Top 5 Reasons why we need Vitamin B

This week nutritionist and PT Laura Smith will take us through 5 important reasons to keep an eye out on our vitamin B levels.

Firstly, let’s think about what would be the possible reason for us not to ingest the amount of petty little B’s we would need to function and thrive optimally.

  • B vitamins are present in animal foods, such as meat, eggs, fish, poultry and dairy products. Well, are you a vegetarian? B vitamins are present in animal foods, such as meat, eggs, fish, poultry and dairy products, which means you may not be getting enough.
  • Are you focused on muscle gain, and therefore increased your protein intake as well as drinking BCAAs at every possible opportunity in search for gains? If so, this high intake of BCAAs can result in a depletion of vitamin B.
  • What about your gut function, any issues? If you do, and things are not working like clockwork you will be unable to absorb your Bs, and please don’t get me started on what a million medications do for your little Bs. I would need all day to write a list of the number of medications that deplete B vitamins!

So how will you know if you are low or deficient in vitamin B? Low levels of vitamin B can manifest in a number of symptoms, from feeling tired and lacking motivation, to trouble losing weight and digestion issues. Here are 5 reasons why do we need this mighty B vitamin:

#1. Detoxification

Your body is designed perfectly to detoxify itself, so there is really no need for a yearly cleanse, or crazy juice diet. Your body is exposed to environmental toxins all the time, for example benzene, found in cigarette smoke and car exhaust smoke. The first step at eliminating chemicals such as benzene from your body is through the use of vitamin B. Vitamin B attaches to the toxins and mobilizes them, allowing for powerful antioxidants to continue the neutralization process through the gut. Therefore vitamin B is vital for the initial detox phase within the body.

#2 Brain Protection

Although B vitamins don’t give you the endorphins of chocolate, or the energy buzz that coffee provides, they do play a crucial role in the protection of cognitive function and prevention of your brain from premature aging. Folate and B12 are both significantly associated with depression, low mood, and social isolation. The elderly population is at a much higher risk due to falling plasma levels of folate in the blood and spinal fluid. Studies have shown an improvement in cognitive function after supplementation of vitamin B. Some studies have even shown a more significant improvement than depression medication.

#3. Performance

B vitamins are critical for the nervous system and the ability of neurotransmitters too circulate. So this simply means that you need B vitamins in your body to be able to send all the signals you need form the brain to your muscles to perform. Therefore, the faster the signal the better the performance.

#4. Hormone Balance

Day to day, both men and women are seeing increased levels of estrogen as they exposed to chemical estrogen found in plastic, shampoo, cosmetics and cleaning products to name a few. Vitamin B6, 12 and 9 all promote the removal of excess estrogen. Effective removal can help with body composition as high levels of estrogen have been associated with increased body fat.

#5. Body Composition

Don’t think about fat burners or green tea to improve your body composition – think about optimal nutrients and gut health. Vitamin B1, which is called thiamine, plays a vital role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Therefore, even high calorie diets can result in malnutrition, if there is a deficiency of thiamine.


Adrianna on: Hormones and weight loss

By Adrianna McDonald

Hormones are enormously responsible for weight gain. They behave differently depending on which tissue they are acting in and never work in isolation.

Estrogen acts different in the brain, in the uterus, and in your fat cells. Other hormones may accentuate or block estrogen’s actions, i.e a large amount of testosterone may decrease estrogen’s impact on female fat storage.

Estrogen is a tricky hormone when it comes to fat loss and it’s equilibrium is a necessity – very high or very low levels can be equally as bad. Normal levels of estrogen can complement body composition and overall health.

The main job of  fat tissue is to produce estrogen since it is a very active part of the hormonal system. Fat tissue contains an enzyme (aromatase) which converts testosterone to estrogen. Estrogen comes from other places as well (e.g. the ovaries).

This means that the fatter you are, the more estrogen you’ll have, and vice versa. For example, estrogen overload can exacerbate hypothyroid issues, slowing metabolism and causing weight gain (read research here).

If that “estrogen overload” comes from obesity in the first place, this can very quickly become a vicious cycle (you’re overweight because you have thyroid problems, and you have thyroid problems because you’re overweight).

Studies also show that it’s also possible that high levels of estrogen promote fat gain by preventing the oxidation of fats (this means using fats for energy).

Women gain fat early in pregnancy (when estrogen levels are high), even if they aren’t “eating for two” yet. This suggests that “more estrogen = more calories being stored as fat”. Women whose ovaries are removed lose weight but when they are put on estrogen therapy, they gain weight.

Higher estrogen levels during puberty drive fat gain as an energy reserve in case you get pregnant. During early pregnancy, they go into overdrive to “stock up” for the approaching challenge.

Your body still hasn’t caught up to the 21st century; it still thinks its job is to keep you (a) alive, and (b) fertile in an environment of extreme food scarcity and a constant threat of famine.

The problem begins when you take a body adapted to scarcity and plunk it into a world of fast food. That’s when the normal and healthy preservation of essential body fat goes out of control.

Like most things in life, you’ve got to find an equilibrium and food can help you find the right balance. Here’s how your macros can help normalize estrogen levels:


Fiber seems to be anti-estrogenic. Research shows that by raising fiber levels by 15 grams per day (that’s a little less than one avocado) estrogen levels were successfully reduced in premenopausal women.

Food Sources of Nutrients


The available evidence shows that moderate carb restriction is effective in treating any female hormonal problems that might be driving weight gain. On the other hand, extreme carb restriction can cause problems of its own, including hormonal dysfunction, amenorrhea (loss of normal periods), and infertility.


Getting enough protein is important for hormonal healing.


Fat is important for hormonal health because saturated fat is the backbone of testosterone and estrogen. Saturated and monounsaturated fat is generally good for you, whilst polyunsaturated is not so good. You should also try to get more Omega-3 rather than Omega-6.

Final words on estrogen & weight loss

When it comes to weight problems, insulin (sugar) and cortisol (stress) hormones are the biggest culprits. This means that in order to manage our weight effectively we need to control our carb intake and actively try to reduce stress.

Overeating (even on healthy food) is also a big no-no. A high calorie diet will remove any of the beneficial fat burning effects of any hormone.

Remember to watch your consumption of animal based and plant based estrogen and be mindful of your exposure to environmental sources of estrogens such as plastic, pesticides, cosmetics, and caffeine.

If you have symptoms of estrogen dominance, look into seeing an holistic physician who can give professional help.


How These 3 Vitamin Deficiencies Can Wreck Your Life

Hello friends!

Once again I have been quiet for a bit… and this time it’s just because… well I was too tired. You know the kind of tired that even rest can’t help, and everyone tells you it’s just stress.

But is it just stress? You know sometimes you get some vague symptoms that no one can actually attribute to an illness and you end up wondering what to do with yourself (or what you’re doing wrong…. or both!).

Often the reason for such subtle, yet frustratingly annoying symptoms are nutritional deficiencies. Although not life-threatening (at least in the short-term) these can have a big impact on your life and your health.

So as my struggle and research into the matter continues, I stumbled upon a very interesting (and enlightening) medical article based on a neurologist’s experience and patient observations – you would be surprised to see how one vitamin can completely through your health off course. Let’s look at the key points.


The Sunshine Vitamin Hormone

Ever felt out of breath from the smallest physical exertion? Constantly feel tired and suffer from unexplained body aches (especially muscle or bone pains)? Do you feel more pessimistic and blue than usual? Have you started to experience headaches more often than usual? If yes, you may be running low on vitamin D.

This well known micronutrient is typically made on our skin from sun exposure. It is also available in some fortified foods. You may know that it is necessary for good bone health as it works in sync with calcium but the effects of this “vitamin” are far more wide-reaching.

Firstly, vitamin D is not really a vitamin but a hormone (surprise #1). Dr. Gominak, a US-based neurologist, explains that the word “vitamin” is a miss-nomer which leads us to think that vitamin D is something our bodies can’t produce (which is true for all the other vitamins). Yet, ‘D hormone’ as he calls it, is actually:

“a chemical that we make on our skin from sun exposure. It is a hormone like thyroid, estrogen or testosterone. Using the proper word “hormone” reminds us that it affects multiple parts of the body and that it is not “extra”. It is essential to every cell in the body and it is not in the food. It is supplemented in milk but as a cup of milk has only 100 IU of vitamin D you would have to drink 100 cups of milk a day to keep from being D deficient.” – Dr Gominak

Now you see why it has a much wider effect than just making you feel tired and depressed. In his detailed article, Dr. Gominak lists numerous problems that arise from low levels of D hormone. Here’s a few:

  1. D hormone affects our weight and appetite: our D hormone fluctuates with the seasons; it goes higher in the summer and lower in the winter. So when our D levels are low we sleep longer and store fat for spring. Our metabolic rate also goes down (we hibernate) and as the D level falls the thyroid hormone goes down -we survive the winter by sleeping more hours and using less energy. But there’s more! Surprise #2: the lower D level appears to affect the populations of bacteria in our intestine this not only affects our appetite, but also what we do with the calories we eat.
  2. Low D disrupts our sleep: Vitamin D appears to affect our sleep cycles through D receptors in the lowest part of the brain called the “brainstem”, where we control the timing and paralysis of sleep. Every moving part of the body must get perfectly paralysed to repair at night. If this process does not happen properly, we end up with sleeping disorders which prevent our bodies from resting and healing at night and this can result in day-time symptoms such as headaches, back pain, memory difficulties and so forth. In the long-run poor sleep causes hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
  3. Low D causes balance difficulties and pain: poor sleep and secondary deficiencies (see point 6) can result in muscle pain and inflammation, chronic low back pain and joint pains.
  4. Low D causes infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis: There are vitamin D receptors in the ovaries, the testicles and the fallopian tubes to help match our reproduction to the amount of food available. Low D suppresses ovulation so that our babies will be born when mum has food. “Polycystic ovary” describes an ovary with many eggs that are all trying to mature at once. Because ovulation is inhibited by the low D, the ovaries are stuck at the stage of many eggs trying to mature and cysts develop, leading to abdominal pain, often accompanied by weight gain and acne.
  5. Low D affects all the blood cells and can cause anaemia, autoimmune disease and cancer: There are D hormone receptors on the red and white blood cells. When the white blood cells don’t have enough D they get confused, they start attacking our body by mistake. All of the autoimmune diseases: multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis, are related to low D hormone. This also affects the white blood cells’ abilities for fight cancer.
  6. D hormone deficiency can cause other deficiencies: D hormone affects the entire gastrointestinal tract. There are D receptors in our salivary glands, our teeth, our oesophageal sphincter, and the stomach cells that make acid. And here’s surprise #3:

“The D we make on our skin goes to the liver, then into the bile, it keeps the bile acids dissolved, preventing gall stones from forming. Because there are D receptors in the islet cells of the pancreas that make insulin, not enough D may contribute to the development of diabetes. Low vitamin D levels are related to poor stomach emptying as well as bloating and constipation or “irritable bowel”. The irritable bowel may result from losing our “happy, helpful” bacteria in our lower GI tract. They die off when we don’t supply the vitamin D the bacteria also need to survive. Because those same colonic bacteria supply 7/8 of the B vitamins we need on a daily basis, some of my patients have vitamin D deficiency and secondary B vitamin deficiencies. (At least 2 of the B vitamins, B5 and B12, are needed to sleep normally)” – Dr Gominak

If it’s not the D, then it must be the Bs

So as you can see from the above, if it’s not D hormone that is tiring you out, then the second most likely culprit are the B vitamins. Although some of the symptoms are similar, if you are deficient in one of the B vitamins you may experience:

  • mental fogginess
  • problems with your memory
  • mood swings
  • lack of motivation
  • feelings of apathy
  • fatigue and a lack energy
  • muscle weakness
  • tingling in your extremities
  • insomnia
  • burning feet (B5 vitamin deficiency)
  • skin cracks around the mouth

Of course, this list is not exhaustive and there are other symptoms. The problem with B vitamins is that they are not stored in the body for longer that 2 days. As our small intestines digest food, the friendly bacteria supply our body with the B vitamins we need. Therefore, even with a good diet, if the gastrointestinal flora or microbiome is not in balance we may still not be getting enough vitamins.

In particular, a deficiency in B12 can have serious long term consequences for your health. Such a deficiency can cause irreversible nerve damage – including degeneration of the peripheral nerves (under the skin) and the nerves of the eyes and brain. It can also result in memory decline, depression and dementia.

The Iron Story

Last but not least, iron deficiency is also something you should be on the look out for. Personally, I have suffered from both vitamin D and iron deficiencies and although both are nasty things to have, the iron deficiency is the bigger beast of the two. It was the iron that had me unable to get out of bed.

So if you’ve got iron deficiency you will definitely know it. If you do not have enough iron, your body makes fewer and smaller red blood cells. When your body does not have sufficient iron, many parts of your body are affected. Iron deficiency leads to inadequate supply of oxygen to various parts of the body. This results in symptoms such as: fatigue, difficulty waking up, racing heart, brittle nails, swelling or soreness of the tongue, cracks in the sides of the mouth, an enlarged spleen, and frequent infections.

Although not as serious as D hormone and B12 vitamin deficiencies, iron deficiency can have a very negative effects on your daily life, such as struggling with exercise and difficulties in focusing on the job.  As iron deficiency causes fatigue it can result in poor cognitive skills, poor memory and poor performance. Lower IQs are also linked to iron deficiency.

Interestingly, iron deficiency in infants and children can result in poor life outcomes in adulthood. A study of iron-deficient infants from a working class neighbourhood in Costa Rica found that, even after correcting the deficiency, at an average age of 25, 42% of the participants had not completed secondary school and 68% were not currently attending any school.

So it’s just a deficiency, right? Nothing serious you say… Well the facts don’t lie.

The solution

Be aware of how your body feels and all of the subtle symptoms. If you are not feeling better after rest and symptoms continue to persist for weeks, see a doctor and get tested.

Self-diagnosis is not the best route, but if you are certain that you know which vitamin you are lacking, take supplements and see if there is improvement after 2 weeks. If you do feel better, continue supplementing for 3 months (to build up your body’s reserves) and then take a break and see if symptoms return. If they do, best to see the doc – there may be other underlying causes to your deficiencies.

Phew… that was a long post! I hope you enjoyed and were as surprised as me to discover such interesting facts about vitamin deficiencies.