B Vitamins: A stressed person’s guide to crafting a daily vitamin and supplement regimen- Part 2

Author: Audrey Fleck - MS, RDN, LDN Publish Date: February 12, 2024

Most B vitamins play a crucial role in supporting your body’s stress response and adrenal function. When stress levels increase, our utilization of B vitamins accelerates and we can “burn” through them more rapidly. Maintaining an elevated intake of B vitamins during periods of heightened stress is vital, as they are essential for synthesizing neurotransmitters (such as dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline) and hormones (like DHEA which acts as “raw material” to build sex hormones).

B Vitamins Support Methylation

In my practice, I often encounter women grappling with mood swings and hormone imbalances linked to estrogen excess, a condition sometimes referred to as estrogen dominance. These symptoms could be indicative of underlying issues with methylation, a crucial chemical process in the body. Methylation plays a pivotal role in various bodily functions, including DNA repair, neurotransmitter production, hormone regulation, and detoxification.

Methylation involves the transfer of a methyl group (a carbon atom attached to three hydrogen atoms) to another molecule. This process is facilitated by various enzymes, with B vitamins such as folate, B12, B6, and B2 playing pivotal roles as cofactors in these enzymatic reactions. When methylation is impaired, it can lead to a buildup of toxins, impaired neurotransmitter synthesis, and altered hormone metabolism, contributing to mood disturbances and hormonal imbalances.

Supporting methylation with adequate intake of these B vitamins is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being, especially for women dealing with estrogen-related issues. By ensuring optimal methylation, we can help alleviate symptoms and promote hormonal balance.

Methylation and Genetic Mutations

In addition to lifestyle factors and environmental influences, genetic mutations can also play a significant role in methylation dysfunction, particularly in women. Certain genetic variations can impact the activity of enzymes involved in the methylation process, leading to impaired methylation capacity. One well-known example is the MTHFR gene mutation, which affects the production of the enzyme responsible for converting folate into its active form, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). This mutation can result in reduced folate metabolism and inadequate levels of active folate for methylation reactions. Another common mutation is in the COMT gene, which affects the enzyme catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) involved in the breakdown of neurotransmitters like dopamine and estrogen. Variations in the COMT gene can influence estrogen metabolism and neurotransmitter balance, impacting mood and hormone regulation.

Quick recap…

In the first part of this series, I introduce you to the “Foundational Supplement Regimen”. There are specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that quickly become depleted in individuals under stress, or are challenging to consume in sufficient quantities through diet alone — some are nearly impossible to obtain in adequate amounts on a daily basis. Foundational Supplements are those that address these needs, whether your body may have a higher demand for them due to stress or they are commonly difficult to obtain through food. For optimal health, supplementation becomes essential.

Whether you’re a stressed individual, a high achiever, a busy mom, or someone dealing with mental health challenges, follow this blog series to learn how to tailor a Foundational Supplement Regimen to suit your needs. In part 1, we covered fish oil. Now, in part 2, let’s delve into B vitamins.

B Vitamin At-Risk Groups

  • People with conditions that can cause malabsorption of nutrients such as inflammatory bowel disease (like Crohn’s and Colitis), Celiac Disease, and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Long-term use of PPI medications or histamine H2 blockers for GERD/ heartburn
  • People taking Metformin, a drug used for Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and PCOS
  • Women taking oral contraceptives
  • People consuming a vegan or strict vegetarian diet
  • Alcohol abuse

Let’s dive into the significance of each B vitamin

B1 (Thiamine): Supports energy metabolism and has a role in nerve function, contributing to stress resilience.
Foods: Whole grains (brown rice, oats), Legumes (beans, lentils), Nuts, Seeds, Pork.

B2 (Riboflavin): Essential for energy production, B2 plays a role in maintaining healthy skin, eyes, and nerve functions.
Foods: Dairy products (milk, yogurt), Eggs, Lean meats, Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach), Almonds.

B3 (Niacin): Supports energy metabolism and is involved in the synthesis of sex hormones, contributing to hormonal balance.
Foods: Meat (chicken, turkey), Fish (tuna, salmon), Peanuts, Mushrooms, Green peas.

B5 (Pantothenic Acid): Vital for energy metabolism, B5 supports adrenal function, aiding in stress resilience and hormonal balance.
Foods: Organ meats (liver, kidney), Avocado, Sunflower seeds, Mushrooms, Sweet potatoes.

B6 (Pyridoxine): Essential for neurotransmitter production, particularly serotonin and dopamine, contributing to mood regulation and sleep quality.
Foods: Turkey, Chicken, Potatoes, Spinach, Bananas.

Folate (B9): Crucial for DNA synthesis and repair, folate is instrumental in supporting the production of neurotransmitters and hormone balance.
Foods: Leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale), Legumes (black-eyed peas, lentils), Avocado, Sunflower seeds, Papaya.

B12 (Cobalamin): Critical for nervous system health, B12 plays a role in energy production and supports the formation of red blood cells.
Foods: Shellfish (clams, mussels), Liver, Fish (salmon, trout), Eggs, Fortified foods (cereals, plant-based milk).

Inositol: While not officially a B vitamin, Inositol is associated with the B-vitamin complex. It aids in neurotransmitter signaling, benefiting mood stability and stress management.
Foods: Citrus fruits, Whole grains, Nuts, Seeds, Legumes.

B Vitamin Supplement Tips

  • Choose a high quality B-complex or multivitamin.
    • Here’s a recommendation I frequently make to my female clients: Instead of a B-complex, I suggest opting for a high-quality prenatal supplement, unless we’ve discovered a specific deficiency in B vitamins through testing or medical history, symptoms, and dietary analysis indicate a need for higher amounts of a particular B vitamin. In such cases, we would supplement individually.
    • Choosing a premium prenatal or multivitamin can help streamline your supplement regimen, minimizing the number of pills you need to take and reducing the feeling of exhaustion from a lengthy list of supplements.
  • Make sure your multivitamin or B complex includes folate in its active form. Not folic acid. Look for 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF)
  • Check the type of B12 in your supplement. Cheaper multivitamins use cyanocobalamin. Look for adenosylcobalamin, hydroxycobalamin, or methylcobalamin.
    • If you have anxiety or MTHFR genetic mutation – start with the adenosyl or hydroxy forms since the methylated forms might be too stimulating and increase symptoms of anxiety. Then down the road, you can introduce methylated forms.
  • Absorption issues? Look for liposomal forms of vitamins.

Putting it All Together: Your Personalized Path to Wellness

Taking daily supplements is a practical step toward a more vibrant, stress-resilient life. Remember, the path to well-being is unique for everyone. If you need advice or personalized recommendations tailored to your individual needs, feel free to reach out—I’m here to assist. Book a free virtual consult for personalized guidance on your wellness journey.

Access Professional Grade Supplements

Visit my Fullscript Dispensary to explore a selection of my go-to professional-grade supplements. Each product in this dispensary has been handpicked to meet the highest standards of quality, ensuring you have access to supplements that support your well-being.

Remember, wellness is a personal and evolving journey. Together, we can tailor a supplement routine that aligns with your unique needs, helping you achieve your health and wellness goals.

About the Author

Audrey Fleck - MS, RDN, LDN

I’m Audrey Fleck, a dedicated dietitian with over a decade of experience, and the founder of Functional Origins, my private practice located in Bucks County, PA. With a strong educational background, including a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics and an MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, I specialize in providing an integrative and functional approach to healing, primarily tailored for women.