#50: Nutritional Deficiencies: B Vitamins

By , On , In Blog, Nutrition, Podcast

We’ve all starred at a label wondering what all those words like riboflavin, folic acid, and thiamine really mean. The B vitamins are a group of eight individual vitamins, often referred to as the B-complex vitamins. In this podcast, we will take a look at how the B vitamins work so you can begin to understand what all of this mumble jumble actually does for your body. Also what can happen if you are lacking them. Figure out what exactly precision nutrition means and keep healthy.


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Although B Vitamins are commonly recognized as a group and often work together in the body, each of the them perform unique and important functions. B Vitamins are water soluble, this means they dissolve in water. There are two types of vitamins – water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are carried through the bloodstream, whatever is not required is eliminated in urine. Therefore you need to consume B vitamins everyday because our bodies do not store them and supplies go down rapidly. However if you are eating a diet mostly based on whole plant based foods you should be getting enough, except for maybe B12.

To help you better understand the roles of each of the B vitamins, we have put together this post to introduce them each individually. Please note that neither Zuzana or myself are physicians and if you feel you are lacking any of the vitamins or minerals we have explained, we advise you to speak to your physician. 

Vitamin B-1 (Thiamine)

Thiamin is needed to help produce cellular energy from the foods you eat, and also supports normal nervous system function. Like most B Vitamins it is water soluble 

B-1 Deficiency Symptoms & Who’s At Risk

It is very rare to have a deficiency in this particular B vitamin. People who are at risk are individuals that consume most of their calories from sugar and/or alcohol. People with a deficiency may have difficulties digesting carbohydrates, causing loss of mental alertness, difficulty breathing and possible heart damage

Where To Get B-1

Found in most foods, but mostly small amounts. Some examples include:

  • bakers yeast
  • nutritional yeast
  • coriander
  • spirulina
  • green peas
  • asparagus
  • acorn squash
  • watermelon
  • sunflower seeds
  • macadamia nuts
  • whole grains
  • wheat germ

Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)

Riboflavin, is an essential vitamin required for proper energy metabolism and a wide variety of cellular processes. It helps create energy by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and plays a vital role in maintaining the body’s energy supply.

B-2 Deficiency Symptoms & Who’s At Risk

Poor diet is number one. However like any deficiency, anyone who suffers from any condition that can effect the absorption of these vitamins and minerals are at risk . Those conditions may include IBS, Crohns Disease, Celiac Disease, and anyone who has or had an eating disorder.  You may start to notice your urine being a brighter yellow – usually an indication that your body is not absorbing it or that you already have enough. A deficiency of riboflavin can lead to cracking and reddening of the lips, inflammation of the mouth, mouth ulcers, sore throat, and even iron deficiency anemia

Where To Get B-2

Found in most foods, but mostly small amounts. Some examples include:

  • almonds
  • sesame seeds
  • soybeans
  • spinach
  • swiss chard
  • beet greens
  • sea vegetables
  • mushrooms

Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)

Like all B vitamins, niacin plays a role in converting carbohydrates into glucose, metabolizing fats and proteins, and keeping the nervous system working properly. Niacin also helps the body make sex- and stress-related hormones and improves circulation and cholesterol levels.

B-3 Deficiency Symptoms & Who’s At Risk

Today, most people get plenty of niacin in their diets. Niacin deficiency is more likely to be caused by problems that affect absorption of niacin (like any vitamin or mineral). Another possible cause could be from alcoholism.

Where To Get B-3

Found in most foods, but mostly small amounts. Some examples include:

  • all leafy green vegetables – the greener, the better!
  • wheat bran
  • mushrooms, portobello
  • cooked potatoes
  • oatmeal
  • lentils
  • sunflower seeds

Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Small amounts of vitamin B5 are found in just about every food group (so deficiency is really hard to attain) — its name even says so. Pantothenic comes from the Greek word pantothen, meaning “from everywhere.”  Like the others, it too is responsible for breaking down our food for energy and also the production of sex and stress-related hormones including testosterone. It also helps decrease bad cholesterol, blood pressure and balance blood sugar. 

B-5 Deficiency Symptoms & Who’s At Risk

Tingling and numbness in the extremities, intestinal upset, headaches, fatigue, however very rare to anyone with access to food. 

Where To Get B-5

Like mentioned above – found in most foods. Some examples include:

  • avocado
  • sunflower seeds
  • lentils
  • sun dried tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower

Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine)

Pyridoxine is a major player in mood and sleep patterns because it helps the body produce serotonin, melatonin and norepinephrine, a stress hormone. Therefore often know as the “anti-depressant vitamin.”

B-6 Deficiency Symptoms & Who’s At Risk

People with specific health problems such as auto-immune disorders and kidney disease may be deficient. Depression is the number one symptom of this deficiency. However insufficient amounts of B-6 can also result in anemia or skin disorders, such as a rash or cracks around the mouth. People can also suffer from nausea, confusion, or irritability

Where To Get B-6

Some examples include:

  • pistachio nuts
  • dried fruit (prunes)
  • bananas
  • avocados
  • walnuts
  • whole grains

Vitamin B-7 (Biotin)

Because of its association with healthy hair, skin and nails, this B vitamin also goes by “the beauty vitamin.” We can’t make it from scratch, but our gut bacteria make it for us and our body can actually recycle what we have used!  Not to mention, Biotin is used in the body to metabolize both sugar and fat. In metabolizing sugar, biotin transports sugar from its beginning stages to its eventual conversion into usable energy.

B-7 Deficiency Symptoms & Who’s At Risk

Again anyone with a condition affecting their digestion and inability to absorb these vitamins would most likely be deficient. Also those who have had prolonged antibiotic use, may also suffer from B7 deficiency.

Where To Get B-7

Some examples include:

  • bean sprouts
  • almonds 
  • strawberries
  • sweet potatoes
  • carrots
  • walnuts

Vitamin B-9 (Folate)

You may have heard another name for B9 — folic acid — which is the synthetic form used in supplements and fortified foods like cereal and bread (avoid these!). Studies suggest folate may help keep depression at bay and prevent memory loss. This vitamin is also especially important for women who are pregnant since it supports the growth of the baby and prevents neurological birth defects.

B-9 Deficiency Symptoms & Who’s At Risk

Like I mentioned above, it is essential for pregnant women (please speak to your physician), as well as breast feeding mothers. Others who feel that they make be at risk of deficiency would experience symptoms such as the following: Poor immune function (frequently getting sick), chronic fatiguePoor digestion (issues like constipation, bloating and IBS), pale skin, or canker sores in the mouth

Where To Get B-9

Some examples include:

  • Chickpeas (1/2 cup provides over 100% DV)
  • green leafy vegetables
  • soaked legumes
  • citrus fruits
  • sprouted grains
  • nuts & seeds

Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin)

This B vitamin is a total team player. Cobalamin works with vitamin B9 to produce red blood cells and help iron do its job: create the oxygen carrying protein, hemogloblin. It is hard to get adequate amount of B-12 as it is created by soil based bacteria, not in the body – and well you know what our soil is turning into. 

B-12 Deficiency Symptoms & Who’s At Risk

Vitamin B12 deficiency is quite common (not only in vegetarians), but even among those who eat plenty of the rich sources of B12, like animals. This is definitely one to monitor – ask your doc to add it to your blood work, just to be sure. Weakness, tiredness, lightheadedness, or sores in your mouth are the most common symptoms that you may require more B-12. 

Where To Get B-12

Some examples include:

  • Nutritional yeast
  • tempeh 
  • chlorella 
  • spirulina

Phew… that was a lot of information! I hope you are not overwhelmed, or if you skimmed through it – you were able to answer any questions you may have had. Like we mentioned in this post and the podcast – it all starts in your gut! Making sure you have a healthy working digestive system has a huge impact on absorbing proper nutrients. A good approach is having a reliable digestive enzyme before your meal – we love to use Liyfzyme by PuraDyme. 

Stay tuned for our next episode! 

Dedicated to your health and wellbeing, 

Zuz and Nik Signature-01

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