B is for Balance: Reaping the Benefits of Vitamin B


We’ve all heard the term, “Busy as a bee” but we’re going to use it a little differently today. The vitamin B group make up more than half of the 13 known vitamins that our bodies need to stay happy and healthy. They form part of so many repair and maintenance processes that we really can say that they are “busy Bs”!

The B group is made up of 8 different classes, each with their own names and unique functions:

  • Vitamin B1 – thiamine
  • Vitamin B2 – riboflavin
  • Vitamin B3 – niacin
  • Vitamin B5 – pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin B6 – pyridoxine
  • Vitamin B9 – folate
  • Vitamin B12 – cyanocobalamin
  • Vitamin H – biotin

With one or two exceptions, our bodies don’t store these water-soluble vitamins which means that they need to be taken in regularly from our foods.

Do we need all the vitamin Bs? What role do they play in our health and wellness?

Breaking Down the Bs

The vitamin B group is a complex one, but we can skim through them and perhaps identify areas where we may be displaying signs of vitamin B deficiency. It’s interesting to note that B vitamins are linked to mental and emotional health; mood swings, anxiety and depression are all hallmarks of vitamin B deficiencies.

Vitamin B1

Also known as the anti-stress vitamin, B1 props up the nervous system as well as assisting with skin health and assisting in converting food into energy. B1 is a potent antioxidant which helps to smooth out wrinkles on both the inside and outside of the body. Add peas, spinach and sesame seeds to your diet to boost B1.

Vitamin B2

Another champion for skin health, B2 boosts cell regeneration and supports skin secretions which keep skin hydrated. More than that, B2 is involved in maintaining our eyesight, supporting the function of B6, and converting fats and carbohydrates into energy. More spinach (superfood!), whole grains, milk and nuts such as almonds are excellent sources of B2

Vitamin B3

B3 busies itself maintaining a healthy digestive system and dabbles in mental and emotional health. Stomach cramps, nausea and – in some cases – mental confusion are a result of B3 deficiency.

Chicken, liver, whole grains and peanuts will give you your daily dose of B3.

Vitamin B5

Considered a great all-rounder, B5 is involved in healthy hair, skin and eyes as well as a healthy digestive system. It is also partially responsible for making sex and stress hormones within the adrenal glands. Therefore, a deficiency in B5 is likely to result in adrenal burnout, digestive problems (such as IBS), fatigue and headaches.

Be sure to include fish, red meat, avocados, sweet potatoes and broccoli for sufficient intake.

Vitamin B6

B6 is available from bananas, fish and chicken, potatoes and some citrus foods, and assists in brain and immune system health, as well as being required for over 100 enzymes related to metabolism. B6 deficiency is unlikely on a balanced diet, but will show up as confusion, poor immune function, dry, itchy skin, and often depression should your intake be too low.

Vitamin B9

Folate (B9) takes the lead in mood management and studies have shown a strong link between depression and low folate levels. Add leafy greens, legumes and plenty of citrus to your diet to ensure adequate and regular intake.

Vitamin B12

Found mainly in animal products such as eggs, cheese and shellfish, vitamin B12 plays an important role in nerve function, repairing damaged skin, and the formation of red blood cells.

A diet deficient in B12 will manifest itself in several ways, including confusion, depression, poor memory function, weakness and fatigue, mood swings and anaemia.

Vitamin H

The final class of vitamin within the B family is biotin, also known as vitamin H. This handy little tool converts food into glucose to produce energy. It also activates protein and amino acid metabolism which assists with healthy skin, hair and nails.

Be sure to include avocado, nuts, liver, seeds and sweet potato in your diet to avoid hair loss, lethargy, dry skin and depression.

Do I Need a Vitamin B Supplement?

These interlinked and fascinating vitamins, as a group, have been linked to reducing the risk of serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and cognitive degeneration.

Dr. Steven Gunn
Author: Dr. Steven Gunn

Dr Steven Gunn (MB.ChB.BSc.CVIT.) Integrative Medicine Physician and General Practitioner at LifeXMed Clinic in Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa. He has studied in South Africa, the UK, Germany and Latvia EU and practiced Emergency Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery in London and the UK . He holds a BSc Science Degree in Clinical Psychology and Microbiology and a MBChB Medical qualifications. Dr Gunn has a special interest in anti-ageing medicine, cancer treatment, enhancement of mental and physical performance, nutrition and innovative technology including Cancer Viro-Immunotherapy and Integrative Medicine.