports the growth of the baby and prevents neurological birth defects.
Get it from: Dark leafy greens, asparagus, beets, salmon, root vegetables, milk, bulgur wheat and beans
This B vitamin is a total team player. Cobalamin works with vitamin B9 to produce red blood cells and help iron do its job: create the oxygen carrying protein, hemoglobin. Because you can only find vitamin B12 in animal and no plant products, vegans must use a supplement or fortified foods for B12 intake or risk serious health consequences
Get it from: Fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, beef and pork.
I have always supported nutrition to achieve optimal health. If you will need supplementation of vitamin B complex, your doctor is in the best position to say that.