How Do I Avoid Vitamin B6 Side Effects?

C. Webb

Vitamin B6 side effects almost always come from the ingestion of B6 supplements rather than from food sources. Side effects can include numbness and pain in the extremities. While most side effects from vitamin B6 occur when high doses of supplements are taken, reports of side effects from lower doses have also been made. The most effective way to avoid vitamin B6 side effects is to get the vitamin through dietary intake.

Bananas are a good source of vitamin B6.
Bananas are a good source of vitamin B6.

People at risk for a vitamin B6 deficiency include kidney patients who receive dialysis treatments, alcoholics, senior citizens, and those with rheumatoid arthritis or liver disease. Patients with these conditions are medically monitored to gauge whether or not a vitamin B6 deficiency is present. A vitamin B6 deficiency can cause confusion, depression, and difficulty with physical coordination. If a deficiency is discovered, treatment is recommended. Supplements are often tried unless side effects become too severe.

Avoiding vitamin B6 side effects can be attempted by reducing the supplement dosage amount. Most reported side effects occur with dosages of more than 1,000 milligrams per day, though problems have also been reported in dosages as low as 500 mg per day. A daily dose of less than 200 mg has not been found to trigger side effects. Most side effects from vitamin B6 can be avoided by reducing dosage and adding vitamin B6 foods to the diet, or in some cases, by giving the supplements up completely and eating enough of the right foods.

Foods rich in vitamin B6 include whole grains, bananas, all nuts, and most vegetables. The way foods are prepared determines the quality and quantity of vitamin B6 that they retain. For example, overcooking vegetables interferes with the amount and potency of vitamins, including B6. Storage can also have an impact on the vitamins. In some cases, more than 50 percent of the vitamin content can be lost through improper storage and preparation.

Canning and freezing foods reduces the amount of available B6 in them. Foods are best consumed in their raw state, with little cooking or freezing. Processing food also damages vitamin B6. For example, processing whole grains to turn them white destroys much of the vitamin content. It is best to choose brown, unprocessed grains such as multigrain breads and pastas as opposed to processed white varieties. Vitamin B6 side effects typically disappear once the supplemental dosage is reduced or eliminated.

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