Vitamin B-6, also called Pyridoxine, refers to a family of closely related water soluble substances that include pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. Vitamin B6 is a water soluble nutrient that cannot be stored in the body, but must be obtained daily from either dietary sources or supplements.
Vitamin B6 is an important nutrient that supports more vital bodily functions than any other vitamin. This is due to its role as a coenzyme involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Vitamin B6 is also responsible for the manufacture of hormones, red blood cells, neurotransmitters, enzymes and prostaglandins. Vitamin B6 is required for the production of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that controls our moods, appetite, sleep patterns, and sensitivity to pain. A deficiency of vitamin B6 can quickly lead to insomnia and a profound malfunctioning of the central nervous system.
Among its many benefits, vitamin B6 is recognized for helping to maintain healthy immune system functions, for protecting the heart from cholesterol deposits, and for preventing kidney stone formation. B6 is also effective in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, night leg cramps, allergies, asthma and arthritis.
Common symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency can include depression, vomiting, anemia, kidney stones, dermatitis, lethargy and increased susceptibility to diseases due to a weakened immune system. Infants suffering from vitamin B6 deficiency can be anxious and irritable, and in extreme cases may develop convulsions.
Supplemental B6 is a commonly used as a treatment for nausea, morning sickness and depression. Pregnant women have an increased need for supplemental vitamin B6, as do patients suffering from heart disease or those undergoing radiation treatment. Persons on high protein diets require extra vitamin B6, as do those taking antidepressants, amphetamines, oral contraceptives, and estrogen.
Natural foods highest in vitamin B6 include brewers yeast, carrots, chicken, eggs, fish, avocados, bananas, brown rice, and whole grains. The RDA for vitamin B6 is 2 mg per day. Most B-complex formulas contain between 10 to 75 mg. of vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 is one of the few vitamins that can be toxic. Doses up to 500 mg per day are uncommon but safe, but doses above 2 grams per day can lead to irreversible neurological damage unless under the treatment of a physician. Vitamin B6 supplements should not be taken by Parkinson’s disease patients being treated with L-dopa as vitamin B6 can diminish the effects of L-dopa in the brain.