The following information comes from a splendid infographic titled “A Healthy Look Into the World of Vitamins,” which is chock-a-block full of useful information about vitamins, what they do inside the human body, signals of their deficiencies, and much more.
A tip of the hat goes to Harsha Reddy, Community Manager at MedAlertHelp.org, for sharing this compact, visual, easy-to-understand break-down of all the kinds of vitamins recognized today. (You can also find out why some letters aren’t used to name vitamins.)
As a lifelong advocate and follower of vitamin therapies, I was particularly interested in the infographic’s section on the water-soluble B vitamins support cell metabolism. Called coenzymes, they are helper molecules that regulate and support the enzymes that make our bodies work, helping to produce life-sustaining energy from the foods we eat and neurotransmitters for brain and nerve function.
I myself have taken a “B-Complex” vitamin for years – but what does that really mean?
The answer is surprisingly easy: there are eight total nutritional B vitamins. A supplement containing all eight is called vitamin B complex. These chemically distinct compounds are often found in the same foods.
Now let’s break it down by the number for each of the eight B vitamins. Note that there are no vitamins B4, B8, B10 or B11 – they will be discussed later:
B1 (Thiamine) provides steady energy and helps with nerve and muscle function. Symptoms of a B1 deficiency include fatigue, feeling low, and difficulty with coordination. Natural sources of B1 include sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, soybeans, and trout.
B2 (Riboflavin) helps the body maintain an energy supply to muscle and assists red blood cell production. Dry or cracked lips, sensitivity to light, and a sore throat are all signs of Riboflavin deficiency. Foods high in B2 include eggs, almonds, mushrooms, salmon, and liver.
B3 (Niacin) reduces levels of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream and helps the body to metabolize fat, glucose, and alcohol. Not having enough niacin can cause indigestion, fatigue, and canker sores. Eat green peas, yellowfish tuna, peanuts, mushrooms, and sunflower seeds for natural Niacin.
B5 (Pantothenic acid) oxidizes fatty acids, carbohydrates, helps the formation of red blood cells, and ensures that the adrenal glands work properly. Being low in Pantothenic acid may show up as fatigue, insomnia or stomach pain. Sunflower seeds, trout, eggs, mushrooms, and avocado all provide high levels of B5.
B6 (Pyridoxine) also helps with red blood cell production, detoxifies the liver, and assists the development and proper functioning of the brain and central nervous system. Among the signs of Pyridoxine deficiency are microcytic anemia, dermatitis (skin disease) with cheilosis, and glossitis (swollen tongue). Food sources rich in B6 include sunflower seeds, tuna, pistachios, dried prunes, and bananas.
B7 (Biotin) contributes to healthy hair and skin, and plays a role in the metabolism of lipids (fats), proteins, and carbohydrates – all bodily energy sources. If you are low on Biotin, you might experience hair loss, a characteristic scaly red rash in the face and in the genital areas, and perhaps even hallucinations. Eggs, salmon, strawberries, sweet potatoes, and broccoli are all great natural sources of vitamin B7.
B9 (Folate) helps with the formation of red blood cells and lowers the risk of central nervous system defects in unborn babies. Folate deficiency signs include anemia, poor immune function, chronic low energy, and poor digestion. Black-eyed peas, spinach, lentils, asparagus, and Romaine lettuce have large amounts of folate.
B12 (Cobalamin) is essential for the production of blood cells and plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Signs of deficiency are quite noticeable: difficulty walking, numbness or tingling in the hands, legs or feet, and experiencing strange sensations. Incorporate more eggs, silken tofu, trout, mackerel, and clams in your diet to boost your B12 levels.
What about those missing B vitamins? They aren’t regarded as vitamins – and there are more of them than the edible kind. Here they are:
- B4 – Adenine
- B8 – Adenosine Monophosphate
- B10 – Para-aminobenzoic Acid
- B13 – Orotic Acid
- B14 – Phosphate
- B11 – Pteryl-hepta-glutamic Acid, also called vitamin S
- B15 – Pangamic Acid
- B16 – Dimethylglycine
- B17 – Amygdalin, also called Laetrile, used in cancer treatment
There are even more B vitamins (B20, B22, Bh, Bm, Bp, Bt, Bv, and Bw) that are only used in plants or have been determined not to be vitamins at all.
If you simply can’t eat enough foods high in B-complex vitamins – trout, eggs, mushrooms, and sunflower seeds, and such – do what I do: take an oral supplement. Keep your red blood cells healthy and happy so you can “B” all you can “B!”