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Vitamin B6 For Brain Health

pyridoxine vitamin b6 bananas

What is vitamin B6?
Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, is a water-soluble nutrient that is part of the B vitamin family. B vitamins help support adrenal function, help calm and maintain a healthy nervous system, and are necessary for key metabolic processes. Vitamin B6 acts as a coenzyme in the breakdown and utilization of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

Why is vitamin B6 necessary?
Vitamin B6 helps in the production of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that allow brain and nerve cells to communicate with one another, ensuring that metabolic processes such as fat and protein metabolism run smoothly, and is important for immune system function in older individuals. It can also help address a number of conditions, including nerve compression injuries (like carpal tunnel syndrome), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and some cases of depression and arthritis. It is often used to treat high homocysteine levels along with folic acid and vitamin B12. Memory loss, diabetes, asthma attacks, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), kidney stones, lung cancer, acne and atherosclerosis may also be treated and improved via vitamin B6 supplementation.

What are the signs of a deficiency?
Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to nerve damage in the hands and feet. Cervical dysplasia has been linked to a low intake of several B vitamins including pyridoxine, and people with alcoholism, cirrhosis, hyperthyroidism and congestive heart failure may experience deficiencies more often. Some symptoms of a vitamin B6 deficiency include dermatitis, cracked and sore lips, inflamed tongue and mouth, confusion, depression and insomnia.

How much, and what kind, does an adult need?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for adult males between 19 and 50 years of age is 1.3 mg, and those over the age of 50 need 1.7 mg. Women between 19 and 50 years of age should take 1.3 mg, and those over 50 should take 1.5 mg. Pregnant women should take 1.9 mg and lactating women, 2 mg. Dr. Weil recommends 50 mg as part of a daily B-complex supplement that contains a full spectrum of B vitamins, including thiamin, B12, riboflavin and niacin.

How much does a child need?
The NIH suggests infants get 0.1 mg per day, children from 7 to 12 months get 0.3 mg; children between 1 and 3 years of age get 0.5 mg. Children from 4 to 8 years old should get 0.6 mg; from 9-13 years, 1 mg; teenage males 14-18 years old 1.0 mg per day, teenage females 4-18 years old 1.2 mg per day. Dr. Weil recommends 1 mg as part of a children's multivitamin, but you should always consult with your pediatrician.

How do you get enough vitamin B6 from foods?
Good food sources of vitamin B6 include brewer's yeast, bananas, cereal grains, legumes, vegetables (especially carrots, spinach and peas), potatoes, milk, cheese, eggs, fish and sunflower seeds.

Are there any risks associated with too much vitamin B6?
The current recommended maximum daily intake is 100 mg. High doses of vitamin B6 can, over time, be toxic, and may result in nerve damage or numbness and tingling in the extremities that may eventually be irreversible. You should discontinue use of supplemental B6 if any unusual numbness develops in the body. Too much B6 can also cause oversensitivity to sunlight, which can lead to skin rashes and numbness, as well as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and increased liver function test results.

Are there any other special considerations?
Vitamin B6 can reduce the effectiveness of levodopa therapy, which is used to treat Parkinson's disease. People taking penicillamine, used to treat Wilson's disease, lead poisoning, kidney stones and arthritis, should take vitamin B6 only under a physician's direct supervision. Estrogenic herbs and supplements, including birth control pills, may interact with vitamin B6.


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