Anxiety, panic, difficulty sleeping, feelings of worthlessness, little motivation…these are sadly common symptoms described by stressed and tired people. Minor deficiencies of a number of the B vitamins can contribute significantly to fatigue. For example, just 15 percent less than the recommended therapeutic dose of thiamine pyrophosphate, an important component of vitamin B1, can lead to symptoms of irritability, mild depression and slight fatigue. Quite commonly a B1 deficiency also results in a tingling of the hands and feet, and calf muscles may be tender.
Vitamin B5 has an enormous impact on the adrenal glands. It is for this reason known as the “anti‑stress” vitamin, as hormones produced by the adrenals help to counteract stress. B5 is also involved in the production of key neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine (important for the nerves) and is needed in the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract.
Vitamin B6 is crucial to so many body functions that even a minor deficiency can have profound effects on our health. This vitamin is required for the production of adrenal gland hormones and antibodies, helping to support our immune system.
Brain chemistry is dependent on vitamin B6, as it is essential for the formation of several neurotransmitters that affect mood, notably serotonin and histamine. Energy production is also dependent on adequate levels of vitamin B6 as it helps to liberate stored energy from the muscles and liver.
Vitamin B12 and folic acid (B9), have received recent renewed attention, with numerous observational studies confirming a relationship between low folic acid and B12 levels with elevated homocysteine and depression. Indeed researchers discovered that participants taking vitamin B6, B12 and folate had a lower risk of experiencing depression over a seven-year period compared to placebo. (This combination of B vitamins also reduced future cardiovascular events in stroke survivors.)
Some simple ways to check for gross vitamin B deficiency is to look at the nails. Are there any vertical ridges running from the base of your nail to the tip? Does your tongue have any raised red spots on the tip, does the sclera of you eye have red blood vessels, a bit like a road map? Observing any of these simple signs may indicate B vitamin supplementation is necessary.
Vitamin B deficiency (along with magnesium, zinc and vitamin D) are extremely common.
Indeed, if we could persuade the government to put B vitamins in our water supply, stress and fatigue levels in the Australian population would decrease significantly!
Jill Thomas ND, BA, ATMS