Important Vitamins: B-Complex

I think we should be getting most of what we need from our food. But there are some things we may want to supplement with as well: Magnesium, Vitamin D3, and B-complex! Especially, when coming off of the pill, this can be important because the pill depletes B vitamins.

You NEED Your Bs

B vitamins assist in the synthesis of RNA and DNA, which is important for cell health and also vital for creating healthy eggs and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. B vitamins are also responsible for helping our bodies turn carbohydrates into fuel.

Additionally vitamin B6 plays a crucial role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, making it incredibly important for our happiness and mood stability.

Vitamin B9 (folate) may help prevent certain cancers and is especially important for pregnant women since it helps with fetal development.

Vitamin B12 is essential for cholesterol and blood pressure maintenance, and helps lower depression and boost energy. Deficiencies can result in low libido, low sperm count in men, anemia, and even nerve damage if persistent (source).

Food Sources of Vitamin B

Liver and leafy greens are rock stars when it comes to Bs. Some of them can be specifically found in:

Vitamin B9 can be found in broccoli, beets and mustard greens.

Vitamin B6 can be found in spinach.

Vitamin B12 can be found in sardines, nutritional yeast, red meat, raw cheese and raw milk.

Vitamin B3 can be found in fish, nutritional yeast, turkey and crimini mushrooms.

Vitamin B1 can be found in wheat germ, eggs, nuts and seeds.

Why You Should Supplement

Unless you’re eating super clean whole foods that are nutrient packed at least 90% of the time, your body could probably use a boost.

Eating processed foods can actually cause us to go through B vitamins stores more quickly. The birth control pill depletes B vitamin levels so if are on it, you’ll want to take a B complex supplement daily. If you’ve recently ditched your hormonal BC, you will want to replace your nutrient stores, which is nearly impossible to do through food alone.

Stress also causes us to burn through B vitamins. So help yo’self out and supplement a bit!

Methylation and the MTHFR Gene Mutation

MTHFR gene mutation is a genetic defect that may affect up to 50% of women in the United States. Women with this gene mutation cannot process B vitamins in the form most commonly used in supplements.

Women without the mutation will methylate, or add a chemical tag, to B vitamins in their liver so that they can go on and be used. Women with the mutation are unable to do this.

This is why taking a methylated B is so important. Methylated B vitamins are pre-methylated so your body does not have to perform this step. With as much as 50% of women affected, you might as well take a methylated version if you have not been tested for the gene mutation. Because if you have it, you’ll just be eliminating those supplements you’re purchasing with no benefit.

For more on the MTHFR mutation, read this article by Nicole Jardim.

Folic Acid vs Folate

You’ll want to make sure that your B-complex vitamin contains folate instead of folic acid. Folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9, while folate is the naturally-occurring form. Many doctors will interchange the two terms, but they are in fact different. Several studies have shown elevated levels of the synthetic version in the blood following supplementation, an indication that the body is not as capable of metabolizing it (source). Other studies have indicated that the synthetic version of B9 is not as good at preventing the neural tube defects it is often prescribed to prevent as its naturally derived counterpart. For a full rundown of the issues with folic acid supplementation, included a potential elevated cancer risk, please read Dr. Kresser’s article here.

My Favorite B Complex

First recommended to me by my mentor Nicole Jardim when I was doing my initial training in women’s hormonal health, Thorne Research Basic B is still my favorite B-complex. And I still take it a few times a week. (If you’re first coming off of hormonal contraception, I recommend taking daily).

When choosing any B-complex, remember to look for folate (not folic acid), and methylated forms of each B. For instance, a methylated B will say “as methylcobalamin” instead of “as cobalamin” for B12.

Also check to make sure it contains vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6, and at least 400 mcg of vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin). Take your B-complex two to three times a week.

Photo: Alison Marras via Unsplash.