As most of us know, B vitamins—or B-Complex—are essential to our health and well-being. However, what many of us may not know is why they are essential, what they do, and what happens if we do not get enough of them--or too much of them.
There are, in fact, many essential B vitamins, all of which have more than one function and each one playing key roles in our health. The vitamins in B-complex often work in synergy with other vitamins and minerals to play expanded roles throughout the body, which demonstrates the value of complete nutrition.
Also, while most of us understand the deficiencies of our modern diet--due to everything from modern farming techniques to overly-processed foods--we may not understand that our modern lifestyles also play roles in depleting these highly important dietary components.
By understanding the role which B vitamins play in maintaining our health and wellness, as well as the environmental factors which play into our bodies B vitamin levels, we can better understand the importance of a quality, all natural and organic B vitamin supplement.
The 8 Essential B’s
There are a total of 8 B vitamins, each of which has a variety of duties in keeping us both physically and mentally healthy. Together, all 8 essential B vitamins are known of as “B-complex.”
A high quality--and preferably vegan and organic—daily B-complex can help us maintain good health in many ways, including creation of new cells, lowering of LDL cholesterol, digestion, and even improve our moods and mental wellbeing.
Missing out on these components can result in a number of health risks, such as tiredness, irritability, poor digestion and nerve problems.
Here's how the 8 vitamins making up B-complex contribute to one's health:
- B1 – Also known as Thiamine, vitamin B1 was the first of the B vitamins to be isolated when Dutch chemists Barend Jansen and Willem Donath did so from rice polishings in 1926. B1 is often referred to as the “anti-stress vitamin,” since it is helps help boost the immune system and allow us to form a healthy stress-response. Thiamine also aids in forming new cells, as well as with breaking down carbohydrates and converting them into energy. Those who are deficient in vitamin B1 may experience stomach discomfort, irritability, fatigue, depression, nausea and headaches.
- B2 – Also known of as Riboflavin, vitamin B2 works as an antioxidant with which to fight free radicals in the body. Since free radicals can permanently damage DNA and the body’s cells, they can also lead to premature aging, heart disease, cancer and other health risks. Much like thiamine, riboflavin helps create energy by assisting in converting carbohydrates into glucose. Finally, vitamin B2 is needed to assist in changing vitamin B6 and folate into useful forms, and is also important in helping with red blood cell production, which is of key importance in delivering oxygen to all parts of the body.
- B3 – Also known of as Niacin, vitamin B3 helps boost the body’s HDL (good) cholesterol, thereby lowering the LDL (bad) cholesterol. Niacin is beneficial in reducing lipids (fats) in the bloodstream, and aids in skin health—particularly with acne caused by inflammation (acne vulgaris). Large doses of vitamin B3 can cause a “flushing” effect, where the face and neck redden, and a burning or itching sensation will occur. This is because high doses cause the small capillaries in the face and neck to dilate, which allows more blood to rush through. This flushing is not harmful, although it may be shocking to new users who are unaware of it.
- B5 – Also known of as pantothenic acid, vitamin B5 is the most commonly attainable of the B complex. In fact, the Greek word pantothenic translates to “from everywhere,” since there are at least small amounts of it in nearly every food category. In addition to stimulating adrenal hormones such as testosterone, B5 is also a key benefactor in staving off stress, anxiety and depression. It helps support healthy skin and hair, and can assist in staving off fatigue, while helping to building stamina.
- B6 – Also known of as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 teams up with vitamins B9 and B12 to help regulate the amino acid homocysteine in the body. Since high amounts of homocysteine is associated with heart disease, vitamin B6 (along with B9 and B12) is of key importance for health and longevity. Since B6 plays a crucial role in helping the body’s production of neurotransmitters, it also helps support a healthy nervous system, as well as positive mental outlook.
- B9 – Also referred to as folate, B9 has a synthetic form known of as folic acid, which today is commonly used in foods such as fortified breads and cereals. However, folate has long been available in many foods, including leafy greens, liver and legumes, and it was not until 1943 that folic acid was first chemically synthesized. B9 is known to help prevent birth defects such as Spina Bifida, as well as guard against anemia, aid in digestion, and strengthen the nervous system. As with many other components of B complex, folate is also beneficial in helping to overcome depression and anxiety, which is mainly due to its role in maintaining nerve health.
- B12 – Finally there is vitamin B12—also known of as cobalamin—which is involved in the metabolism of every cell in the body. This includes DNA synthesis, as well as the metabolism of amino acids and fatty acids, all of which aid in the healthy function of the brain and nervous system. Cobalamin can only be produced by bacteria or single-celled microorganisms called archaea. While it is common to consider animal products as the only natural source of B12, vegetarians can also get it through spirulina and other algae, as well as through bacteria cultures.
Vitamin B Deficiency: Symptoms & Consequences
Getting enough B-complex is, to say the least, critical to balanced good health. Not getting enough B-complex can lead to anaemia, confusion, irritability, tingling in the feet, nausea and extreme weakness, amongst other grave health issues.
In turn, this lack of key nutrients has a domino effect which can lead to heart problems, respiratory issues, cancer, depression, cognitive difficulties and memory loss.
However, due to the processed nature of our modern diet, as well as other factors in our modern lifestyle, acquiring adequate amounts of these key water-soluble vitamins only through food may not be the answer.
Even those whose diet consists of a variety of fresh produce may still fall short of healthy levels of B-complex, since commercial farming techniques, hybridization, genetic modification, soil depletion and other factors have significantly lowered naturally occurring vitamin and mineral contents in our modern food supplies.
For this reason, it is recommended that a high-quality, food-based and organic B-complex supplement be taken daily.
Fat Soluble vs Water Soluble Vitamins
One thing which should be noted is the difference between fat soluble and water soluble vitamins.
Vitamins including all B-complex, as well as vitamin C, are water soluble, which means they are readily passed through the body along with water. For this reason, it is typically safer to use daily high doses of these vitamins without suffering the effects of toxicity.
However, vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble, which means they are more readily stored by the body, since fats themselves take much longer to move through the body. Since fat soluble vitamins do accumulate in the body, more care and concern over daily dosage should be taken with them than with water soluble vitamins.
How Much B Vitamins Do We Need?
In our modern world, our daily B-complex requirements can depends on many factors of our lifestyle.
Stress, for instance, requires higher amounts of B-complex to maintain a healthy nervous system, and our modern diet which tends to be high in starches and processed sugars also depletes greater amounts of B’s than do natural, unprocessed, whole foods.
Other factors such as caffeine intake, alcohol intake, medications and diuretics can lead to a greater requirement of daily B complex, which means that it might be difficult to meet the nutritional demands of our modern lifestyle without supplementation.
Those in stressful lines of work, and/or those who consume alcohol, simple sugars and caffeine daily should be particularly aware of the importance of a daily B-complex supplement.
Since all 8 B-complex vitamins are water soluble, a daily intake of a quality B-complex supplement is recommended.
Too Much B-Vitamins?
While it is easy to think in terms of more-is-better when it comes to nutrition--particularly with water soluble B vitamins--there are concerns about the risks of overusing them which should be noted.
ALthough it does take extremely high doses of B complex to have toxic effects, it's worth to be aware of the risks.
For instance, very high doses of niacin (B3) can create nausea, jaundice and excessive amounts of liver enzymes, much like the effects of hepatitis. However, these effects can be safely reversed by discontinuing high doses of the vitamin.
Extremely high doses of B6 for extended periods of a year or more can also lead to severe nerve damage, resulting in a loss of bodily movements; and too much B6 can also lead to sun sensitivity, as well as gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and heartburn.
Ultra-high doses of vitamin B12, such as from concentrated injections, can cause itching skin rash, blood clots and allergic reactions—particularly in those with cobalt allergies.
Again, most of these conditions can be safely reversed through the discontinued use of ultra-high doses of the offending vitamin.
However, in normal to high doses, B-complex is widely known to be safe and beneficial, and it should be noted that it is only in doses far greater than would be received through diet and a daily supplement which are to be avoided.
How to Choose the Best B-Complex Supplement
When looking for the best, most absorbable and effective B-complex supplement, it is recommended that the product be organic, be made from natural food sources such as organic fruits and vegetables, and provide co-factors vital to vitamin uptake, as well as other complimentary benefits.
Some valuable co-factors to look for are:
- Choline – Related to folate, choline is an important macronutrient and supports healthy brain function, muscle movement, energy levels and liver function. Choline also aids in a process known of as “methylation,” which is important in creating DNA, which in turn is key in nerve signalling, detoxification, and anti-aging.
- Inositol – Also important in nerve-signaling, inositol is structurally like glucose and is known to be quite effective in treating insulin resistance. Inositol also supports healthy mood and mental well-being, and may be effective in treating certain anxieties and panic disorders.
- PABA – While sometimes referred to as “vitamin Bx,” PABA is not actually a true vitamin. Instead, PABA—or Para-aminobenzoic acid—is a component of folic acid (B9), and helps maintain healthy collagen function, as well as cell membrane fluidity. This makes PABA an important complement to other B complex anti-aging components.
Additionally, the availability of enzymes and probiotics in the formula to aid in digestibility and bioavailability of the vitamin components can be of great benefit.
A natural B-complex supplement such as The Synergy Company’s Super B-Complex can not only provide these benefits but do so in an affordable and potent daily vitamin.
Since the human body is incapable of storing water soluble vitamins, most B-vitamins come in multi-pill dosages to be taken throughout the day, which is both inconvenient, as well as potentially inconsistent. The average vitamins are also produced as rapidly-releasing isolates, which means fast release, followed by fast depletion.
However, by using natural and organic superfoods, rather than vitamin isolates created in a laboratory, The Synergy Company creates a food-based vitamin which releases vital nutrients into the system at a slower, more even rate. This makes a once-daily B-complex supplement both attainable, and effective.
Synergy’s once-daily Super B-complex is a natural, organic, vegetarian and complete B-complex supplement, making it the best option for a quality B vitamin.