This simple addition to your diet can change your brain and body

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Feeling sluggish, exhausted, moody, or foggy – or noticing cracked cuticles, dull skin, or brittle hair? You may be suffering from vitamin B6, B9, or B12 deficiencies, and not even realize it. Fortunately, there are various diet and supplement ideas for how to replenish those vitamins in your system.

During the pandemic, everyone is looking for ways to feel healthier, both to fight the quarantine blues and fend off against potential Coronavirus infection. While it may be the last thing on some people’s minds, even healthy individuals can suffer from vitamin deficiencies, especially if locked inside, unable to exercise or access foods that facilitate a well-balanced diet.

Vitamin B6

B6 deficiency is the most insidious of all these B vitamins, as for the most part, it’s not on the usual CBC, or “complete blood count”, that you get during your yearly physicals. Low B6 in one’s system can cause “skin rashes, cracked lip corners, a glossy tongue, mood changes, impaired immune function, tiredness,” and in extreme cases, “nerve pain, seizures and elevated homocysteine levels”. According to the NIH, B6 deficiency is not extremely common, but often appears in conjunction with other B deficiencies.

If you think you may have vitamin B6 deficiency, it’s imperative you ask a doctor before you begin taking supplements. As all B vitamins are water-soluble, and thus difficult to over-indulge in, excessive vitamin B6 in your system can trigger everything from photosensitivity to ataxia and skin lesions. Taking an over-the-counter supplement of vitamin B6 as per the bottle’s instructions rarely instigate these effects, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so consult with your doctor before making any decisions about adding supplemental vitamins.

Vitamin B9

While vitamin B9 is usually thought of as a promoter of healthy hair, nails and skin, Low levels of folate, as it’s also called, can cause issues such as exhaustion, weakness, dizziness, and perhaps even lead to anemia if not monitored. A recent study indicates that folic acid may have many preventative qualities, such as a lowered risk of childhood cancer if taken prenatally by the mother, or a lowered risk of stroke.

Doctors recommend women take B9 supplements when planning to get pregnant, or at the beginning of the pregnancy, to prevent birth defects. However, taking folic acid has also become popular among young women who want stronger hair, longer nails, and more vibrant skin.

Vitamin B12

If you have an energy drink in your fridge or have ever sought out all-natural energy boosters, it’s likely you’re already acquainted with vitamin B12. B12 is imperative for “developing red blood cells and maintaining nerves and normal brain function”, including memory and cognitive processing. B12 deficiencies most often affect strict vegetarians, as plants do not naturally produce B12.

The hype about B12 is highly contested – while it can give you energy if you’re deficient, some doctors will say that it doesn’t provide a boost for athletes. However, through anecdotal evidence and a few varying studies, B12 is rumored to help prevent heart disease and dementia.

If any of these sound like symptoms you may be experiencing, you might have lower than average levels of certain kinds of vitamin B deficiency. There are some ways to handle these deficiencies, and for the most part, they can be corrected through diet, supplements, or sometimes, performance-enhancing beverages. If you notice symptoms that don’t go away after starting some lifestyle changes, or if you’re unsure if supplements are right for you, consult your doctor.

Diet

Many foods that are high in one B vitamin contain multitudes, and you can usually get your daily doses of vitamin B through many animal products. This is because, much like humans, animals’ digestive tracts contain B12, similarly to the way humans produce vitamin K.

Vitamin B6 is most often found in organ meats like beef liver, or fish and chicken. And for the vegan, or carb-lover, potatoes and other starchy vegetables are also rich in B6, as are bananas, non-citrus fruits and chickpeas.

Leafy greens are rich in vitamin B9. If you’re looking for your fix, try kale or spinach salad, collard greens, some romaine lettuce or turnip greens. If your tastebuds are recoiling, you can also try carrots or oranges.

As for vitamin B12, as previously mentioned, meat, eggs, or milk are the best options. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may not be getting enough vitamin B12 – which is where supplements come in handy.

Tablets

Taking supplements is an easy way to replenish deficient vitamins. While there are a lot of vitamins on the market, often B-complex vitamins have an earthy aftertaste that makes some averse to taking them.

Luckily, these days, there are options like flavorless vitamins or gummies. Remember to take your B vitamins with your first meal of the day, and a glass or two of water.

Other options

If your diet is well-rounded and supplements aren’t your style, there are other ways to get your vitamin fix. There are vitamin B-complex tinctures, or for busy professionals with pre-existing health issues, a personalized monthly vitamin subscription can also do the trick.

Vitamin-filled energy drinks are all the rage as well – while it’s undetermined as to whether or not B12 is the active ingredient, you can’t go wrong with a healthy boost that encourages hydration. Zipfizz is extremely popular among NFL stars and contains other extremely helpful elements, like electrolytes, antioxidants, and caffeine.