If Vitamin A was "awesome", vitamin B is "bodacious". Seriously, vitamin B is HUGE! It's way to big to cover all the in's and out's of this complex and rather incredible vitamin, so, I'm going to give you the 'coles notes' version of why vitamin B is so important to include in your fertility, pregnancy and postpartum diet.
The B vitamins are water soluble, meaning that you pee out what you don’t use and you also don't store excess in the body like you do with fat soluble vitamins. Roughly translated, if you have a high concentration in your diet you'll pee neon yellow AND because they aren't stored in your tissues you need to eat them often to ensure you have enough to fuel your body's demands. Good thing they are found in some delicious things!
You need more Vitamin B when:
- You have a history of taking Oral Birth Control or any other synthetic hormone
- History of Smoking or high alcohol use
- High caffeine consumption
- Have a diet high in refined or processed foods
- History of antibiotic use
- Have a genetic mutation, such as MTHFR
- Are a Vegan or Vegetarian
- Have a history of dieting or are an athlete
- You're trying to become pregnant :)
Quick Facts about B-Vitamins:
There are 8 commonly known B vitamins. These vitamins are usually found together in foods and require similar co-enzymes to be best absorbed and utilized by the body. Some of the vitamins can be made in the body by the healthy bugs in our guts, while others cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained from our diet. B- vitamins need to be in their "active" forms before they can preform metabolic tasks in the body. Vitamins are converted from their inactive to their active forms by a process called methylation. Methylation is aided by enzymes (that you make or consume) and is dependent on a intricate pathway of chemical reactions. Some people, like those with MTHFR, have a deficiency in one area of the pathway making their conversion of inactive to active B - vitamins more inefficient thus increasing their need. You can read more about that in an old post here or check out our section on MTHFR in the upcoming Baby Making and Beyond.
The low down on each B-Vitamin and why you need it in your fertility and pregnancy diet!
- Vitamin B1 Thiamin: Found in decent amounts in lean pork. Thiamin produces acetylcholine and is key for nervous system health. Choline is a critical nutrient for a growing baby's brain and nervous system development. You'll learn all about my love of Choline in my next post. C for choline.
- Vitamin B2 Riboflavin: Often found in liver, fatty fish, eggs, nori and sunflower seeds. B2 helps metabolize fats and carbs in your diet. Vitamin B2 promotes fetal growth and a healthy nervous system.
- Vitamin B3 Niacin: One of the most stable B vitamins, it can be easily manufactured in the body by the amino acid tryptophan. B3 is found in liver, fish and poultry (all which happen to contain tryptophan!) It's important during pregnancy to produce new DNA (building blocks of new cells) as well as help us stabilize our blood sugars (key for hormonal health).
- Vitamin B5 Panthotheic Acid: Panthothenic acid comes from the Greek word (ever see My big fat greek wedding, if so, insert smirk, if not watch it, hilarious) Panthos meaning "everywhere". As you guessed, deficiency is uncommon, it's hard not to find B5 in whole foods. Vitamin B5 is a great anti-stress vitamin and helps chill out the adrenals. Having a balanced adrenal system helps you stabilize your progesterone levels. KEY for fertility and pregnancy.
- Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine: Easily found in whole foods, the highest concentration is found in organ meats, egg yolks, fish, poultry and walnuts. Dark leafy greens also contain large amounts. A general rule Meg follows is: anytime there is an excess of estrogen more B6 is required. B6 is one of the ESSENTIAL vitamins that will help protect you against nausea and morning sickness during pregnancy (more estrogen during this time). There is also a much greater need for B6 when you've been taking birth control pills (again, a high concentration of estrogen in your system). B6 helps fight depression, mood swings, skin conditions and aids in detoxification. The list is pretty much endless. Bottom line, get your greens and eat some liver every now and again.
- Vitamin B7 Biotin: Biotin is both a co-enzyme and a B-vitamin. It's found in small amounts in most foods but mostly produced by our healthy gut bacteria. Deficiency can be caused by insufficient gut bacteria (like if you have taken antibiotics) or when women consume egg whites without the yolk, particularly if egg whites are not totally cooked. Avidin, a protein in raw or under cooked egg whites binds to biotin in the stomach and decreases it's absorption. Biotin helps metabolize fats and help the body form new tissues and new little people. It helps with healthy nails, hair and skin. Some experts believe that the crusty, kind of gross skin condition, Cradle cap, in infants is caused by a biotin deficiency. If your baby struggles with this, supplementing them with a probiotic may help.
- Vitamin B9 Folate: From the latin folium meaning 'foliage' folate is abundant in dark leafy greens. Folate needs are higher prior to conception to aid in the growth and development of a healthy neural tube in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Deficiencies a pregnant woman can result in neural tube defects such as spina bifida in her baby. It's important to get folate in it's active form, especially if you have any form of MTHFR. Look for folate vs folic acid on your prenatal vitamin. Folic acid is a synthetic derivative and not the best choice. Folic acid supplementation in large doses over long periods of time has recently been tied to breast cancer.
- Vitamin B12 Cobalamin: B12 is found in most animal proteins. Vegans and Vegetarians are at the highest risk for deficiency as there aren't really any good sources of B12 in their diets There is a common misconception that it's possible to get B12 from seaweed, fermented soy and brewers yeast. Not totally true. These plant foods actually contain B12 analogs called cobamides that actually block intake and increase the need for real B12...YIKES! Low B12 levels is a big deal. It's associated with anemia and has also been strongly linked to recurrent pregnancy loss and placental abruption. B12 is as important as B9/Folate if you ask me. It works with B9 to help give you energy, prevent anemia, guard against neural tube defects and significantly aids in brain and nervous system development.
So there you have it...Big, bodacious vitamin B for fertility, pregnancy and beyond. Want more info or need help fine tuning your fertility, pregnancy or postpartum diet? Want to learn how to test for MTHFR and other methylation challenges? I can help. I'm now taking consults again! Finally :) Click the big button above to book your first consult.