Vitamin B6 is like the magnesium of minerals. For decades we’ve heard about calcium and neglected the importance of magnesium. Just the same for so long we’ve heard about B12 and neglected the value and utter importance of vitamin B6. This is what happens when you isolate nutrients from their whole food complex, nutrients work synergistically with each other. Fortunately, traditional diets did no such thing! Traditional foods in there whole raw forms or properly prepared forms were high in vitamin B6. B6 is easily destroyed by heat. Recently I wrote on the importance of vitamin B6 in the body, now I’d like to discuss what food sources are best.
Vitamin B6 is easily lost in cooking and the refining/processing of foods. Therefore it typically is in poor supply in a high carbohydrate/low fat diet, also a refined processed diet. It is not the easiest of B vitamins to obtain in the diet, though if you like raw milk products and raw meats you might be in good shape. Some B6 is stored in the muscle, however any excess is excreted through the urine within 8 hours. Somewhere in my notes it was suggested that we get 100 mg of vitamin B6 from nutritional sources daily. That’s quite a bit to tackle, and most of us won’t likely get that much dietarily. (Photo below: Beef liver)
Food Sources of Vitamin B6
- Raw Liver
- Raw Cheese
- Raw meat
- Raw fish
- Fish Roe
- Raw milk
- Animal Fats – (but again cooking can diminish the B6)
- Raw Egg Yolk
- Sprouted grains/nuts/seeds
- Mustard Greens
- Raw onions
- Raw sugar cane
Sprouting grains (properly raised, harvested and dried), raw nuts and raw seeds increases vitamin B content, namely B2, B5 and B6. But if you then cook those, you will likely lose the value of the B6. The same goes for any of the above foods, cooking will destroy the B6. It’s important to minimally cook these foods to retain as much of the B6 content as possible. Additionally, good amounts of lactic acid bacteria in the large intestine will improve the synthesis of vitamin B6. Raw liver is the best source of B6. Followed by meat, fish, roe and raw cheese. Again, keep in mind heat destroys this very sensitive nutrient (do I sound like a broken record yet?)
Many of us are not getting enough of these types of foods in our diets in raw or sprouted form. I don’t know about you, but when is the last time you ate raw liver. My intentions to do so might be great, but reality is, I don’t get around to eating raw liver. I can’t drink raw milk yet, but I can do raw milk yogurt and raw cheese. Properly cultured raw milk products increase the B vitamins. I do eat some smoked salmon from time to time and very little fish roe. You would need to consume raw meat, fish and dairy on a regular basis to get enough dietary B6. Cheddar cheese contains up to 3 times more B6 than the milk from which it is cultured. With an increase from less than 50 mcg to 147 mcg. (source: ‘Probiotics: Nature’s Internal Healers‘).
Since this is the case, many people will need to supplement with vitamin B6. Especially, anyone who has ever been on birth control and/or those who want to conceive. In the book Nourishing Traditions, traditional diets for conception are discussed repeatedly. Noted in the book is this info. about vitamin B6 and conception;
Research reveals that subnormal intake of B6 (pyridoxine) can diminish the chances of conception. Birth control pills can diminish the amount of available B6 so that women who discontinue this oral contraceptive often cannot conceive until a year after cessation. In one study, 98% of women taking B6 regularly resumed normal menstruation and became pregnant within 4 months.
B6 is useful in preventing morning sickness. PMS is often a complication that comes from deficiency of B6.
So, women in their reproductive years, experiencing PMS, morning sickness or looking to conceive may want to consider supplementing for awhile. Or at least working towards a diet rich in B6, but have a supplement on hand to bolster your intake. B6 helps with estrogen metabolism, if you have been using oral contraceptives, supplemental estrogen (such as estrogen creams), you really need to supplement. Especially if you are still on any of those exogenous means of estrogen.
B6 (P-5-P) has been shown to reduce tissue hypersensitivity to estrogen. Evidence shows that vitamin B6 interacts with the steroid hormone receptor complex and the binding of this complex to DNA. This binding will then turn off the transmission of the hormone signal to the nucleus of the cell. 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 estrogens causing estrogen excess symptoms, but rather the exaggerated transcriptional response that induces the expression of estrogen excess symptoms and patterns. (source: ‘Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms, When My Lab Tests Are Normal’ Dr. Datis Kharrazzian)
To help support PMS, supplementation may be warranted while you work on your dietary intake. 100 mg 3 x a day for 10 days before your cycle starts is a good plan to implement. Another reason that is important prior to one’s cycle is that B6 increases the amount of magnesium that can enter cells. Magnesium is a critical mineral that many of us are deficient in as well, not to mention it is very supportive for menstrual cramps. Additionally, when magnesium, B6, B12 and folic acid are deficient the body is not able to properly digest protein. This is a common issue I see with all my clients. To read more about vitamin B6 it’s benefits and what signs and symptoms it would help to support, read my first post; ‘The Importance of Vitamin B6‘.
Who Should Supplement B6?
Probably everyone! Certainly anyone on birth control, broncho-dilators anti-depressants, antibiotics, diuretics, estrogen or oral contraceptives (exogenous hormones in general) will need to supplement. It’s a general immune support, so likely anyone with autoimmune conditions will need to supplement. Asthma, diabetes, allergies, carpal tunnel, edema or sensitivity to MSG will all need to supplement. There is testing available to test your B6 levels. It may be a good idea to look into if you have any of the issues mentioned or more serious health concerns.
Pyridoxal 5 phospate is the form that is most easily assimilated. It is the naturally occurring form of B6 and is more biologically available. Make sure to choose this type over the synthetic form, pyridoxine HCL. Biotics Research has a product called B6 Phosphate, in the P5P form. I like Biotics because they are a gluten free facility and have been working with their supplements with good success for the past year. I am sure there are other good brands out there, just do your research and make sure you get good quality, gluten free and the right form.
Ideally, it would be best to work to get B6 from your diet. A good amount would be 100 mg from the diet and then supplement besides (see more below). If you have any of the above mentioned conditions and have tested and shown a need for B6, or a serious deficiency, starting on a larger dose for 2 weeks could be very supportive. Up to 180 mg per day spread out through the day would be safe. Just make sure you do not supplement with that high of an amount for more than 2 weeks. If you are going to use the PMS protocol I mentioned above, make sure you ONLY use that dose leading up to your period. Large doses will increase your need for magnesium, zinc, essential fatty acids and B complex (nutrients we all need anyway). Then work to keep a maintenance dose that seems supportive to you. Do not take B6 for more than 60 days without also taking a B complex. If for some reason you experience insomnia or anxiety (due to adrenal stimulation from this supplement), make sure you are also taking magnesium as it will prevent this from happening. (In my opinion everyone should be taking some magnesium anyway). Keep in mind that stress increases the need for this important nutrient.
Do you remember your dreams? If not, one way to find your dose would be to take enough P5P form until you start remembering your dreams. Then you can lower your dose. Everyone will be different, so you will need to find what works for you. I remember my dreams quite well – but I still keep B6 in my daily regime to make sure I do not get deficient. A great multi vitamin to take that includes P5p and all it’s accessory nutrients is BioGlycozyme Forte by Biotics Research. It contains 11 mg per capsule – I usually take 3 per day, though I started out taking 6 per day. I find this is a good broad spectrum multi, including minerals and neo-natal glandulars in small amounts that are very supportive. (Additional sources: ‘Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Elton Haas, MD; Biotics Research Corporation)
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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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