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What is Vitamin B - Breakdown of the Vitamin and All the Health & Skin Benefits

What is Vitamin B?

"Vitamin B" is an umbrella term used to describe a group of eight vitamins. The first B vitamin, Vitamin B1, was discovered by Casimir Funk in 1912, and the remaining B vitamins were discovered throughout the course of the 20th century.

Vitamin B was one of the first types of vitamins to be discovered, and it was quickly recognized as one of the key chemical contributors to proper cell metabolism. If your cells are able to metabolize successfully, your bodily tissues will grow and reproduce effectively, and they will also respond effectively to your environment.

The eight types of vitamin B are:

1. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Like other B vitamins, thiamine helps your body maintain optimum health through proper cell metabolism. Specifically, vitamin B1 boosts the immune system, and it reduces the risk of heart disease. Thiamine can also prevent cervical cancer and put a halt to kidney disease, and it can improve your vision by mitigating problems like cataracts and glaucoma.

In addition, thiamine is used to treat diseases such as beriberi that are a direct result of vitamin B1 deficiency, and it is also a common treatment for Wernicke's encephalopathy syndrome. Lastly, it's understood by the medical community that thiamine is used by the body to efficiently process carbohydrates.

2. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

The body uses riboflavin to create digestive tract lining, blood cells, and neurons. This B vitamin is used as a treatment for certain types of cancer, and it is also a common treatment for migraines. Some people use vitamin B2 to combat acne or muscle cramps, and anecdotal evidence also suggests that this substance is effective against carpal tunnel. Riboflavin is also a vital component in maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails.

3. Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Niacin is most commonly used as a treatment for high levels of cholesterol. It can also combat the hardening of your arteries, and it is an FDA-approved treatment for pellagra, which is a rare but life-threatening condition that can develop as the result of a niacin deficiency.

4. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Pantothenic acid is one of the most versatile of the B vitamins, but it is also one of the most poorly researched. People from around the world use vitamin B5 for ance, asthma, yeast infections, celiac disease, convulsions, headaches, low blood sugar, and insomnia. They also use it for arthritis and Parkinson's disease, and anecdotal evidence suggests that pantothenic acid may be effective for even more conditions than those just mentioned. In time, it's certain that these potential benefits will either be confirmed or denied by science.

5. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Like other B vitamins, pyridoxine is frequently used to combat acne. It also seems to have some potential as a mitigator of the harmful effects of radiation treatment, and some people use it to fight Alzheimer's disease. In addition, vitamin B6 appears to have some relation to women's health, and it is commonly used to help with morning sickness, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and the depression that is commonly associated with taking birth control pills.

6. Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Biotin is one of the B vitamins that seems to have the most promise as a skin health booster. While we don't really know much about biotin's relationship to skin health, it is known that biotin deficiency leads to red, scaly skin. Maintaining adequate biotin levels is also essential to the health of your toenails and fingernails, and it also appears that applying vitamin B7 directly to your scalp may help with hair loss.

7. Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)

While some people use folic acid for acne and other skin conditions, there isn't much scientific evidence to back up this B vitamin's efficacy as a skin care treatment. However, vitamin B9 is a viable treatment for kidney disease since it lowers the levels of homocysteine in your blood. It also reduces the likelihood of birth defects, and it seems that folic acid also helps with depression. In addition, this remarkable substance reduces blood pressure, and it reduces the risk of stroke by 10-25 percent.

8. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is the most recently discovered of the B vitamins, and it differs from the other B vitamins in that it consists of a variety of different compounds. This vitamin may be a viable cancer treatment, and it is also used to treat sleep disorders. Vitamin B12 can help with serious cases of anemia, and it is used in rare instances of vitamin B12 deficiency. In addition, B12 is the compound that is most commonly referenced by supplement manufacturers as the B vitamin that is best for improving your overall energy levels.

Do You Have Vitamin B Deficiency?

The most common sign of vitamin B deficiency is anemia. Anemia is a condition in which your blood doesn't contain enough red blood cells, and if you start to develop anemia, you may look paler than usual, feel sluggish, or become more easily fatigued.

Other signs of vitamin B deficiency include decreased appetite, nausea, acne, or memory loss. You should never self-diagnose vitamin B deficiency, and you should consult with a physician to determine the best course of action if you start experiencing any of these symptoms. As your vitamin B levels return to normal, your blood circulation will improve, and any associated conditions will dissipate.

Benefits of Orally Ingested B Vitamins

When you ingest vitamin B orally, the effect is spread evenly throughout your body. Therefore, it's best to orally ingest vitamin B if you're suffering from a verified vitamin B deficiency or if you want to improve your vitamin B levels. If you orally ingest proper levels of each of the B complex vitamins, you should start to notice increased energy levels, better hair and skin health, and improved vision.

Benefits of Topically Applied B Vitamins

B vitamins can also be applied topically. Transdermally applied vitamin B works directly on the affected area, so using vitamin B this way can be useful when treating conditions like acne that are limited to a localized area. However, you shouldn't apply vitamin B topically if you're trying to treat a condition like anemia since transdermal application is a relatively ineffective delivery method if you're desiring a full-body effect.

Since less vitamin B ends up in your system if you apply in transdermally, this method of application may be one of the safest ways to supplement with this vitamin complex. However, you probably shouldn't transdermally apply vitamin B if you're also taking vitamin B supplements.

What Are the Best Sources of B Vitamins?

These days, B vitamins are contained in practically every multivitamin supplement, and you can also purchase tablets or liquid supplements that contain this vitamin exclusively. In addition, most so-called "enriched" foods also contain high levels of B vitamins. Since the discovery of B vitamins and the diseases that occur in their absence, there has been a concerted effort to flood the food supply with these compounds from every conceivable angle. But is supplementation truly the best way to acquire B vitamins?

According to many nutrition experts, you should try to acquire your B vitamins through food before you resort to supplementation. The body is better able to metabolize vitamins that are contained in complex meals, and in most cases, you can get all of the B vitamins that you need through a healthy diet filled with plenty of whole foods.

When you acquire your vitamins through supplements, you run the risk of oversupplementation. Eating too much of a particular vitamin can entail serious health risks, and it's often hard for the average consumer to determine how much of a supplement is too much by reading the nutrition label.

In addition, supplementation should never be used in lieu of a healthy diet. Some people believe that they can get away with eating junk food if they simply take a daily multivitamin, but vitamins in no way mitigate the negative effects of eating unhealthy foods. Supplementation should be seen as a last resort to be taken if age or other medical conditions make it impossible to attain your necessary B vitamin levels through food alone.

Here are some of the best food-based sources for each of the B vitamins:
  • Vitamin B1: Beef, liver, whole milk, eggs, seeds, legumes, peas, yeast
  • Vitamin B2: Liver, lamb, milk, whole yogurt, mushrooms, spinach
  • Vitamin B3: Turkey, mushrooms, tuna, nuts, peas, chicken breast
  • Vitamin B5: Mushrooms, oily fish, eggs, sunflower seeds, avocados, pork
  • Vitamin B6: Fish, whole grains, eggs, mushrooms, starchy vegetables, beef liver
  • Vitamin B7: Organ meats, corn, milk, avocado, whole grains, mushrooms, legumes
  • Vitamin B9: Leafy greens, eggs, beets, asparagus, beans, okra, broccoli
  • Vitamin B12: Fish, beef, chicken, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese

Do B Vitamins Have Any Risks?

Even though B vitamins are profoundly beneficial in their recommended quantities, they can be downright unhealthy if they are used improperly. For instance, a 2017 study found that ingesting vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 supplements led to a 30-40 percent increase in the risk of lung cancer in men. This worrying conclusion was reached in stark contrast to the existing wisdom that B6 and B12 decrease the risk of lung cancer.

In addition, pregnant women who have excessive amounts of vitamin B12 in their blood are more likely to give birth to autistic children. It's impossible to exceed tolerable levels of vitamin B if you're only ingesting this vitamin complex in the form of food, which further emphasizes the need for caution when ingesting these vitamins in supplement form.

Vitamin B: The Bottom Line

It's incontrovertible that maintaining adequate vitamin B levels is essential to your health. There's no question that vitamin B is a good thing, but the power of this group of substances shouldn't be treated lightly. If you use vitamin B without any regard for the risks inherent to oversupplementation, you could end up with even bigger problems than those that are inherent to vitamin B deficiency.

The best way to navigate the potentially confusing landscape surrounding vitamin B is to eat a healthy and widely variegated diet. If you listen closely enough, your body will tell you what it needs, and eating the proper foods is the best way to make sure that you never end up in the midst of a vitamin B deficiency. However, if you do end up becoming deficient in vitamin B, you should consult a trusted source, such as a general practitioner or a naturopathic doctor, for guidance on the best steps to take to overcome your dietary issue.

If you're responsible and conscientious when it comes to your vitamin B consumption, your hair and nails will thank you, and your blood and brain will stay healthy for years to come.

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