Spotlight on Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin found in food and also synthesized by our gut bacteria. Read on to learn more about how it contributes to overall health and certain conditions/disease states that might benefit from B6 supplementation.
Functions of Vitamin B6
- Involved in energy metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats
- Involved in 100 different enzymatic reactions
- Needed for synthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and GABA
- Reduces levels of homocysteine. High homocysteine levels are linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, depression and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Needed for proper formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein responsible for transporting oxygen through the body
Symptoms of Deficiency
- Microcytic anemia (red blood cells are small and not formed properly)
- Dermatitis (cracks at the corner of the mouth)
- Glossitis (swollen tongue)
Renal failure and other kidney diseases can cause Vitamin B6 deficiency. Malabsorptive diseases like Celiac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) may also lead to Vitamin B6 deficiency due to damage and inflammation along the GI tract. Research also shows that Vitamin B6 status may be low in those with autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis. Those with alcohol dependency also tend to be deficient in B6 since alcohol consumption depletes B6.
Sources of B6
The best sources of Vitamin B6 are fish (tuna and salmon), liver and other organ meats, beef, chicken, chickpeas, avocado, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, and fruits like bananas.
Therapeutic Uses of B6
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Symptoms of PMS like anxiety, depression, irritability may be soothed by B6 supplementation. One crossover study found that supplementing with 50 mg of B6 reduced emotional symptoms of PMS by 69% (self-reported by participants) compared to 37% in the placebo group. PMS may also be due to hormonal imbalances with estrogen and progesterone and generally requires a deeper dive to determine the root cause.
- Nausea in Pregnancy
Although the mechanism of action is not entirely understood, research shows that B6 supplementation can be very helpful in reducing nausea during pregnancy. One study found significant decreases in the severity of nausea among pregnant women who supplemented with 30 mg of B6 daily. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 10-25 mg of B6 taken 3-4x/day to reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
- Cardiovascular Health
This study found that supplementation of B12, Folate and B6 lowered homocysteine levels and decreased risk of stroke by 25%. However, other studies have shown no significant benefit. Because there is little risk of adverse outcomes due to supplementation of B6, it’s not a bad idea to take 50 mg of B6 (the amount used in the study) daily if you are considered at risk for heart disease or stroke.
Vitamin B6 is a cofactor in the tryptophan-serotonin pathway, and some research shows a correlation between B6 deficiency and depression. However, several systemic reviews of the recent literature have found no benefit of B6 supplementation on depressive symptoms not otherwise associated with PMS. That being said, because we know that B6 is important for neurotransmitter synthesis, we recommend making sure your dietary intake is adequate or taking a good quality multivitamin that contains the activated form of B6, called P5P.
Supplementing Vitamin B6
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for Vitamin B6 for adults ranges from 1.2-1.7 mg. Since a lot of foods are a great source of B6, its uncommon to have an overt deficiency. However, vegans/vegetarians, those who are not eating a whole foods diet, those with malabsorption or chronic disease and those with the conditions listed above might benefit from supplementing. Most supplements contain well over the RDA, but since Vitamin B6 is water soluble your body just flushes what it doesn’t need. Research about supplementing B6 for certain conditions suggests higher doses than the RDA as well in many cases. When supplementing, we recommend taking a good quality multivitamin, or a B complex that contains the other B vitamins too since they work synergistically for your metabolism. Always consult with a trusted healthcare professional before starting any dietary supplement. Need help? Let us know!