What do B Vitamins Do For The Brain?
B Vitamins and Brain Function.
They are powerful vitamins that help you to stay healthy, sharp, energetic, balanced, and clean (they play a huge role in the detoxification process) but most importantly of all they are vital for brain health and have dramatic mood-elevating effects - more so than almost any other nutrient!
As you will discover – they are also fundamental for your overall wellbeing so if you are struggling with hormone balance, thyroid issues, digestive problems, liver or detoxification problems or inflammation then B vitamins might be worth exploring.
A true magic pill!
In our brains they are crucial for normal nerve function and nerve cell metabolism, which produces optimal neurotransmitter levels (serotonin, dopamine, GABA, Acetylcholine) which in turn help us to have normal psychological functioning.
They are vital ingredients in the recipe to make our happy chemicals.
If you are struggling with tiredness, anxiety, stress, depression, or low mood, feeling flat and numb and always tired and low in energy and motivation then…
One of the first, and best, things you can do is to boost your B vitamin levels.
Here’s a quick run through:
Thiamine is needed to produce energy.
Balanced levels of thiamine also allow for feelings of calmness, clear-headedness, and energy.
Like all the other B vitamins it activates detoxification.
Thiamine also helps to metabolise glucose. People addicted to carbohydrates are often thiamine deficient.
DEFICIENCY CHECKLIST: You lack energy, your brain feels foggy and it’s hard to concentrate. You crave carbohydrates. You drink lots of alcohol, coffee and/or take oral contraceptives – they decrease thiamine levels.
Food sources: vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, seaweed
Optimal daily dose: 25 to 50mg
B2 is necessary for essential fatty acid metabolism, which improves energy production in some nerve cells.
Riboflavin is involved in proper thyroid function.
Deficiency of vitamin B2 inhibits the liver detox pathway helping to eliminate toxins.
It alleviates eye fatigue and prevents cataracts.
DEFICIENCY CHECKLIST: You are a slow detoxifier, have a hard time digesting protein, carbohydrates and fats, your thyroid is slow. Your eyes tire easily. You struggle with dandruff. You often experience mouth cracks and sores.
Food sources: whole grains, legumes, green leafy vegetables, poultry, fish, seaweed
Optimal daily dose: 25 to 50mg
It has an indirect effect on serotonin levels, because the body uses tryptophan (the amino acid that is the precursor to serotonin production), to produce niacin. For all these reasons, it’s said to have helpful anti-depressant effects.
It has a balancing effect on the adrenal hormones to help with stress.
Like B1, B3 induces detoxification. It is needed for proper circulation and healthy skin.
It aids the function of the nervous system; by breaking down fats, carbohydrates and protein, and the production of the hydrochloric acid. It is involved in bile production which is key in digestion, oestrogen metabolism and detoxification.
It is also a memory enhancer. It also helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
DEFICIENCY CHECKLIST: You have a history of gallstones, gallbladder problems and low stomach acid, hence GERD or acid reflux. Your cholesterol is high even though your diet is good. You struggle with depression, poor memory and you look older than your age.
Food sources: liver, peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, brown rice, whole grains, barley, almonds, seaweed.
Optimal daily dose: 25 to 50mg.
Pantothenic acid (B5)
Pantothenic acid plays an important role in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, adrenal hormones and is vital for coping with extreme stress.
It provides foundational support for detoxification, and more specifically, reduces inflammation.
All the hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, will be produced only with enough B5 in the system.
DEFICIENCY CHECKLIST: You had gone through long periods of stress and feel depleted. You struggle with depression and addictions. Your hormones affect your mood. You often experience fatigue, headaches, nausea and tingling in the hands.
Food sources: avocado, mushrooms, liver, soybeans, banana, collard greens, sunflower seeds, lentils, broccoli, brown rice, eggs.
Optimal daily dose: 25 to 60mg.
Vitamin B6 is truly fascinating: It is involved in more bodily functions than any other single nutrient; affecting both mental and physical outlook.
Especially noteworthy is that Pyridoxine has one of the most dramatic mood-elevating effects of all the B vitamins. It activates many enzymes and aids B12 absorption.
It can help to correct brain metabolism dysfunctions that cause depression. It heightens serotonin production.
It binds to oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, helping to detoxify excess amounts of these hormones.
Sufficient levels of B6 keep the liver functioning optimally by promoting the proper flow of fat and bile to and from the liver.
DEFICIENCY CHECKLIST: You suffer from water retention and hormonal mood imbalances. You have low stomach acid (hence GERD or acid reflux). You lack energy, have anaemia, headaches and nausea. In spite of taking B12, you are still low.
Food sources: spinach, walnuts, eggs, fish, poultry, beans, seaweed.
Optimal daily dose: 20 to 50mg, not to exceed 100mg/day.
It supports a healthy, normally functioning nervous system. Biotin keeps your nervous system in working order by assisting with neurotransmitter activity and helping with nerve signals.
Together, B vitamins also protect your brain, improve your memory, and help form a defence against cognitive issues and neurodegenerative disorders.
Like all B-type vitamins, biotin aids the body in breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for optimum energy production.
It also has roles in maintaining healthy skin, hair and helping with brittle nails.
DEFICIENCY CHECKLIST: You have hair loss and brittle nails. You struggle with depression and often feel fatigued and tired. You might have tingling in arms and legs.
Food sources: eggs, almonds, leafy greens, bananas, leafy greens, mushrooms, cauliflower
Optimal daily dose: 30 to 100mcg daily
It is considered brain food.
Folate has direct mood elevating properties and is synergistic with serotonin production.
Folate is a needed inducer of several of the detoxification pathways.
It breaks down homocysteine, a toxic and inflammatory agent produced by the liver if not properly converted.
For childbearing women, folate in the system will help to prevent neural tube defects and their resulting brain and nervous system damage to the baby.
Avoid folic acid in food and supplements – it is the synthetic version of folate. Folic acid attaches itself to the folate receptors, blocking the folate to do its work. Many processed foods including flours contain folic acid. Look for Folate L-5-MTHF in the ingredients of a supplement.
DEFICIENCY CHECKLIST: Your homocysteine levels are high. You suffer from depression and anxiety. You might be experiencing anaemia, apathy, digestive issues, fatigue, greying hair, insomnia, memory problems.
Food sources: dark leafy greens, asparagus, bananas, cantaloupes, beans.
Optimal daily dose: 400 to 800 mcg
B12 is the most chemically complex of all the vitamins and it is the name for a group of essential compounds called cobalamins. B12 comes in various forms and not all of them are effective.
Methylcobalamin is the most effective but expensive to produce and cyanocobalamin is least effective, not well absorbed and cheapest to produce (it is unfortunately, found in many supplements).
Methylobalamin has important effects on mood and allows for a free flow of neurotransmitters in the brain.
It is responsible for energy levels, good memory and ability to learn and retain.
B12 can also help with more refreshing and restful sleep as it helps the body to secrete melatonin.
B12 is active in the growth and protection and regeneration of the nervous system.
It is an important factor for the activation of the liver detox pathway that detoxes the heavy metals and histamines.
B12 is also key in cardiovascular health; it lowers the level of homocysteine which is they key cause on chronic inflammation of cardiovascular conditions.
DEFICIENCY CHECKLIST: You are vegan or vegetarian and don’t supplement with B12. You have been diagnosed with anaemia (low B12 and/or iron), feel fatigued and depleted. You struggle with depression, poor memory and ability to retain new knowledge. You have been taking anti-acids.
Food sources: animal protein (especially liver), seafood, eggs, some cheeses, tempeh, sea vegetables, brewer’s yeast, blue and green algae, chlorella, seaweed, bee pollen.
Optimal daily dose: 50 to 100mcg
Recommended Best Vitamin B Complex
For some people, especially when depleted, it’s hard to get all the needed B vitamins from food.
This is when a supplement can become very helpful in your healing journey.
Mood Me in the 360ME range by Montgomery + Evelyn is a complete B complex formulated with key B vitamins in their metabolically active form.
This active form of B vitamins (methylated) allows the body to use them readily without having to convert them, especially important for those with MTHFR genetic defect (methycobalamin) who struggle to absorb sufficient B vitamins otherwise.
The B vitamins are combined with the amino acid complex, MoodNutritionPlus, for the ultimate synergised support for your brain and mental health.
It is a powerful multi-vitamin and mineral as it also has Vitamins A, C, and D3 (in vegan form), minerals and an added unique probiotic blend to support your gut-brain axis.
Made with Vegan ingredients with no bulking agents or chemicals. Free of gluten, dairy, soy, yeast, sugar, and colours.
Top tip: Take vitamin B in the morning as they can be stimulating and keep you wide awake if taken at night.
I’ve learned this the hard way!