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What Happens if You Don't Have Enough Vitamin B6?

By April Khan

Vitamin B-6, also known as pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin that has many functions. Ideally, you should get all the vitamin B-6 that you need from your diet. If that isn't possible, you may need a vitamin supplement. Before you start taking a supplement, however, talk with your doctor.

Identification

Vitamin B-6 is fundamental in the processing of amino acids and the production of serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. It assists in immune function, red blood-cell metabolism and the regulation of mental processes. And along with several enzymes, minerals and other vitamins, it works to lower homocysteine levels to help prevent heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer's disease.

Deficiency

If you don't get enough vitamin B-6 from your diet or supplements, you most likely will develop a deficiency. Vitamin B-6 is involved in protein and red blood-cell metabolism. A lack of red blood cells can reduce oxygen levels in your body, causing you to feel fatigued. Vitamin B-6 also helps to keep the nervous system and immune system functioning properly. Without adequate vitamin B-6, the immune system can become suppressed, causing you to become ill.

Recommended Daily Intake

The recommended daily intake for vitamin B-6 is 1.3 mg for adults ages 19 to 50, 1.7 mg for men over 51 and 1.5 mg for women over 51. You can get this amount by following a healthy diet. Foods such as meat, fish, poultry, legumes, soy, potatoes and bananas contain vitamin B-6. One serving of fortified cereal has 2 mg -- over 100 percent of the recommended daily intake. One medium potato provides 35 percent of the recommended daily intake, and one medium banana provides 34 percent. Still, according to a Harvard Health Publications, most people do not get enough of this nutrient.

Concerns

Before treating a deficiency yourself, ask your doctor if taking a multivitamin or B-6 supplement is right for you. Make sure she knows of all the medications you are taking, as vitamins sometimes interact with medications. Do not take more than the recommended daily intake. Taking more could cause permanent nerve damage. Although the exact dose at which nerve damage occurs is not known, the Office of Dietary Supplements says that it could develop with doses lower than 500 mg per day and above the tolerable upper limit of 100 mg per day.

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