Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that is involved in over 100 different enzymatic reactions in the body. Many of these are related to amino acid synthesis, fatty acid metabolism and hemoglobin synthesis. Without enough hemoglobin from a vitamin B6 deficiency, the body’s ability to transport oxygen is decreased and anemia results.
Vitamin B6 also is critical for the release of glucose from glycogen stores; this is why fatigue is one of the symptoms of a deficiency. The vitamin is also important for the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine.
The immune system, heart and blood vessels, detoxification (methylation) and cognitive health are dependent on vitamin B6.
A vitamin B6 blood test helps determine whether or not someone is deficient in the vitamin, or has high levels. It can give the doctor clues about anemia, heart disease, lack of energy and skin problems.
Normal Ranges for Vitamin B6 in mcg/L:
Adults: 5-50 mcg/L
Critical Range: <5 or >50 mcg/L
Vitamin B6 deficiency is characterized by symptoms such as:
- Inflamed tongue
- Skin disorders
- Mouth sores
- Sores at the corners of the mouth
- Morning sickness in pregnant mothers
Chronic inflammation results in the body when vitamin B6 levels are low. Inflammation that is systemic (throughout the whole body) may be related to cancer, heart disease, PMS, carpal tunnel syndrome, and dementia. When there’s a vitamin B6 deficiency, homocysteine levels will rise as a result and increase the risk for heart disease.
Some specific causes of low vitamin B6 might be:
- Malabsorption of the vitamin in the GI tract due to GI diseases
- Chronic alcoholism
- Sickle cell disease
- Kidney stones containing oxalates
- Kidney dialysis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Liver cancer
- Medications such as ones for Parkinson’s disease, tuberculosis, birth control pills, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs interfere with vitamin B6 metabolism.
High doses of vitamin B6 supplements (>1000 mg per day) for long periods of time can result in pain and numbness in the hands and feet.
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