Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin consisting of three related compounds: pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine. It is required for the proper absorption of vitamin B12 and for the production of hydrochloric aid and magnesium. It also helps linoleic acid function better in the body. Pyridoxine plays an important role as a coenzyme in the breakdown and utilization of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It must be present for the production of antibodies and red blood cells. The release of glycogen for energy from the liver and muscles is facilitated by vitamin B6. It also acid in the conversion of tryptophan, an essential amino acid to niacin and is necessary for the synthesis and proper action of DNA and RNA.
Vitamin B6 helps maintain the balance of sodium and potassium, which regulates body fluids and promotes the normal functioning of the nervous and musculoskeletal systems. The best sources of vitamin B6 are meats and whole grains. Desiccated liver and brewer's yeast are the recommended supplemental sources.
A daily supply of vitamin B6, together with the other B-complex vitamins, is necessary because it is excreted in the urine within 8 hours after ingestion and is not stored in the liver. Fasting and reducing diets can deplete the body's supply of vitamin B6 if proper supplements are not taken.
Vitamin B6 seems to be another B vitamin that, if administered alone, can cause an imbalance or deficiency of other B vitamins. The Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin B6 is 2 milligrams per day. The need for vitamin B6 increases during pregnancy, lactation, exposure to radiation, cardiac failure, aging, and use of oral contraceptives. Intravenous doses of 200 milligrams have proved nontoxic, and daily oral doses of 100 to 300 milligrams have been administered to alleviate drug-induced neuritis without side effects. However, too-high amounts taken for a prolonged time have resulted in nerve damage in some people.
Because B6 is involved in the production of hydrochloric acid, people with stomach ulcers should seek a doctor's advice before taking the vitamin in large doses.
Deficiency Effects and Symptoms
In cases of B6 deficiency there is low blood sugar and low glucose tolerance, resulting in sensitivity to insulin. Deficiency may also cause loss of hair, water retention during pregnancy, cracks around the mouth and eyes, numbness and cramps in arms and legs, slow learning, visual disturbances, neuritis, arthritis, heart disorders involving nerves, temporary paralysis of a limb, and an increase in urination.
If a vitamin B6 deficiency is allowed to continue through late pregnancy, stillbirths or postdelivery infant mortality may result. Infants born to B6 deficient mothers may have convulsions. Studies have shown that pregnant women retain more B6 than nonpregnant women; therefore supplemental doses may be needed to make sure the fetus is adequately supplied.
A certain type of anemia characterized by red blood cells that are too small, apparently the result of a defective heredity factor, responds very well to vitamin B6. Some people may have an unbalanced metabolism caused by a genetic dependency on B6. Too much B6 without zinc can lead to numbness and tingling of the fingers and toes. Reducing the dosage and adding brewer's yeast and zinc or a multiple vitamin (without copper) can eliminate the symptoms.
Kryptopyrrole, also known as the mauve factor, found in large quantities in the urine of many schizophrenics and less often in normal people, has been shown to bind pyridoxine, resulting in a deficiency of the vitamin. Some patients with this mauve factor may need as much as 250-3000 milligrams per day. The treatment should include zinc; and manganese and niacin may also be helpful. B6 and zinc have also helped people with kryptopyrrole to remember their dreams (a part of treatment).
Symptoms of a B6 deficiency are similar to those seen in niacin and riboflavin deficiencies and may include muscular weakness, nervousness, irritability, depression, and dermatitis. Tingling hands, shoulder-hand syndrome, wrist-hand syndromes, and arthritis associated with menopause also may be present.
Beneficial Effect on Ailments
There is evidence that suggests a relationship between vitamin B6 and cholesterol metabolism; therefore B6 may be involved in the control of atherosclerosis. Vitamin B6 has been used in the treatment of nervous disorders and in the control of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Vitamin B6 has been successfully used to help treat male sexual disorders, eczema, thinning and loss of hair, elevated cholesterol level, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, pancreatitis, ulcers, muscular weakness, some types of heart disturbances, burning feet, some types of kidney stones, acne, tooth decay, and diabetes. It is needed to prevent and treat shoulder-hand syndrome. Administration of B6 to mentally retarded children has helped relieve convulsize seizures. It also appears to be beneficial in treating stress, along with zinc.
As a natural diuretic, vitamin B6 aids in the prevention of water buildup in the tissues. It has helped women who suffer from temporary premenstrual changes such as edema and may be effective in helping problems of overweight caused by water retention. Reduction of the pain and size of the reddened knots on the sides of finger joints occurring in women during menopause has responded to daily ingestion of B6. Individuals who are especially photosensitive to sunlight and quickly sunburn have been treated success fully with B6.