B vitamins are essential for many functions in the human body. They help convert carbohydrates to glucose, aid in fat and protein metabolism, and play a major role in supporting the nervous system. Additionally, they can aid the skin, hair, eyes, mucosal linings, and gastrointestinal tract.
They are commonly known for being the “anti-stress vitamins,” but many people only really discuss B12 levels. This topic is commonly raised while discussing the diets of vegans and vegetarians. While having a substantial amount of B12 is important, all of the B vitamins are needed to work in harmony with one another.
B vitamins are all needed daily through food or supplementation, as they are not stored easily by the body. Stress, alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and refined foods can also deplete these vitamins. The milling and processing of whole grains today can destroy up to 90% of some naturally occuring B vitamins. Where possible, eat wholegrains with the husk/germ still intact, such as brown rice vs minute rice. The less processing it goes through, the better. However, if this is not possible, look for items that are later enriched with vitamins after processing, such as bread products.
Deficiencies of B vitamins may look like: fatigue, irritability, depression, insomnia, cracks at the corners of the mouth, sore mouth, poor immune health, poor estrogen metabolism, anemia, constipation, acne, hair problems, increased serum cholesterol, weak legs, and neuritis.
I always have my clients use a “food first” approach to nutrients, so let’s dig in.
B vitamins are particularly important for growth, so pregnant mothers, breastfeeding mothers, and children should pay close attention. Additionally, if you are highly stressed, have an infection or have any mental health condition, you may consider taking a supplement. Remember, you will excrete the excess vitamins through urine and even some through sweat. If you take a supplement, your urine may turn a neon yellow/green colour. This is normal, as your body excretes the excess B2 it did not need. If you suspect a deficiency such as B12, speak to your doctor about a blood test. Until you are sure, stick to a complex, rather than an individual B vitamin.
Overall, try to diversify your diet and eat as many different fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds as possible. They all contain a different array of nutrients! Enjoy tasting the rainbow as spring rolls around!
Registered Holistic Nutritionist, BA