Vitamin B6 is important for energy levels, the nervous system, our mood, our immune system, our hormone balance, and a number of other functions. This vitamin is of vital importance to our physical and mental well-being but a variety of factors may lead to a deficiency. This article will provide you with information about vitamin B6 and the 11 different symptoms that a deficiency may cause.
Vitamin B6 is one of the key molecules in our cells and is involved in over 150 different enzyme activities. You get vitamin B6 from meat, fish, garlic, vegetables, bananas, whole grains, eggs, and dairy products. Heat and light destroy the vitamin. Vitamin B6 deficiency and poor utilization of the nutrient may be caused by poor eating habits, stress, overweight, unhealthy gut flora, ageing, excessive consumption of alcohol and other stimulants, birth control pills and other types of hormone pills, and certain medical drugs. Vitamin B6 deficiency is common among patients suffering from autoimmune diseases or kidney and liver diseases, which means many people lack this vital nutrient. In the following, you can read about the 11 typical symptoms that can accompany a vitamin B6 deficiency.
Too little vitamin B6 increases your risk of:
1: Fatigue and poor concentration
This is because of the vitamin’s role in our energy turnover. Lack of other B vitamins and magnesium can also have a negative effect on our energy levels and concentration
2: Mood swings and PMS
In some cases, lack of vitamin B6 may contribute to depression, anxiety, irritability, and increased pain perception, which is because of the vitamin’s role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA that are important for our nervous system and mood. A study of people with autism showed that around half of the participants felt better after receiving a vitamin B6 supplement. It also appears that taking a 50-80 mg supplement of vitamin B6 every day can relieve typical PMS symptoms such as despair, irritability, anxiety, and depression. Lack of other B vitamins, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids can also have a negative impact on the nervous system and mood.
3: Skin changes and itchy, red eczema
Lack of vitamin B6 may cause red, itch eczema also known as seborrheic dermatitis. Rashes and flare-ups typically appear in the scalp, face, neck, and chest. It is believed that lack of vitamin B6 may cause skin problems because of its role in the synthesis of collagen, which is vital for healthy skin. Some people with seborrheic dermatitis may have a greater need for vitamin B6 and may need to make dietary adjustments or take a supplement. Face cream that contains vitamin B6 may also help.
4: Cracks in the corner of the mouth (angular cheilitis) and mouth sores
Lack of vitamin B6 may cause swollen lips and cracks in the corner of the mouth (angular cheilitis) that can bleed and become infected. It can be very painful and even make it difficult to speak or eat. If the symptoms are caused by a vitamin B6 deficiency, it may help to eat plenty of dietary vitamin B6 or take a supplement. Lack of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), folic acid, and iron may cause similar symptoms. The same goes for excessive sun exposure, dry air, too much salt from food, plus various environmental factors.
5: Swollen, sore, and red tongue
If you lack vitamin B6, your tongue may become swollen, sore, and get a smooth surface caused by papillary atrophy. Local inflammation may also occur. This condition is known as atrophic glossitis. If the underlying cause is lack of vitamin B6, a supplement is likely to help. Lack of folic acid, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B12, plus local infections may also trigger this condition.
6: Needles and pins sensation in the hands and feet
Lack of vitamin B6 may cause peripheral neuropathy, a type of nerve infection that causes a prickling and tingling sensation (needles and pins) in the arms, legs, hands, and feet. The nerve damage may also result in balance problems and clumsiness. Nerve problems caused by a lack of vitamin B6 can be treated with a supplement.
On the other hand, excessive intake of vitamin B6 in the form of inactive pyridoxine HCL may also cause neuropathy, which is because this form of vitamin B6 blocks the active form, PLP, in the body. Peripheral neuropathy may also be caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
7: Impaired immunity
Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of white blood cells and antibodies that help fight infections. The vitamin also supports a protein called interleukin-2 that helps prepare the white blood cells for action. People with autoimmune diseases, where the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues, may suffer from increased destruction of vitamin B6, which increases their need for the vitamin. A study from Taiwan showed that vitamin B6 supplementation improves the immune system in critically ill patients. If you have impaired immunity, you must make sure to get enough vitamin C, vitamin D, selenium, and zinc.
8: Microcytic anemia
Lack of vitamin B6 may result in a type of anemia that is characterized by red blood cells that are too small. This causes fatigue and a number of other symptoms that occur because the cells get too little oxygen. Microcytic anemia is also seen with iron deficiency. It seems that supplementation with the active form of vitamin B6 (pyridoxal 5-phosphate) has the best effect.
9: Cramps and muscle spasms
Lack of vitamin B6 may result in an insufficient production of the calming neurotransmitter, GABA, which can overstimulate the brain. Symptoms like muscle spasms, eye rolls, and jerky arm and leg movements may occur. There can also be symptoms similar to those seen with epileptic seizures. Vitamin B6 deficiencies may cause cramps in neonates. The first cases of this were observed in the 1950s in babies who got baby food with too little vitamin B6. Later, it has been seen that lack of vitamin B6 can also cause cramps in pregnant women, alcoholics, and patients with liver diseases. Cramps can also be caused by lack of magnesium and vitamin D.
10: Elevated homocysteine levels
Homocysteine is a byproduct of protein metabolism. Homocysteine is converted into other amino acids with help from vitamin B6, folic acid, and vitamin B12. If you lack these B vitamins it may result in elevated homocysteine levels in the blood with the potential to cause blood vessels and neuron damage, which is linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. It is possible to check your homocysteine levels with a normal blood test. Elevated homocysteine can be lowered by taking supplements of vitamin B6, folic acid, and vitamin B12. One should also pay attention to other factors like diet and physical activity.
11: Morning sickness
Most pregnant women experience morning sickness from around 4-7 weeks into their pregnancy, and approximately 50% of them suffer from vomiting. Studies suggest that high doses of vitamin B6 can counteract nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. The supplement should be prescribed by a doctor or midwife.
Vitamin B6 deficiency and poor utilization of the nutrient can be caused by
Reference intake and the use of supplements
The reference intake level (RI) in Denmark for adults and children aged 11 years and older is 1.4 mg daily. It is best to get your vitamin B6 by eating a healthy and varied diet. Supplements may be necessary, provided there is a deficiency. It is normally advisable to take supplements of vitamin B6 together with other B vitamins and not in combination with antacids. If you take large quantities of vitamin B6, make sure to split the dose into several smaller doses, for instance by taking them together with the three main meals. Vitamin B6 is water-soluble, so excess vitamin B6 in the blood is easily excreted in the urine.
Overdosing – side effects
Vitamin B6 overdosing is very rare, as the vitamin is water-soluble and therefore easy to excrete in the urine. Ingestion of very large amounts at once such as 10 grams may result in impaired coordination of movements and reduced sense of touch in arms and legs. Similar symptoms may occur after prolonged use of daily doses of around 100-200 mg, which is 70-140 times higher than the RI level.
Mary J. Brown et al. Vitamin B6 Deficiency. StatPearls October 3. 2020
Marsha McCulloch. 9 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin B6 Deficiency. Healthline 2018
James J. Dicolantonio and James H. O´Keefe. The Importance of Marine Omega-3s for Brain Development and the Prevention and treatment of Behavior, Mood, and Other Brain Disorders. Nutrients. 2020
Christian Stevns Hansen. Almindelige vitaminer og mineraler er forbundne med alvorlige komplikationer hos diabetes patienter. Formidling af Ph.d. afhandlingen: Exploring new risk markers for diabetic cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy.
Nikki Hancocks. Diet and supplements: Swiss panel publishes COVID-19 recommendations. 2020
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