Nutrition and Wellness Blog

Recipes and tips from a Functional Dietitian Nutritionist

Vitamin B Health Benefits

Feb 2022 | Food Sensitivities, Gut Health, Health and Wellness, Recipes

Vitamin B deficiency is super common in the United States, despite fortified foods. Here’s the problem with that – vitamin B has many health benefits and is needed for red blood cell development, brain function, and detoxification. So let’s talk about it…

What does a vitamin B deficiency look like?

Have you experienced the following symptoms?

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness in fingers and toes
  • Lightheadedness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Pale skin
  • Premature grey hair

Do these symptoms persist over a period of time?

There might be a quick fix to provide relief for these bodily complaints. After all, not every woman can rock grey hair like Andie MacDowell. Even Andi chose to wait until her 60s to embrace her natural grey. These body cues might actually suggest a B vitamin deficiency. B vitamins are a family of 8 essential nutrients. Essential means our body does not create them and so, we need to consume them through diet. These vitamins play an important role in the body, specifically, red blood cell development, brain function, and detoxification. Now that you know what they do, it makes sense that B vitamin deficiencies cause a variety of symptoms including loss of energy, poor circulation, and cell deterioration including those hair cells.

B vitamins are a family of 8 essential nutrients. Essential means our body does not create them and so, we need to consume them through diet.

I pay close attention to these vitamins for individuals with gut disorders such as IBS, celiac disease, Crohn’s, and Ulcerative Colitis or individuals who have undergone bariatric surgery. These patient populations are at higher risk of B vitamin deficiencies because they are unable to process and absorb B vitamins adequately or they eliminate excess amounts of them. Many of my clients complain of fatigue and have been told to embrace the fatigue as a side effect of a health condition. However, lack of energy is usually not a consequence of disease, but, in fact, a consequence of inadequate diet or gut dysfunction.

Vitamin B12 and B9

As I noted earlier, there are eight B vitamins. For this discussion, I will focus on vitamins B12 and B9. Vitamin B9 is also known as folate. While B12 is often evaluated at your annual visit, folate is frequently overlooked. This vitamin is ignored because it has been fortified in foods since 1998. However, many of us are not maintaining a diet that meets the needs of folate.

So what should you do with this information?

Before you go running to the supplement aisle, the first step is to request a simple blood test from your doctor or integrative and functional provider. It’s always wise to determine a baseline before supplementation. And, if you are supplementing but struggle to maintain a “normal” level, consider another test to see if you have the MTHFR mutation. MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase and it is an enzyme. The MTHFR variant impacts the processing of amino acids, specifically homocysteine, leading to decreased levels of folate and vitamin B12.

With the micronutrient lab results in hand, the next step is to evaluate your diet. Do you eat foods rich in vitamin B12 and folate?

Vitamin B12 Rich Foods List

  • Fish including sardines, salmon, tuna, and trout
  • Eggs
  • Beef
  • Liver and kidneys
  • Nutritional yeast (fortified)

The thought of liver might be unappetizing or intimidate you. Here is a delicious Beef Liver Pate that is going to top your favorite recipe list and make you feel good too. I promise!

Beef Liver Pate Recipe for Added B Vitamin Health Benefits

Ingredients

  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 yellow onion (small, minced)
  • 4 garlic (cloves,  minced)
  • 1 1/16 lbs Beef Liver
  • 2 Tbsps Dried Thyme
  • ½ cup Coconut Oil (melted)
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 Cucumber sliced (feel free to use bell pepper slices, carrots, celery, radishes)

Directions

  1. In a cast iron pan, cook the bacon slices until crispy. Set aside bacon.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, liver and thyme to the pan. Cook over medium heat until the liver is cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
  3. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender or food processor along with the bacon. Add the coconut oil and salt and blend until a smooth paste forms.
  4. Spread onto cucumber or preferred vegetable and enjoy!

Vitamin B9 / Folate Rich Foods List*

  • Spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, asparagus, beets
  • Strawberries, raspberries, banana, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapefruit
  • Beans, peas, lentils
  • Sunflower seeds, sunflower seed butter
  • Peanut butter

(TIP: Check the ingredient list of your go-to peanut butter brand. It should not include corn syrup or sugar. The ingredient list should contain one to three ingredients: peanuts, oil, and salt. That’s all you need for a tasty peanut butter!)

*Your best bet to gain those added vitamin B health benefits is to consume food that naturally contains folate instead of fortified foods.

It’s also important to note these two vitamins prefer to be consumed together. Folate aids in the absorption of B12. Luckily, many foods contain a handful of B vitamins. By choosing B vitamin rich food sources, the body will benefit from the vitamin interactions and boost absorption.

Even though these vitamins are easily incorporated into diet and can be easily absorbed by the healthy individual, there are outside factors that might impact the absorption of these vitamins. Acid reducers and antibiotics are the most common medications interfering with B12 absorption. Vitamin B12 requires an additional protein called intrinsic factor. This intrinsic factor is found in the stomach and necessary for B12 absorption. These medications may decrease intrinsic factor or prevent the interaction between the two. If you are lacking B12, ensure that it is not due to a lack of intrinsic factor, as diet cannot help this particular case and supplementation is necessary. If you have the MTHFR mutation and choose to supplement, look for B12 or folate supplements with the designation of “methylated.”

Vitamin B Health Benefits Recap

Besides choosing nutrient dense foods and supplementing, it is vital to create a favorable environment for the body to process these vitamins. This is accomplished by regulating digestion: eliminate constipation, diarrhea, and reduce gas and bloating. Laxatives, anti-diarrheals and gas aids are not your best bet in regulating digestion. These tools might be effective but they do not get to the root cause of the problem.

Why do you experience constipation?

Why do you experience diarrhea?

Why do you experience bloating?

These are symptoms that can result from a variety of causes including infection, overgrowth, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, mineral toxicity, medication or supplement use, and/or food sensitivities, to name a few.

If you are ready to reset your gut, contact me to chat about how I can help you and to learn more about the Luxford Method 6-week personalized gut reset program.

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