Vitamins are necessary for the overall health and well being of the human body. They support a range of different bodily functions, which include the production of red blood cells and energy. The human body requires 13 different vitamins. Eight of those are classed as B-complex, or B-group vitamins.
B-complex vitamins are not responsible for the production of energy. This is important to know, because a lot of supplement advertisements are claiming that B vitamins can do so. That is because, without B-complex vitamins, the body will lack energy. However, the fuel is actually provided by protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
What the B-complex vitamins do is ensure that the body is able to actually use that fuel. B-group vitamins are also incredibly important to help cells multiply and regenerate, because they help the body make new DNA. For people who have nerve damage, these vitamins for neuropathy have many positive benefits, which is why they are added to products for treating nerve pain like Nerve Renew.
B-Complex Vitamins in Food
There are many foods that contain B-complex vitamins. However, they are water soluble and very delicate. This means that it is very easy to destroy the B vitamins in them, particularly through cooking or by mixing them with alcohol. Additionally, when processing food, much of the B-complex vitamins are also destroyed. This is why it is important to eat wholegrain bread, rice, and flour rather than the white versions.
The human body struggles to store most of the eight vitamins included in the B-group, with the exception of folate and B12, both of which are stored in the liver. Those who follow a very poor diet for a number of months may develop a vitamin B deficiency. Hence, it is very important that people eat a diet that is heavy in B-complex vitamins, which can be achieved by following a nutritious, balanced meal plan.
If you suspect that you have a B vitamin deficiency, it is important to have this checked out by a physician, rather than self-diagnosing. This is because taking B-complex supplements can actually mask deficiencies in a range of other vitamins. Furthermore, if taken incorrectly, some vitamins may actually be toxic. Hence, it is important to always see a physician or a nutritionist for advice.
The Types of B Vitamins
There are eight kinds of B vitamins:
- Vitamin B1 or thiamin
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine
- Folate, which, when taken as a supplement, is known as folic acid
- Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin
Let's take a look at the vitamins that have an impact on the health of nerve cells, and should therefore be considered by someone with neuropathy.
Vitamin B12 is the one that most people will have come across at some point or another. It is responsible for the production and maintenance of myelin, which is the substance that surrounds nerve cells.
It is also responsible for breaking down amino acids and fatty acids for energy production, the formation of red blood cells, and mental ability. Cyanocobalamin is very closely related to folate, as each of these two B vitamins needs the other in order to function properly.
Vitamin B12 can be obtained through diet. It is found in high dosages in almost any type of animal product, including eggs, cheese, milk, meat, and liver.
It is also for this reason that vegetarians often have to supplement. In fact, the elderly, who often eat a diet low in meat products, vegetarians, and vegans (including breastfed babies if their mother is vegetarian or vegan) often have a vitamin B12 deficiency.
As a result, they can experience fatigue, tiredness, weight loss, lack of appetite, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, smooth tongue, vision loss, and mental problems, including memory loss and depression.
Thiamin is responsible for the conversion of glucose into energy. It also plays an important role in nerve function. Some of the best natural sources are white and wholemeal bread if fortified with thiamin (this is mandatory in Australia), pork, yeast, nuts, wheatgerm, legumes, seeds (sesame seeds have the highest concentrations), and wholemeal cereal grains.
Thiamin deficiency is most common in people from countries where rice is the staple food. If it happens in the Western world, it is more likely to be caused due to a very poor diet and/or excessive alcohol consumption.
Someone with a deficiency usually experiences muscle weakness, fatigue, lethargy, poor leg and/or arm coordination, irritability, and confusion.
There are two conditions, known as wet beriberi and dry beriberi that are caused by thiamin deficiencies. These conditions affect the nervous, gastrointestinal, muscular, and cardiovascular systems.
Those who have dry beriberi often experience neuropathy, having tingling sensations all over their body, as well as losing coordination in the legs and arms. Wet beriberi, by contrast, affects the heart.
Vitamin B6 is required for the metabolism of carbohydrates and protein, the formation of certain brain chemicals, and the production of red blood cells. This vitamin influences the way the brain develops and performs its processes, the immune system, and the activity of steroid hormones. Pyridoxine can be found naturally in fruit, liver, nuts, poultry, meat, shellfish, fish, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and cereal grains.
Unfortunately, vitamin B6 can also be consumed in too large a quantity. This is common in people who self-diagnose and supplement without doctor's advice.
This can lead to nerve damage and neuropathy, including having numbness in the feet and hands, and having difficulties in walking. If taken too long in a large dosage, the nerve damage can become permanent.
Research is ongoing into the benefits and drawbacks of taking B-complex vitamins in the treatment of neuropathy. It is very important to be careful with supplementation, however.
This is because, although vitamins B12 and B1 do help in the severity of neuropathy, vitamin B6 can actually make it worse. This is why it is important to supplement only with the right types of B vitamins, and not simply take a full complex. And, as always, you should never purchase and/or use supplements without agreement from your physician.