Vitamin B Facts – Why Do You Need Vitamin B?

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Why Do I Need Vitamin B and How Do I Know If I Have a Deficiency?

B vitamins are vital for your physical and mental health. Here’s a breakdown of this key family of vitamins, and who is at risk for a deficiency.

Do you feel edgy or stressed out? While there are any number of factors in our chaotic lifestyles that could lead to those feelings, a lack of nutrients can decrease our body’s ability to tolerate stress.

The family of B vitamins is essential for neurological health, nutrient absorption, and so much more. While true deficiencies in the U.S. are below 10 percent for all age categories, marginal depletion levels – where there isn’t enough vitamin B to be optimal – affect closer to 20 percent of the population

Why Do You Need Vitamin B?

B vitamins are essential for the entire body, and primarily impact the brain and mental health. Here are the major mental benefits that B vitamins can provide.

Improves Mood: B vitamins can help fight depression with its mood-lifting effects.

Boosts Cognition: The family of B vitamins helps to increase energy levels, preventing mental fatigue and supporting healthy cognitive performance.

Calms Anxiety: B vitamins have a calming impact on the brain and can soothe anxiety.

There are several types of B vitamins, and while each one has its own strengths, they work best when taken together. This is why supplements often include all forms in a single B-complex capsule.

Some people may require higher doses of individual B nutrients depending on their health and medical conditions.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, perhaps the most popular of the B vitamin family, is scientifically referred to as cobalamin due to its volume of the mineral cobalt.

What it does:

B12 is required for many body processes, including:

  • Producing red blood cells
  • Neurological function
  • DNA synthesis
  • Heart health

Natural food sources:

  • Fish, meat, and poultry
  • Offal
  • Eggs
  • Nutritional yeast

Signs you’re not getting enough:

Vitamin B12 is released from foods by stomach acid and digestion. This means that when digestion is impaired, even if you eat an adequate amount, you may still suffer from low levels. Signs you might not be getting enough B12:

Vitamin B6

B6 is effective at relieving nausea and is a popular remedy for morning sickness. In fact, B6 is often a component of prescription nausea medications.

What it does:

B6 does more for the body than ease a queasy stomach, including:

Natural food sources:

  • Seafood
  • Offal
  • Poultry
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Non-citrus fruits

Signs you’re not getting enough:

B6 deficiency on its own is uncommon. However, if you’re low in B12 and folate (B9), you might be low in B6, too. You might not be getting enough B6 if you experience the following:

  • Cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • Swollen tongue
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Weakened immunity
  • Irritability

Vitamin B1

Also known as thiamine, vitamin B1 is vital for cellular health and energy metabolism.

What it does:

Without adequate B1 levels, your body won’t be able to rev up its energy levels or metabolism. Other vital functions include:

Natural food sources:

Thiamine is found in many food sources, although fruits have a lower concentration per serving than meat and seafood.

  • All types of meat, especially pork
  • Fish
  • Fruits

Signs you’re not getting enough:

You likely aren’t low in B1 unless you’re low in all the B vitamins, but if you were, you might notice:

Vitamin B2

Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is vital for energy production and cellular health. It works in conjunction with other B vitamins, and functions as an antioxidant in the body.

What it does:

B2 helps the body make energy, but it’s also needed for:

Natural food sources:

Riboflavin is found in several food sources, with eggs and organ meats offering up the highest levels per serving.

Signs you’re not getting enough:

You might not be getting enough riboflavin if you experience:

Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3 is also known as niacin, and it’s vital for converting food into energy.

What it does:

Niacin helps break down food to be used for cellular energy, but it also helps with:

Natural food sources:

  • Poultry, especially chicken breast
  • Beef
  • Seafood

Signs you’re not getting enough:

You may not be getting enough niacin if you’re also struggling to get enough of the other B vitamins. Signs of low levels might include:

  • Memory loss and cognitive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Skin disorders
  • Diarrhea or intestinal irritation

Vitamin B9

Also known as folate or folic acid, vitamin B9 is popular for its use in pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects.

What it does:

Folate is vital for cellular growth and development as well as the formation of blood cells. It’s also needed for:

  • Synthesizing DNA and RNA
  • Metabolizing amino acids
  • Creating blood cells

Natural food sources:

Folate is one of the few B vitamins that is found in the highest levels in non-animal products. Foods rich in folate include:

Signs you’re not getting enough:

Folate deficiency on its own is uncommon. However, it can be found in conjunction with B12 or other B vitamin deficiencies or low levels. Signs of folate deficiency can include:

  • Anemia
  • Physical weakness
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Tongue and mouth sores
  • Skin, hair, or nail changes

Who Is at Risk of Vitamin B Deficiency?

While most people who eat a balanced diet are going to get regular exposure to B vitamins, some may be prone to low levels due to absorption issues.

Fortunately, you don’t typically need to worry about over-supplementing with B vitamins. All B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning that excess amounts pass out of the body via the urine. This lessens the risk of toxicity from overexposure. Even so, following supplement recommendations from your practitioner is always safest.

Vegans and Vegetarians

B vitamins are most widely found in animal products. So if you don’t eat meat or any animal products, you’re going to get significantly less exposure to B-complex than someone eating a diet rich in meats.

People with MTHFR mutations

This genetic mutation alters the way homocysteine is converted in the body. People with the MTHFR mutation (which can damage blood vessels and lead to blood clots) might not be able to absorb or activate B vitamins unless they take specialized supplemental forms.

Women on Birth Control

The hormones in most birth control prescriptions alter the way that the body uses vitamin B, and can interfere with absorption.

Pregnant Women

If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s important that you get enough folate and B-complex. Even slightly low folate levels can increase the risk of neural tube defects, so most doctors recommend a prenatal vitamin that contains ample amounts of folate.

Some will recommend an additional B-complex vitamin that is an activated form to ensure maximum absorption.

Older Adults

Age decreases the body’s ability to effectively digest and break down nutrients, and B vitamins are particularly susceptible to this.

People with Chronic Conditions

If you have chronic or autoimmune disorders, your chances of being unable to absorb B vitamins is higher. People with celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and thyroid disorders may struggle to break down their food. A lack of B vitamins worsens each of these conditions.


Alcoholics or people who regularly drink alcohol might be less able to absorb and digest B vitamins.

Watch this video – Vitamin B Facts: B Vitamins – Dr. Cooperman Explains What You Need to Know

Bottom Line

B vitamins are essential for a healthy body and brain. Without enough of the family of B vitamins, the body will be sluggish and deprived of critical nutrients that fend off a host of chronic disorders.

Supplementing with B vitamins is generally considered safe. However, over-supplementing one without balancing the rest can result in other problems or mask symptoms of deficiencies.

Ask your doctor for recommendations on how to supplement B vitamins if you fall into one of the categories of people who might be prone to lower levels.

Written by Aimee McNew

Author Bio:

Aimee McNew is a Certified Nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid problems, infertility, and digestive wellness. She ate her way back to health using a Paleo diet, lost 80 pounds, and had a healthy baby after numerous miscarriages. She focuses on simple nutrition practices that promote long-lasting results.

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