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What is Vitamin B6 Deficiency?

By Rachel Burkot
Updated May 17, 2024
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Vitamin B6 deficiency is a result of this vitamin being absorbed in the body by disease, drugs or an unusually quick metabolism. Vitamin B6 exists as pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine in the human body. These are its three natural forms, which are converted by the human body to become biologically active. It is also found in the food of plants and animals and is a cofactor in the metabolism of certain amino acids, lipids and carbohydrates. Vitamin B6 is also of critical importance for nucleic acid biosynthesis.

Vitamin B6 deficiency is rare because it is present in so many foods. Foods that are especially rich in Vitamin B6 include wheat, yeast, soy beans, sunflower seeds and walnuts. When food is cooked, some of this vitamin is killed off. Treating a deficiency of vitamin B6 should include consuming extra amounts of these foods. Taking an oral Vitamin B6 capsule is also a treatment option. The best treatment, however, is to treat the cause of the deficiency.

People who are depressed are often experiencing Vitamin B6 deficiency symptoms, as this vitamin heavily regulates mood disorders. Vitamins B1-B5 also affect mood and mental health, and patients who experience depression or similar conditions should look for vitamin supplements. Additionally, a deficiency of Vitamin B6 is usually present in women taking birth control or estrogen. Vitamin B6 is often taken for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), but only small, monitored doses should be consumed.

Drugs such as penicillin, isoniazid and hydralazine interact with the pyridoxal phosphate in the body, causing a deficiency of Vitamin B6. A polyneuropathy, or neurological problem that occurs when several peripheral nerves in the body stop functioning at the same time, can happen after large doses of Vitamin B6 are taken over a long time period. Other symptoms of Vitamin B6 deficiency include anemia, seizures, weakness, insomnia, aggression and mental confusion. Rarely, the loss of Vitamin B6 is a problem in children or infants who have extremely fast metabolism, and the most common signs of Vitamin B6 deficiency in small children are seizures. While no single test can measure Vitamin B6 levels, measuring pyridoxal phosphate is the easiest way to test for this vitamin in the body.

Taking extra pyridoxine can usually correct a deficiency of Vitamin B6. More pyridoxine should be taken in patients who experience this vitamin deficiency due to fast metabolism. Establishing appropriate levels of Vitamin B6 in the body is a slow process, and some patients never reach recommended levels.

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Discussion Comments

By anon286057 — On Aug 19, 2012

I used to use all this stuff and it was constantly preached by the medical people that it was bad and I must be evil for using it. Today, I have stopped and medical people say usage is good. What a waste of schooling and it appears that medicine is only a get rich quick scheme. The time invested only helps them avoid having a job or doing manual labor. Schemers, the whole lot of them.

By EarlyForest — On Nov 09, 2010

I always think it's so sad when people get vitamin B deficiency since there are so many vitamin b6 foods out there. It's really easy to get all the B6 you need, so take note -- these are your best sources of vitamin B6:

Yellowfin tuna, bananas, roasted chicken breast, calf's liver, and turkey breast are all excellent sources of vitamin b6. That means there's a good B6 food for everyone from vegans to full on meat eaters.

So don't make yourself suffer -- get your B6 and enjoy all the amazing benefits!

By pharmchick78 — On Nov 09, 2010

Great article! As always, you provided a clear and cogent summary of the topic. I would just like to add that it's possible to go too far the other way too -- a vitamin b6 overdose can be quite serious.

Vitamin B6 toxicity can lead to numbness and tingling of the extremities, poor coordination, inability to walk properly, and shaking.

So although it is extremely important to get appropriate dosages of vitamin B6 on a regular basis, just don't take it too far -- be sure to read the labels on your vitamins and make sure that you're not taking too much of a good thing.

By closerfan12 — On Nov 09, 2010

I've recently begun taking a Biotin vitamin with B6, and I have to say that I have seen an improvement in my mood.

I've always been kind of prone to the ups and downs in my mood, but it seems like they weren't lying about the vitamin b6 benefits -- I feel much more stable after taking it.

I would certainly recommend it to anybody who needs a little more stability in their moods, or some help with insomnia -- I have definitely seen good results.

By leilani — On Dec 17, 2009

Vitamin B6 helps in production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. No wonder lack of vitamin B6 might be one cause of bad mood and depression.

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