The most important vitamins for relieving stress, helping you sleep and achieving calmness are the B vitamins. They are important in so many areas of the body that you simply can’t live without them. They are critical for your nervous system and for your body’s ability to turn food into energy. So if you ever feel like you don’t have enough energy or you feel nervous, B vitamins can help. Sadly, even a healthy diet today may not provide enough B vitamins due to our nutrient-destroying farming and cooking practices.
What B Vitamins Do
This is just a brief overview of what B vitamins do for you.
- B-1 (thiamine) is critical to your nervous system (diabetics often have trouble retaining
- B-2 (riboflavin) helps produce red blood cells and antibodies for your immune system.
- B-3 works with your gut to produce digestive fluids — especially hydrochloric acid.
- B-5 (pantothenic acid) is essential in the hormone factory that is the main function of the
adrenal glands. All eight B vitamins have a role but B-5, B-6 and B-3 are the most active.
- B-6 has many jobs but is critical to the proper functioning of the brain and it’s a good friend of
magnesium, helping to direct it into the cells.
- B-7 (biotin) helps break down essential fatty acids.
- B-9 (folic acid) is essential for cell division and reproduction.
- B-12 is essential for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system.
B-12 Via Animal Products, Fermented Foods and Dirt
Vegetarians tend to have trouble getting enough vitamin B-12 because it is only available through animal sources or bacteria. You do not need to eat meat to get B-12 — fermented dairy or eggs will do fine. Vegans (who don’t even eat dairy), however, usually have to take a B-12 supplement or even receive periodic B-12 injections.
However, there are documented cases of people in developing countries — involuntarily living on a vegan diet of rice — who had normal vitamin B-12 levels. It is theorized that this was a result of poor hygiene and that they received sufficient B-12 by ingesting bacteria contaminating their food.
While I don’t recommend you stop cleaning your kitchen to increase B-12 levels, you may not want to freak out when your kids are playing in the dirt. It’s quite possible that chronic low vitamin B-12 levels — even amongst meat-eaters — has more to do with us being completely insulated from nature. It may also be an argument for eating more fermented foods.
Getting the Other B Vitamins Through Food
The rest of the B vitamins can be obtained from plant sources. The problem, however, is that even organically grown food is not as nutrient dense as it was a hundred years ago. Plus, many more nutrients are lost on the way from the farm to the grocery store (yet another reason why you should buy locally). If you eat totally from your own organic garden grown on pristine, well-fertilized soil, year round, then you may be getting enough B-vitamins. The food sources for vitamin B complex includes: whole grains, brewer’s yeast, pollen, miso, liver, certain raw nuts, sprouts, rice bran syrup and Marmite (a vegetable concentrate paste). This is not a complete list. Another option is to make fresh vegetable juice, especially if you include a lot of the dark green vegetables like spinach, collards and kale. In fact, all the B vitamins, except B-12 are found in good ole Popeye’s spinach!
Note: Too much kale can suppress thyroid function and spinach has oxalic acid and phytic acid, collards have oxalic acid. You can read up on these substances but the message is to eat these foods in moderation.
Natural Vitamin B Supplementation
But if you’re not up to juicing (or if you’re a vegan) you can get adequate vitamin B from supplements. As always, there are two types of vitamin supplements — the natural food-based kind or synthetic.
The synthetic Bs have to be methylated in the body and in certain individuals that doesn’t happen readily. . Or you can find methylated and food-based B vitamins. When I worked with children suffering from autism and ADHD they had to receive injections of synthetic B vitamins in order to receive any benefit whatsoever — oral wasn’t enough. Yet when I switched them to oral food-based organic B vitamins they did just as well.
Make It Happen
You need B vitamins. You probably aren’t getting enough. Either start…
- Juicing plenty of vegetables each day
- Eating more fermented foods
- Getting out in nature more
Questions and Answers
How do I know if the B vitamins are helping me?
• you feel calmer and relaxed
• your digestion improves
• you feel more nourished by food you eat
• you feel more energized
• you sleep better
• your muscle tone improves
• you get less colds or infection
• food cravings disappear