Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is part of more functions in the body than any other nutrient. For example, it works on a whopping 100 chemical reactions at any given time, and it can have an effect on both our physical and mental health.
Some of the roles vitamin B6 play include helping with the production of hydrochloric acid and in the assimilation of fats and proteins. It assists with red blood cell formation and is needed for our brains to function normally. Like its other B-vitamin relatives, vitamin B6 is water soluble so we do not store it up in our bodies for later use; it must be constantly replenished through either our diets and/or supplements.
Being deficient in vitamin B6 has been linked to a greater probability of having certain illnesses and on the flip side, having adequate levels has been shown to reduce the chances of getting some diseases as well. For example, vitamin B6 may help reduce the risk of lung cancer in male smokers. In one study of 300 men, those who had high levels of vitamin B6 had a much lower risk of developing lung cancer than men with lower levels of the nutrient.
Depression is a health issue that seems to be impacted by low levels of vitamin B6. Research has found that as many as 30 percent of people who have been diagnosed with depression may also be deficient in vitamin B6, and low levels have also been connected to anxiety and stress. Scientifically, this makes sense because vitamin B6 is needed for the brain to make neurotransmitters like serotonin.
Just as being low in vitamin B6 may lead to certain health issues, supplementing with the nutrient may help improve symptoms of many conditions. For example, some fortunate women have found that taking vitamin B6 supplements may help relieve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). If you have breast pain close to your period time, vitamin B6 seems to be especially helpful in alleviating this uncomfortable condition. Specifically, vitamin B6 can help the liver flush out excessive estrogen from the body, and it may also act as a mild diuretic. In addition, it may increase the levels of progesterone. A review of nine studies that looked at a total of 940 patients found that taking vitamin B6 in doses of up to 100 mg a day was helpful in alleviating the symptoms of PMS. And a study conducted in 2000 on 44 women with PMS concluded that taking 50-100 mg of vitamin B6 a day led to an improvement in breast pain and premenstrual depression.
Taking vitamin B6 in supplement form is one way to guarantee that you are getting enough of this incredible nutrient. But it is also found in literally every food, especially in things like carrots, eggs, chicken, fish, peas, spinach, and sunflower seeds.
If you are on antidepressants, estrogen therapy or birth control pills you may need extra vitamin B6, and taking diuretics or cortisone drugs may prevent it from being properly absorbed in the body. But no matter what your situation, making sure you get enough of this workhorse of the vitamin world is a good idea for your overall health and well-being.
References: Balch and Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, pages 17 and 18