The B vitamins are a family of related nutrients involved in the production of red blood cells, energy, normal eyesight, heart and brain function and healthy nerves. There are eight members of this vitamin family:
- B-1 or thiamine
- B-2 or riboflavin
- B-3 or niacin
- B-5 or pantothenic acid
- B-6 or pyridoxine
- B-7 or biotin
- B-9 or folic acid
- B-12 or cyanocobalamin
Each has specific health benefits and functions within the body. It’s not typically hard to get the B vitamins from diet alone, but some individuals may not. This could include vegans, vegetarians, people older than 50 and those with certain medical conditions, such as celiac disease, pernicious anemia and Crohn’s disease. True B vitamin deficiencies are generally not common in developed countries today, but this wasn’t always true. In the past, a disease called beriberi, caused by a deficiency of thiamine, was somewhat common. It still is in certain parts of Africa. It can cause damage to the heart and nervous system. Even today, severe alcoholics are at risk of vitamin B deficiency disorders.
This is because alcohol depletes the body of B vitamins, and because many alcoholics fail to get proper nutrition. Both B complex vitamins and vitamin B-12 can be taken in supplement form. This could be tablets or by injection. The only difference between a B complex shot and a B-12 shot is that the B-12 shot is just the one vitamin, cyanocobalamin, while a B complex shot includes all eight members of the B vitamin family. B-12 is sometimes given separately because it’s the only one that an individual is deficient in. This could be because of a vegan diet, or it could be because of pernicious anemia.
There are also other reasons why someone would need injections of B-12. Pernicious Anemia Pernicious anemia is a disorder in which the stomach fails to make a protein called intrinsic factor. This factor is essential for the body to absorb dietary B-12. Vitamin B-12 is required for the production of normal red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body’s systems. Deficiency of B-12 can cause a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia. This can produce feelings of fatigue. B vitamins are associated with hormone production and increased testosterone levels in men. For women, B vitamins may lower the risk of morning sickness and preeclampsia during pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a dangerous rise in blood pressure in pregnant women. Folic acid protects a fetus from certain types of neurological birth defects.
Foods rich in the B vitamins include:
- Meat, fish, cheese and eggs
- Milk and soy milk
- Wheat germ and whole grains
- Beans, nuts and seeds
- Spinach and kale
- Citrus fruits, bananas and watermelon
It’s important to note that vitamin B-12 is naturally found only in foods of animal origin. That’s why vegans and some vegetarians are often deficient in it and require supplementation. If these persons cannot absorb oral B-12 supplements, then they will need B-12 injections to maintain adequate vitamin blood levels. Vitamin B-12 is a natural deep pinkish red color due to its cobalt content. The B-2 vitamin riboflavin is yellowish in color.
These vitamins can produce either pink or deep yellow urine. This is because they are water-soluble, and the body eliminates what it doesn’t need. Urine coloration is a temporary and harmless side effect. Some possible symptoms of B vitamin deficiency can include a red, sore tongue, cracks around the mouth, skin rash, fatigue, depression and confusion, anemia, nausea and a tingling sensation in the hands and feet. If you have a history of alcoholism, are vegan or have certain digestive conditions, you are at a higher risk for problems with B vitamin deficiency. Certain medications like famotidine, omeprazole and the antibiotic chloramphenicol can decrease certain B vitamin levels. Birth control pills may reduce B-6, B-12, folic acid and riboflavin levels. If you’re over 50, you may have decreased amounts of hydrochloric acid in your stomach, which can affect the proper absorption of B-12.
If you’re interested in vitamin B therapy, or you’re concerned about vitamin B-12 and a medical condition, call us at 205-352-9141. Our professional medical staff will answer your questions and set up an appointment for you to come in and consult with our physicians. We welcome all new patients.