Why We Need B-Complex Vitamins and How They Help with AnxietyFeb 18, 2021
Roughly 90 years of research demonstrates the relevance of dietary nutrients for mental health. Some of the earliest research studies on nutrients relevant to mental illness observed irritability and mood problems in people known to be deficient in B vitamins!1
B vitamins are important for making sure the body’s cells are functioning properly. Not only do they maintain healthy brain cells, but they also help the body convert food into energy, create new blood cells, and maintain healthy skin and other tissues. All B vitamins are powerful immune boosters.
There are eight B vitamins, which are known collectively as B-complex vitamins:
B5: pantothenic acid
You can get B vitamins from proteins such as meat, eggs, and dairy products, as well as from leafy green vegetables, beans, and peas. Many kinds of cereal and some bread have B vitamins added to them because they are so critical for health. Bananas contain high amounts of vitamins B6 and B12, as well as magnesium and potassium. Vitamin B6 comes in protein-rich foods like turkey and beans, as well as potatoes and spinach. Vitamin B12 is found in the following foods, listed highest to lowest in terms of the amount they contain: clams, liver, trout, salmon, tuna, beef, yogurt, milk, ham, eggs, and chicken breast. Nutritional yeast also contains B vitamins.2 B12 can work alone as well as in conjunction with other B vitamins to support many vital functions.
Some things that cause a lack of B vitamins are atrophic gastritis, a condition in which your stomach lining has thinned; the presence of significant amounts of alcohol in your body; pernicious anemia, which makes it especially hard for your body to absorb vitamin B12; conditions that affect your small intestines, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, or a parasite; and immune system disorders, such as Graves’ disease or lupus.
If someone has a deficiency in vitamin B12, weakness, fatigue, and anxiety are common symptoms. They occur because your body doesn’t have enough B12 to make the red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout your body. Vegans and other types of vegetarians sometimes have trouble consuming enough B12, since B12 is found only in animal products. Vegan foods that have B12 in them, like nutritional yeast, are deliberately fortified with the supplement.
If you aren’t getting enough nutrients in your diet or you eat a majority fast-food and processed-food diet, the first supplements you should consider taking are those in the B complex. A meta-analysis of 12 trials studying B vitamin supplementation provided evidence for its benefit for stress, concluding that it is particularly helpful for populations at risk due to poor nutrient status or poor mood status.3
In a study with more than 200 people, 73 percent of participants had success with thiamine as they experienced a disappearance of most of their anxiety symptoms! The researchers state, “For anxiety, thiamine has been used successfully at doses of 250 milligrams per day to treat patients with anxiety disorders, including those manifesting symptoms like chronic fatigue, insomnia, nightmares, anorexia, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, chest and abdominal pain, depression, aggression, and headaches.”4
Bright yellow urine is common when taking a B-complex supplement, specifically due to B2, riboflavin. In fact, flavin comes from the Latin root word flavus, which means “yellow.” Many people wonder if they should stop taking B vitamins when urine is yellow, but don’t ditch them yet—they’re actually a vital part of maintaining your overall health.
I strongly recommend having your doctor test you to see if you are vitamin B deficient. You can buy B-complex supplements, which include all eight B vitamins, or individual B supplements.
This is an excerpt from my latest book, Anxiety-Free with Food. To read more about this topic, get the book HERE.
1. B.R. Hoobler, “Symptomatology of Vitamin B Deficiency in Infants,” JAMA, vol. 91, no. 5 (August 4, 1928), pp. 307–10, doi: 10.1001/jama.1928.
2. “Vitamin B12: Fact Sheet for Consumers,” National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements (accessed April 9, 2020), https://ods.od.nih.gov/
3. L.M. Young, et al., “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and ‘At-Risk’ Individuals,” Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 9 (September 16, 2019), doi: 10.3390/nu11092232.
4. D. Lonsdale and R.J. Shamberger, “Red Cell Transketolase as an Indicator of Nutritional Deficiency?” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 33, no. 2 (February 1980): pp. 205–11, doi: 10.1093/ajcn/33.2.205.