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Today in Health & Wellness

Vitamin B Deficiency

Risk Factors
Treatment and Management
Doctors to Consult

B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that has vital roles in cell metabolism, immune and nervous system functions. The B vitamins were once thought to be a single vitamin and referred to as vitamin B. Later research showed that they are chemically distinct vitamins that often coexist in the same foods.

In general, supplements containing all eight are referred to as a vitamin B-complex. Primary B vitamins includes: B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic acid), B6 (Pyridoxine), B7 (Biotin), B9 (Folate), and B12 (Cyanocobalamin).

Vitamin B-complex deficiency refers to a deficit in any or more B vitamins.

  • Thiamine - nervous system symptoms such as emotional problems, weight loss, Wernicke's encephalopathy (impaired sensory perception), limb weakness and pain, irregular heartbeat, and edema (pamamaga at pamamanas). Heart failure and death in advance cases. If chronic, Korsakoff's syndrome may manifest (associated with amnesia and confusion).
  • Riboflavin - cracked or inflamed lips and tongue, seborrheic dermatitis, and sore throat.
  • Niacin - Pellagra (symptoms include: aggression, dermatitis, insomnia, weakness, mental confusion, and diarrhea. In advanced cases, pellagra may lead to dementia and death).
  • Pyridoxine - microcytic anemia, depression, dermatitis, hypertension, water retention, and elevated homocysteine.
  • Pantothenic acid - tingling, burning, numbing and prickling sensation of the limbs.
  • Biotin - impaired growth and neurological disorders in infants.
  • Folate - macrocytic anemia, and birth defects (if pregnant).
  • Cyanocobalamin - macrocytic and pernicious anemia, peripheral neuropathy, memory loss, maina, psychosis, and other mental problems.
Risk Factors
  • Processed carbohydrates. A diet rich in processed carbohydrates like sugar and white flour is usually low in B vitamins.
  • Veganism. Strict vegetarians are at great risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, since plants are not usually a natural source of vitamin B12.
  • Medications. Individuals regularly taking the following can have their B vitamin levels negatively affected: cycloserine, antiepileptic drugs, theophylline, chloramphenicol, proton pump inhibitors, H2 receptor blockers, metformin and isoniazid.
  • Impaired renal function. Individuals with poor renal function, including those with end-stage renal disease and chronic renal insufficiency, often have low B vitamin concentrations due to its increased metabolic clearance.
  • Autoimmune disorders cause inflammation which in turn causes B vitamin levels to go down.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders. Patients with celiac disease, Crohn's dsease, and other malabsorptive autoimmune disorders may be unable to absorb enough B vitamins from food.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Age.
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Treatment and Management
  • Refrain from excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption.
  • Management of underlying problems like diabetes and hypothyroidism.
  • Sources of B complex (examples: yeast, wheat, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, liver, chicken, salmon, tuna, nuts, dried peas, cereals, beans and milk, etc.) should be adequately included in the diet.
  • Steaming food as a way of cooking can help retain folate in cooked food.
  • Buy milk sold in opaque containers since riboflavin in milk is destroyed by UV light.
  • For biotin deficiency, include more liver and cow's milk in the diet. Note that over consumption of raw egg can be a cause of biotin deficiency.
Home Remedies
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