First off, I’d like to start this article by stating that I believe in consuming nutrients primarily through real food that is properly prepared or raised. I also believe it is important not to isolate nutrients from others as all nutrients work together synergistically. That said, some nutrients are often more critical to consider taking separately in this day and age due to foods being processed thereby stripping away certain nutrients. Additionally, the modern American just does not consume enough of certain nutrients in their diet. Let’s take a deeper look at Vitamin B6 and see what role it plays in our overall health.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
B6 is involved in more bodily functions than any other nutrient, affecting both physical and mental health. B6 is required for the proper absorption of B12 and the production of HCl. It acts as a coenzyme in the breakdown and utilization of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It must be present for the production of antibodies and red blood cells. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine and pyridoxal-5-phosphate, PHP) is an important co-enzyme for many beginning steps in metabolism for many amino acids, as well as the central nervous system. The CNS is where B6 supports the production of GABA (the happy amino acid). B6 converts tryptophan to niacin and arachidonic acid to prostaglandin E2. Arachidonic acid is found in butter, which also converts to GABA.
B6 also is important in facilitating the release of glycogen from the liver and muscles. It helps to produce antibodies and red blood cells, as well as in the synthesis of RNA and DNA. B6 helps to regulate fluid balance in the body by maintaining the balance of sodium and potassium. B6 is needed to maintain a normal intracellular magnesium level, also important for these functions. Vitamin B6 is a synergist to magnesium and zinc. The neurotransmitters norepinephrine and acetylcholine and the allergy regulator histamine all depend on P5P (the active coenzyme form of B6) in their metabolism. The brain needs B6 to convert tryptophan to serotonin as well. Many amino acid reactions depend on B6 to carry the amino acids into the blood and from the blood into the cells. B6 is also a key link in the utilization of EFA’s as it is a necessary co-factor for essential fatty acid metabolism, particularly the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA.
Also, studies have shown that B6 found mostly in animal products, contributes to the proper functioning of over 100 enzymes. B6 and zinc are both needed for the production of pancreatic enzymes and hydrochloric acid, they both also create serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. B6 can be produced by the intestinal bacteria. So attempts to increase lactic acid bacteria in the gut, through properly fermented vegetables or probiotics, helps to improve the synthesis of B6. This in turn promotes the production of B3 from the amino acid tryptophan. See how all these nutrients work together?!
B6 also is connected to hormone balance in women. It is readily absorbed from the small intestine and used throughout the body in a vast array of functions. The need for B6 is very high during pregnancy. It is important for maintaining the mother’s hormonal and fluid balance and for the baby’s developing central nervous system, (this is quite possibly why traditional cultures encouraged the consumption of fish roe and raw organ meats to pregnant moms, as these foods are high in B6, and of course a whole host of other nutrients). B6 helps with estrogen metabolism, by helping to reduce tissue hypersensitivity to estrogen. This is important for woman when the excess hormones need to be conjugated back out of the body, due to hormones in meats, birth control or supplemental estrogen. For that reason, B6 can be helpful with breast tenderness during the menstrual cycle. A B6 deficiency may explain why there may be exaggerated symptoms of estrogen dominance with normal or slightly increased estrogen levels. It may not be the level of estrogen causing estrogen excess symptoms, but rather the exaggerated transcriptional response that induces the expression of estrogen excess symptoms and patterns. (photo credit)
‘B6 has synergistic beneficial effects on the immune system and sugar metabolism via different pathways. Studies show that a vitamin B6 deficiency can decrease antibody production and suppress the immune response. B6 participates in the maintenance of glutathione status (as a cofactor for glutathione reductase.) It is shown that its deficiency can reduce cell numbers in lymphoid tissues and cause functional abnormalities in the cell mediated immune response. Vitamin B6 is important in hemoglobin synthesis and increases the amount of oxygen carried by hemoglobin. B6 participates in sugar metabolism and helps maintain blood sugar within a normal range.’ (source: Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms, When My Lab Tests Are Normal?)
- general immune support
- Carpel Tunnel Symdrome
- Diabetes and Heart Support
- Joint Pain
- Trigger Finger
- Sensitivity to MSG
- Chemical allergies and sensitivities
- burning or tingling extremeties
- healing wounds
- gluten intolerance
- PMS and breast tenderness
- birth control/oral contraceptives – deplete B6, will likely need B6 for life after being on these
- prevents morning sickness
Signs/Symptoms of B6 Deficiency:
- low blood sugar/poor glucose tolerance
- water retention during pregnancy
- cracks around the mouth and eyes
- numbness and cramps in the arms and legs
- slow learning
- visual disturbance
- sore tongue
- hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid)
- increase in urination
- gestational diabetes (frequently resolved by taking 50 mg of B6 in P-5-P form per day).
- excess estrogen
- menstrual problems
- calcium retention and excretion of magnesium
- inability to remember dreams
- sensitivity to bright light
- history of birth problems like spontaneous abortions or fetal abnormality
- use of antidepressants increases the need for B6
- use of bronchodilators, antibiotics, diuretics, hormone replacement
- a diet high in refined carbohydrates depletes B6
- mental retardation
Clearly, the importance of this nutrient is vast within the human body. It is also a synergist to magnesium and zinc. Vitamin C and Potassium are needed for B6 assimilation. The pyridoxal-5-phosphate form is the naturally occurring form of B6 and is more biologically available than the synthetic form, pyridoxine HCl. Stay tuned, in my next post on B6 I will discuss food sources and how to supplement if necessary.
[Sources: Biotics Research, Tuesday Minute; Clinical Reference Guide for Biotics Research; Nourishing Traditions. Sally Fallon; Primal Body- Primal Mind. Nora Gedguadas; Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal, Dr. Kharazzian; Magnesium Miracle. Carolyn Dean; The Mood Cure, Julia Ross; Signs and Symptoms: Analysis from a Functional Perspective. Dicken Weatherby]
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Lydia Joy Shatney is a certified Nutritional Therapist Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is the chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.
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