Vitamin B6 (also known as pyridoxine) is one of the 8 B vitamins. Like all the B vitamins it has lots of important functions including helping the body meet its energy needs.
Where do I find vitamin B6?
- Vitamin B6 is found in loads of different foods including fish, poultry, pork peanuts, cereals, milk, bread, soya beans, fruit (other than citrus fruits) and vegetables (particularly starchy veg).
- Good food sources include: brewer’s yeast, bananas and sunflower seeds.
- Like other B vitamins, B6 cannot be stored in your body, so you need to obtain it from your daily diet.
- Men need about 1.4mg a day and women 1.2mg.
Why do I need vitamin B6?
Vitamin B6 helps the body convert food into energy and also supports the formation of the protein haemoglobin which is found in our red blood cells. Haemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to all the body’s cells. Vitamin B6 is also thought to aid brain development during pregnancy and infancy and also benefits the immune system.
It’s been suggested that vitamin B6 may also be helpful in reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), nausea during pregnancy and may improve cognitive function such as memory in elderly people. However, more research is needed. Some experts also cite vitamin B6 as helpful for people with arthritis, asthma and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and nerve compression injuries such as carpal tunnel.
How will I know if I am lacking in vitamin B6?
A vitamin B6 deficiency is rare in the UK. Symptoms of a deficiency include anaemia, itchy rashes, cracks and sore lips and a swollen tongue. A lack of vitamin B6 can also cause confusion and a weakened immune system and lead to nerve damage in the hands and feet.
Can vitamin B6 ever be harmful?
Too much vitamin B6 can lead to tingling and a loss of feeling in your arms and legs. The condition (known as ‘peripheral neuropathy’) usually goes away once you stop taking supplements although it can be irreversible if you have ‘over-dosed’ for a long time.
Unless advised by a doctor you should limit vitamin B6 supplements to no more than 10mg a day. Doses of over 200mg can lead to numbness in your limbs, as described above.
If you are on medication and wish to take vitamin B6 supplements you should first check if this is okay with your doctor as vitamin B6 supplements can interact with some medications including strong antibiotics used to treat tuberculosis and drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease.