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Do you have a vitamin B deficiency?

Feeling tired and weak? Many of us live busy, hectic lives that warrant feelings of exhaustion. But if this feeling consumes your daily life, it may be time to take a closer look at your diet, particularly your vitamin B intake.

B vitamins, also known as energy vitamins, are a group of eight vitamins that play a role in converting food into energy. These vitamins are essential for many reasons. They help reduce stress, anxiety, memory loss, and heart disease risk, to name a few. They also help keep the skin, nervous system and digestive system healthy.

Jennifer Teems, MS, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, believes most of us will get all of the B vitamins we need by eating a well-balanced diet. But there are some folks who need a little extra help.

“The most common vitamin B deficiency is the B12 vitamin and sometimes folate, which is B9,” says Teems. “B12 helps make healthy red blood cells, which keep the nervous system working properly, and folate is crucial in the development of DNA. Folate or folic acid plays a large role in cell growth and tissue formation. ”

Teems always recommends a nutritious diet first, but the following people may benefit from taking a vitamin B supplement. Discuss your individual needs with your physician before you begin taking any new supplement or medication.

  • The elderly. As people age, they tend to produce less intrinsic factor, which is a protein made in the stomach that helps absorb vitamin B12 from food. This causes a form of anemia to set in, which leads to fatigue.
  • Women of childbearing age. Folate promotes healthy child development. Many studies have shown that women who get 0.4 milligrams of folic acid daily prior to conception and during early pregnancy reduce the risk of birth defects to the brain and spinal cord by up to 70 percent.
  • Antacid-takers. Prolonged use of antacids to relieve heartburn or acid reflux can cause folate and B-12 to be depleted from the body.
  • Those with stomach complications. People who suffer from gastric conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or have had intestinal surgeries or even gastric bypass surgery may have a harder time absorbing essential B vitamins.
  • Vegetarians. B-12 is found only in animal sources, so strict vegetarians may need a supplement for this important vitamin.

Food sources that contain B vitamins

Pills can assist with making a good diet better, but Teems warns that they are not an excuse to ignore proper eating habits.

“It is important to remember that supplements are just that – they are there to supplement a diet, not substitute it,” she says.  

Get more B vitamins from your diet with these foods:

  • B1 – Potatoes, pork, seafood, liver and kidney beans
  • B2 – Enriched bread, dairy products, liver and green leafy veggies
  • B1 & B2 - Cereals, whole grains and enriched refined grains
  • B3 – Liver, fish, chicken, lean red meat, nuts, whole grains, dried beans and enriched refined grains
  • B5 – In most foods
  • B6 – Fish, liver, pork, chicken, potatoes, wheat germ, bananas and dried beans
  • B7 – Peanuts, liver, egg yolks, bananas, mushrooms, watermelon and grapefruit
  • B9 – Green leafy veggies, liver, citrus fruits, mushrooms, nuts, peas, dried beans and wheat bread
  • B12 – Eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk and milk products

For more healthy lifestyle ideas, visit Living Better’s Health & Wellness page.

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