You may have heard about B-vitamins, but do you know what it really does for your body? From fetal development to menopause, this band of B vitamins, also called B-complex vitamins, boasts of many health benefits for the body! Comprised of eight different vitamins, these B-vitamins work closely together for optimal health. Together, this combination of vitamins can help in immune and nervous system function, aid in brain function, and promote eye, liver, hair, and mouth health. Yet individually, each has its own benefits, too! Some of these vitamins are more known by their chemical name, while some may be new to you. Not sure what they are? Let us find out.
But first, what is a vitamin? Vitamins are organic compounds needed by organisms that cannot produce them adequately on their own, but are crucial for healthy growth and development. There are two types of vitamins: fat-soluble ones that are stored and used as needed such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, and water-soluble ones that only use enough and expel the excess from the body through urine, which are vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins. We all know what vitamin C can do to our health, but what about the B’s? Now let us break these down:
- Vitamin B1, also called thiamin, aids blood formation and regulates blood circulation. It is an antioxidant, too. It also promotes good digestion and helps strengthen the muscles of the heart, stomach, and intestines. A crippling and fatal disease affecting the nerves and heart called beriberi once claimed thousands of lives in the early 1900s, but with the discovery of this vitamin, it prevented the disease ever since. In addition, vitamin B1 also helps prevent canker sores, or singaw.
- Vitamin B2 or riboflavin helps metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. It supports eye function and helps in easing eye fatigue, as well as preventing and treating cataracts. Moreover, it helps prevent canker sores and ease migraines. It also promotes fetal development among pregnant women. Hair loss, insomnia, light sensitivity, rashes, and sores are some of the symptoms of being vitamin B2 deficient.
- Vitamin B3, also called niacin, is a versatile vitamin that is included in numerous bodily functions. Like vitamin B2, it also helps metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. And like vitamin B1, it aids in digestion with the production of hydrochloric acid. In addition, it also helps in blood circulation, cell formation, controls blood sugar and cholesterol levels, promotes proper brain and nerve function, and is also an antioxidant. Because of this, it can ease osteoarthritis symptoms by encouraging tissue repair and improving muscle function, and it can also alleviate dysmenorrhea symptoms as niacin aids in proper blood circulation. Insufficient vitamin B3 can cause digestive problems, nausea, and abdominal cramps.
- Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid also metabolizes fats, carbohydrates, and proteins similar to other B-vitamins, but it is also crucial in a hundred other metabolic functions of the body. It also helps in red blood cell formation, promotes proper gastrointestinal function, lowers cholesterol levels, encourages wound healing, and helps with acne control. Even those with depression can benefit from this vitamin. Deficiency of this vitamin can have symptoms that can range from loss of appetite, halitosis, insomnia, and depression.
- Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is the most hardworking of all B-vitamins as it aids in more functions of the body than any other. It supports mental, immune, and nervous system functions, as well as promotes heart health by reducing homocysteine (a chemical that can lead to heart problems). More than that, it can also alleviate asthma symptoms by strengthening the immune system, treat canker sores as vitamin B6 helps with tissue repair, premenstrual syndrome, and menopause by controlling estrogen and progesterone levels, among other benefits. Deficiency in vitamin B6 can cause skin disorders, be prone to illness, and depression.
- Vitamin B7 or biotin helps metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, as well as other B-vitamins. It also aids in the proper activity of nerve, digestive, and cardiovascular processes. It also promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails. Headache, fatigue, and skin problems are some of the symptoms related to vitamin B7 deficiency.
- Vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, is especially popular among women who are pregnant or planning to conceive. Folate is unique among other B-vitamins as it prevents low birth weight in newborn infants and lowers the incidences of premature births and birth defects such as spina bifida, and other fetal complications. At the same time, it functions like the other B-vitamins in metabolizing proteins and fatty acids, and aids in cellular functions. It also supports in DNA and RNA production. Other individuals can benefit from folate as it reduces homocysteine (a chemical that can lead to heart problems), helps in gingivitis treatment by easing inflammation, and it can also improve signs of depression as folate helps with brain and nerve function.
- Vitamin B12 or cobalamin works with vitamin B9 or folate to help in red blood cell production and nervous system function. It is also crucial in DNA and RNA formation. More than that, this vitamin is known for the prevention of anemia. Mood and behavioral changes can be from a vitamin B12 deficiency.
All vitamins can be found from food consumed every day, with some foods containing more than the others. For this reason, it is important that individuals choose their food wisely to ensure optimal health. More important, since B-vitamins are water-soluble, vitamin B-enriched foods must be consumed regularly to replenish it constantly as the body needs. Insufficient amounts of B-vitamins can be a factor to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. This is why consuming brown rice, green leafy vegetables, fish and red meat, nuts, poultry, and dairy products, are all important as these are good sources of B-vitamins. Adding B-complex supplements to your diet may boost your health, too, as it can complete your body’s lacking nutrients. But before adding supplements to your diet, consult your physician on the right dosage of vitamins for you. Different individuals require varying amounts of vitamins and minerals depending on their age, diet and lifestyle, state of health, and environment. Remember, there is no shortcut to good health. If you invest in your health the right way, right now, by choosing vitamin-enriched food while living a clean lifestyle, you are sure to have better days ahead. B well!