What is Vitamin B6?
Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine HCL (or pyridoxine hydrochloride), is part of the vitamin B complex. It is a water-soluble compound that is essential for liver function, energy metabolism and neuron communication. The body converts the inactive form—pyridoxine HC—to its active form—pyridoxal phosphate—to use throughout different bodily systems. As the body digests vitamin B6, it converts and absorbs the active form in the small intestine and it circulates through the bloodstream. Because it’s a water-soluble vitamin, the body cannot store it after it moves to the tissues and excess amounts simply pass through the body (x).
Vitamin B6 helps reduce pain, promote cardiovascular health and it may even help support antibody production to fight off infections. It is necessary for healthy blood vessels and neurological tissue. It is highly susceptible to oxidation and damage from cooking or exposure to light and air, so a lot of the B6 in foods may become inactive by the time you can eat it. Vitamin B6 comes from food sources like organ meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables and some nuts and seeds. It is also in some cereals, marinara sauce, toasted waffles and dry-roasted nuts (x).
Benefits of Vitamin B6
Reducing Vitamin B6 Deficiency
There are several health conditions that can cause the body to use up vitamin B6 faster and they can make a mild pre existing deficiency much worse. Symptoms like skin rashes, tingling in the hands and feet and cracked sores on the mouth may indicate a deficiency. Patients may also experience changes in mood or even cause seizures (x). Vitamin B6 deficiency is also associated with migraines, depression and chronic pain.
Those who suffer from autoimmune conditions, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease or alcohol dependence are at a significantly greater risk of insufficient vitamin B6. In these cases, it may be worth adding vitamin B6 to a daily supplement plan to help relieve any of these symptoms (x, x, x).
Minimizing Nausea and Morning Sickness
Some people find that vitamin B6 is a suitable treatment for nausea. This is an especially important benefit for pregnant patients. Studies show that vitamin B6 may significantly reduce nausea and morning sickness during pregnancy. This vitamin is safe to use and researchers have not identified any negative side effects on developing fetuses, so expecting mothers can rest assured that their babies most likely will not suffer from any adverse effects (x).
Promoting Healthy Pregnancies
Aside from easing nausea and easing morning sickness, vitamin B6 plays an important role in fetal development in general. It helps prevent low birth weight and even eczema in infants. Researchers state it may also help maintain healthy glucose levels (x).
Boosting Heart Health
Research states that vitamin B6 may help improve heart health by promoting healthy blood vessels and helping the body manage homocysteine, an amino acid in protein foods like meat. When homocysteine circulates in the blood, it acts as an inflammatory compound that can damage blood vessels. Vitamin B6 can help control inflammation by reducing homocysteine in the blood. It may also help heal damage that the amino acid has already caused (x).
Vitamin B6 can also improve heart health by reducing blood pressure. A preliminary study shows that it can reduce systolic blood pressure in hypertension. Another study showed that adults who consumed more vitamin B6 had a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure. Since there is a strong correlation between hypertension and heart disease and it can be challenging to treat, maximizing vitamin B6 intake may greatly improve circulatory system health and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses (x, x).
Improving Brain Health
It’s frightening to consider that the brain functions less efficiently with age. What’s even scarier is the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia taking a patient’s memories, the things they have learned and their ability to think clearly. Vitamin B6 may help keep brain healthy for longer and it can help support proper neuron function (x).
Again, its ability to control homocysteine in the blood may also play a role. In addition to blood vessels, homocysteine can also damage the delicate neurons in the brain. This damage can cause cell death and interrupt neuron connections in the brain that help with memory and learning (x).
Vitamin B6 also plays a vital role in hormones and neurotransmitter behaviors in the brain. These chemicals help neurons communicate with each other and they impact mood, energy levels and thought patterns. Research shows that increased levels of vitamin B6 can help reduce the symptoms of ADHD and other conditions rooted in low neurotransmitter levels (x, x).
Finally, vitamin B6 assists in serotonin and GABA production in the brain. These neurotransmitters directly impact mood and having sufficient levels in the body can help reduce the risk of depression, as well as help manage the symptoms. Although it isn’t a replacement for any prescribed treatments for mental health, it is an essential nutrient that the body needs to support healthy brain function (x).
Managing Pain & Inflammation
Inflammation is a major factor in persistent pain and it is also at the root of many diseases, such as arthritis. Vitamin B6 may help resolve persistent inflammation in the body by supporting its natural ability to heal from damage. Research states that it may help reduce inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (x).
Vitamin B6 may also be a blessing for patients who suffer from PMS. Research indicates vitamin B6 works with neurotransmitters to create a better balance in the chemicals responsible for pain management. In studies, female patients reported a reduction in period cramps, nausea, fatigue, headaches and even acne with vitamin B6 supplements (x).
Regulating Sleep Cycles
Vitamin B6 may be a potential remedy for patients who suffer from sleep disturbances. It’s very common to have difficulties falling asleep quickly, staying asleep all night and waking up feeling rested in the morning. This is often because of an imbalance in melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Vitamin B6 is a main factor in melanin production and it helps regulate the body’s internal circadian clock. When something disturbs this internal rhythm, it makes it more challenging for the patient to sleep. Using vitamin B6 is a natural way to work with the body to provide the nutrients it needs for a healthy sleep cycle (x).
Side Effects of Vitamin B6
Researchers report very few side effects with vitamin B6 supplements. This may be because it is an essential vitamin and it is water soluble, so the body eliminates any excess in the urine. However, like other vitamins, there is always a chance of side effects. It may cause stomach pain, headaches, nausea, loss of appetite or vomiting. It may also reduce folic acid in the body or make patients feel excessively tired. The vitamin may also cause numbness, tingling or sensory nerve damage. Vitamin B6 interacts with certain medications, so make sure to speak with a healthcare provider. Researchers have not discovered any severe drug interactions, but it is still important to consult a doctor for approval (x).
Dosage for Vitamin B6
As a dietary supplement, patients only need a small amount. The serving size is 50 mg per day. Patients can take it either once or twice a day, but do not take more than 125 mg per day. It’s best to measure the dosage with a milligram scale for accuracy.
Why Take Vitamin B6?
This vitamin is important for several different mechanisms in the body, including metabolism and blood circulation. Research states that it can also help promote heart health by regulating blood pressure and potentially reducing the risk for heart disease. It is also beneficial for pregnant patients because it may reduce morning sickness, control blood sugar and promote fetal development.
Vitamin B6 is naturally present in different types of food—meat and poultry, fish, bread, eggs, milk, potatoes, vegetables and whole grain cereals (x). However, these foods may only contain small amounts. It may be difficult to obtain enough from food sources, so taking supplements can help make sure the body gets enough of this essential nutrient.
The Bottom Line
Vitamin B6 is a nutrient that is vital for human health. It’s necessary for optimal brain, nerve, circulatory system production and it also plays an important role in balancing hormones. Research states that it may help manage pain, inflammation and assist with energy metabolism. It is also very important during pregnancy because it helps promote optimal fetal development.
Although there are a wide variety of foods that contain this vitamin, it may be a good idea to add supplements to a daily dietary regimen to ensure a healthy, consistent dosage. However, do not take any supplements without consulting a doctor first. They are not intended to cure or completely prevent any medical condition. Instead, this supplement is only intended to promote overall health.