“What is a vitamin?”. It is a substance essential for your metabolism and well-being, but which your body does not make for itself e.g.vitamin C which caused the scourge of scurvy in sailors of old. So if your body does not make it you have to either eat it or take supplements, or, as is common, do both from time to time. The gaps in the vitamin B series are caused by declassification of the missing substances (B4, B8 etc), originally believed to be vitamins but are not essential ones.
All vitamins are important to us but the vitamin B series of 8 ranging from B1, Thiamine, to B12, Cobalamine must take the gold medal for the pain and damage that their absence can inflict on us such as:
- irregular heart beat,
- tissue swelling,
- mental confusion and memory loss (dementia),
- cracked lips and sore mouth,
- a type of acne,
- peripheral nerve damage (pins and needles and pains),
- high blood pressure,
- premature aging,
- retarded growth in infants,
- birth defects,
- ocular effects.
The list is endless and a hypochondriac’s charter sent from heaven above to explain some if not all of their ailments, so beware of jumping to conclusions. The chances of your body being genuinely deficient in this vitamin series are increased if:
- Your diet is unbalanced , and is mostly processed food, or hastily grabbed sandwiches with bottles of coke,
- You consume more than the recommended daily and weekly total units of alcohol, because your liver is busy destroying alcohol instead of processing the vitamin B’s. Otherwise said the “bioavailability” of the vitamin B’s consumed is reduced to very low levels. Alcholics suffer acutely from B deficiency.
- You are a child, because children’s daily needs are higher than those of an adult (weight for weight) and they have much less storage capacity in their liver.
- You are pregnant.
- You have coeliac disease (malabsorption).
- You are a vegan (particularly applies to vitamin B12).
- You have had surgical removal of parts of your digestive tract.
- You are getting on a bit and have a low appetite.
- You are on one of a range certain medications which interefere with absorption (see your GP for much more detail).
So if you are a surrogately pregnant, aging vegan alcoholic, on medication, who is undernourished, frequently grabs a sarny from Tesco’s and has a gastric band don’t bother reading any further!
Some deficiencies of the B group can be improved by diet, but there is a notable exception in severe B12 deficiency which requires medical intervention in the form of injections to restore body stocks and prevent irreversible damage. Other deficiencies may be improved if you pay attention to eating:
- foods which are associated with supporting independant life such as eggs, which are an embryonic packed lunch and survival pack containing every vitamin and mineral required for a chicken to grow initially.
- other dairy products,
- single cell products such as yeast and marmite, (at last someone has found a use for marmite), but not beer (because of the imparment to liver metabolism of vitamin B’s), molasses,
- blood products (single cells again), such as red meat, liver, black pudding,
- oily fish
- beans and lentils (self contained survival pack again)
- chilli peppers,
- potatoes, preferably not fried and overcooked,
- enriched cereals, foods which would normally have little intrinsic value if the law had not insisted on “enrichment”,
- whole grain products and breads, particularly not white bread which has to be enriched.
The vitamin B series is truly a remarkable set of life catalysts which is sometimes undervalued, but has alarming results if neglected.
As with all vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements, not having enough can be equally detrimental as having too much. Always consult your doctor if you are not sure are have medical concerns.
Yours in health