I was inspired to write this blog because I took a capsule of my Mito B complex today and sat down with hot tea. About 15 minutes after that walked into my hot yoga class, where I quickly developed a heat flush! As in a hot flush from the niacin. I had to laugh because I did it to myself without thinking twice about the timing of a hot drink and a hot gym!
Just FYI, the niacin flush is a pretty unusual occurrence with dietary supplements, but it can happen if you’re sensitive to niacin, or if you take it and then go into a room that is 102 degrees and try doing headstands, lol!
I have some tips at the end of this article about niacin, but for the most part, today’s article is about B Complex, and why you should study a bit before buying a specific brand and taking it for months.
Anyway, it got me thinking about an article that I think could help many people because so many people buy B Complex right off the pharmacy shelf, or from big box chain stores without giving it a second thought! B Complex vitamins are not all created equally. First I’d like to share the 4 main reasons that people like to take B Complex vitamins, and below that, you will see why they are imperative to your hormones. By the end of this article you will see why I believe you should really think twice about the brand of B Complex before making a purchase:
What B Complex Vitamins Do
B Complex refers to a family of nutrients, it’s not just one. It includes several which I outline below. The B’s are a group of water-soluble vitamins that are essential for various important bodily functions.
- Energy production: You will be tired if you are depleted in B vitamins. The B complex vitamins convert your food into energy, making ATP out of what you eat. This gives you zest and energy.
They are specifically involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, which are the main sources of energy for your body.
Thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), folate (B9), and biotin (B7) are essential for energy production.
- Brain function: All of the B complex nutrients are important for maintaining brain function, memory, and ability to learn. They are involved in the synthesis of all kinds of neurotransmitters, even the ones that make you happy and satisfied.
B vitamins are chemical messengers that transmit signals between your nerve cells making them do things, or secrete other compounds that allow you to think clearly. Vitamin B6, in particular, is important for the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which play a crucial role in mood, motivation, and cognition.
- Cell health: B complex vitamins are necessary for maintaining healthy cells, specifically our DNA synthesis and repair, which is essential for cell division and growth.
Folate (B9) and vitamin B12 are particularly important for cell health, as they are involved in the formation of red blood cells and the maintenance of the nervous system.
- Nerve Sheath Health: Neuropathy is a potentially disabling condition that affects the nerves and can cause symptoms such as tingling, numbness, and pain in the affected areas. B complex vitamins may have a beneficial effect because they can protect the myelin sheath and help with neuron regeneration.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) plays a key role in nerve function and is important for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Studies have shown that thiamine deficiency (which can be caused by alcohol consumption) will lead to neuropathy, and supplementation with thiamine may ease symptoms in some people with neuropathy depending on how long you’ve had the condition
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is also important for nerve function and has been shown to have a potential benefit for neuropathy. It is involved in the production of neurotransmitters, which are essential for nerve communication, and has been shown to help reduce pain and improve nerve function in some people with neuropathy.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is the most well-known B vitamin from the B Complex family that helps with neuropathy. Doctors often prescribe shots of this nutrient because it plays a role in the formation of myelin, which is the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can absolutely cause or contribute to nerve damage and neuropathy.
How Taking Methylated B Complex Benefits Your Hormones
B vitamins are crucial to proper hormone metabolism. They have been shown to play a role in estrogen metabolism and the formation of 2-hydroxyestrone (designated as 2-OH-E1 on your DUTCH test), which is a type of estrogen metabolite.
Estrogen is a hormone that is important for various bodily functions, such as regulating the menstrual cycle, maintaining bone density, and supporting cardiovascular health. However, excessive estrogen exposure has been associated with an increased risk of certain health conditions, such as breast cancer.
B vitamins, particularly vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid (vitamin B9), are important for the metabolism of estrogen. They help convert estrogen into its 2-hydroxy metabolite (2-OH-E1) which has been shown to have anti-carcinogenic properties and may help reduce your risk of breast and prostate cancer.
Specifically, vitamin B6 is involved in the conversion of estrogen into 2-OH-E1 (that’s good!) while vitamin B12 and folate are important for the formation of a methyl donor called SAM (S-adenosylmethionine), which is required for the conversion of 2-OH-E1 into a methylated form, known as 2-methoxyestrone which is also very good! You want all those so what I’m saying is you should pay the extra to buy high-quality methylated B vitamins. Your hormone balance and reproductive organs pay the price when you spend less on cheap B vitamins.
Furthermore, methylated B vitamins help with your liver function, which is absolutely critical for good estrogen metabolism. The liver detoxifies estrogen and forms various different estrogen metabolites, so you want the liver pathway to break down into a protective kind of estrogen. The B complex vitamins help your liver by making more glutathione, a powerful antioxidant required for healthy detoxification.
Overall, B vitamins play an important role in estrogen metabolism and the formation of 2-OH-E1, which you want more of because it correlates to reduced risk of breast/prostate cancer. However, it’s important to note that the relationship between B vitamins and estrogen metabolism is complex, and the effects may vary depending on the individual and their specific needs. It’s always important to consult a healthcare professional for advice on the best dietary or supplemental sources of B vitamins and for guidance on any specific health concerns.
In addition to these benefits, B complex vitamins have other vital roles in the body, such as supporting the immune system, promoting healthy skin and hair, and reducing the risk of birth defects during pregnancy.
However, it’s important to note that the benefits of B complex vitamins are not always seen in an individual because if they are not deficient, then the nutrient is not even needed. So a lot of how good you feel after taking a supplement of B Complex depends on your own baseline values and individual needs. And that is contingent on your diet, lifestyle, medication intake, alcohol consumption, and age.
Not all B Complex Vitamins are the same. Most of the supplements contain inactive precursor ingredients that your body has to activate before it even works. For example, pyridoxine is on the label of most B Complex supplements, but that isn’t active. You have to turn that into another compound “P5P” short for pyridoxal 5’ phosphate.
Only then will work for you and help you feel better. Some people can’t do that conversion in their bodies. But again, you have to make it work inside your body, otherwise, it’s what everyone calls “expensive urine.” The only other way is to buy a supplement that has the P5P in it, to begin with. That’s why I formulated Mito B Complex. It has all the B vitamins in a biologically active, body-ready form. I do not count on anyone’s body including my own to have all the co-factors on board, good genetics, and enough antioxidant power to convert the pyridoxine to P5P… I just give it to you that way in capsule form!
Methylated B vitamins are critical. If you don’t buy a methylated form, you don’t get the full benefits of the supplement. It compromises your methylation enzymatic process which translates to inferior health.
Why Methylated B Vitamins Matter
Methylation is a process that occurs naturally in the body and involves the transfer of a methyl group (-CH3) to a molecule. Methylated B vitamins are a type of B vitamin that has undergone a process called methylation, which adds a methyl group to the vitamin molecule.
Methylated B vitamins are often preferred by people in the know over regular plain B vitamins – which are the ones sold everywhere because those regular ones are cheap.
But the methylated B Complex vitamins are more bioavailable and easily absorbed. That means they are more effective and will enter the methylation cycle in your body and work immediately. Methylation enables the B vitamin to be more easily absorbed and utilized by your cells, so they are stronger.
Methylated B vitamins are particularly important for people with genetic mutations, such as MTHFR gene mutations, which can impair the body’s ability to effectively utilize regular B vitamins. Methylated B vitamins may also be beneficial for people with a high demand for B vitamins, such as pregnant women, athletes, and regular people with certain health conditions like high homocysteine and fatigue; also individuals with a poor diet could benefit from methylated Bs. I can’t think of an instance where I’d recommend a bottle of regular cheap plain B Complex because they’re not biologically active or easily absorbed.
It’s important to note that while methylated B vitamins may have potential benefits, it’s always important to consult a healthcare professional before taking any new supplement or making significant changes to your diet.
The Niacin Flush
I mentioned the heat flush at yoga a few minutes ago. This phenomenon occurs due to niacin.
A niacin flush can happen with prescribed niacin, dietary supplements of B Complex which contain niacin, and methylated B Complex vitamins that contain niacin. It can happen at any given time even if you’ve taken the same supplement for years.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is a water-soluble nutrient may trigger the niacin flush, which is a warm, tingling sensation all over the body including the face and neck.
To avoid or minimize the occurrence of the niacin flush, try starting with the lowest effective dose and taking your supplement with a meal. This will reduce intensity and/or completely mitigate the flush. For those people taking drug versions of niacin, consider taking an aspirin 30 minutes to an hour before taking your niacin (or B Complex).
There are extended-release niacin medications that may be less likely to cause a flush compared to immediate-release niacin. I will one day delve deeper into other options to help mitigate a niacin flush, but the point of today’s comment is to assure you that it’s not dangerous, can be minimized or avoided altogether, and it may occur if you expose yourself to heat right after taking your supplement.
B Complex vitamins are widely sold at almost every grocery store, pharmacy, and health food store. They are not all high quality. Most are not methylated and most contain poorly absorbed inactive nutrients.
Methylated B vitamins participate in mitochondrial DNA repair and serve as co-factors in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. Think twice before you just toss any old B Complex nutrient in your cart! Consider reading the label to make sure it contains body-ready nutrients that work!
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.