Vitamins are classified as coenzymes or cofactors that must be supplied to the body because the body cannot synthesize them, but they are needed to activate other substances in the body. Since your bodily functions are dependent upon the activation of enzymes and proteins, enough vitamins are needed to make whole and complete enzymes where and when they are needed.
The members of the “Vitamin B-Complex” are actually varied in their actions in the body and their availability in foods. They were once thought to be a single vitamin extracted from rice and yeast. But when they were found to be different compounds with different actions in the body, they were given a “B name”. Most of the individual B vitamins are no longer called by their “B name”. They are called by their official chemical names. This is why you no longer see “Vitamin B-1” or “Vitamin B-2” on supplement labels; you now see the terms thiamine and riboflavin, respectively.
In the case of the B-complex vitamins, most of them can be synthesized by intestinal bacteria – the good guys called “friendly flora.” Because of many issues, this intestinal production cannot, and should not, be counted on to provide all of these critical vitamins to the body. Taking pharmaceutical antibiotics and using goldenseal root to kill “germs” are just two of the issues that might affect the making of B-complex vitamins by intestinal bacteria.
For achieving and maintaining a healthy body, I always suggest a high potency B-complex supplement or obtaining meaningful amounts of these vitamins in the multivitamin that you take. Some foods are good sources of B-complex vitamins, but highly processed foods are usually not good sources.
Here is an overview of the roles of the B-complex vitamins in the body:
- help the nervous system function;
- essential for healthy skin and muscle tone;
- help keep the hair and eyes healthy;
- must be present for the proper functioning of the liver, the gastrointestinal tract and carbohydrate-fat-protein metabolism; and
- enhance energy processes in the body.
When the body is deficient in one of the B-complex nutrients there will be signs, such as poor appetite, rough-dry skin, fatigue, dull hair, constipation, acne or insomnia.
Some things can deplete B-complex nutrients from the body. Since they are water dispersible, they can be lost in urine and sweat. They do not accumulate appreciably in the body. When the needs and demands are too great, such as living life in our highly stressed world, then supplementation is highly recommended. Other causes of depletion are smoking, stress, excessive sugar, alcohol, infections and some drugs like sulfonamides.
Look for summaries of each of the B-Complex vitamins in future articles.