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How B Vitamins Aid Digestion

Posted by Deborah Graefer, L.Ac., MTOM on


In this era where take-outs, junk food and processed goods are becoming a dietary norm, more and more people are becoming concerned with their health. Unlike in olden days when we can easily get all the nutrients we need from fresh produce and home cooked meals, individuals now choose to take vitamins to make sure they have all the help they can get to stay healthy. As a matter of fact, the supplementation industry has enjoyed a multi-million dollar boom in the recent years. And if statistical predictions are correct, they will continue to be in demand in the next decades. But with all the choices available, what do you take? Do you even know what they are for? If you are specifically looking for something that can help with digestion and metabolism, then B Vitamins might just be what you need.

Vitamin B is a major group of nutrients vital in the body’s absorption and use of energy. It is water-soluble which means that it is not stored in the body. Once acted upon by water after ingestion, the body absorbs the amount it needs and any excesses are excreted through the urine.It is therefore important to have your daily dose of B Vitamins through a balanced diet or by taking supplements. There are eight different kinds of B vitamins, collectively called B Complex.

How B Vitamins Aid in Digestion

Although the different B vitamins work together for better digestive health, each has a specific function and interaction with the body.

Vitamin B1 or thiamine is vital in the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose needed for the production of energy. It also breaks down fats and protein. It is so potent that it even addresses digestive problems such as ulcerative colitis, ongoing diarrhea and poor appetite. Some also make sure they load on thiamine to boost their immune system and improve the body’s ability to cope up with stress by supporting the central nervous and circulatory system.

Vitamin B2 or riboflavin also has undeniable impact on the digestive process. When present in sufficient amounts, it serves as a helper for other B vitamins, specifically B6 and folic acid, to do their functions. It also keeps the mucous membranes that line the gastrointestinal tract in good shape. Studies also show insufficient riboflavin in the body reduces gastric acid secretion needed for digestion, relaxation of opening from the stomach into the duodenum and reduction in lower esophageal sphincter pressure. This leads to acid reflux into the esophagus and other related complications which increase the risk of esophageal cancer in the long run. A laboratory test with rats showed that the lining of esophagus and stomach are damaged with prolonged absence of vitamin B2.

Similarly, studies reveal that the deficiency of vitamin B3 or niacin is a probable cause in the development of hypochlorhydria. This is a medical term which means the lack of certain stomach acids needed to break down food and prevent fungal and bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Some manifestations include bloating, abdominal pain, heartburn and belching. Vitamin B3 therefore also facilitates the flow of bile and pancreatic enzymes indirectly. Some medical practitioners also believe that this vitamin is an effective way to lower cholesterol and triglycerides.

Vitamin B5 and B7 (also known as pantothenic acid and Pyridoxine respectively), supports in the digestion of carbohydrate, fats, and proteins. Pantothenic acid’s derivative called pantethine is also being studied to confirm if it can lower cholesterol levels in the body.

As for vitamin B9 or folic acid, two separate studies (using freshwater prawn and blunt snout bream as subjects) compared how growth, digestive enzyme activity, immune response and antioxidant enzymes are affected by this vitamin. Results show that folic acid intake boosts the action of digestive enzymes. Another experiment with grass carp showed that folic acid deficiency causes problems in intestinal immune and barrier function. Although the same experiments have not yet been duplicated in humans, unanimous results on the digestive role of vitamin B9 for marine animals strongly suggests its benefits to human digestion as well.

The last among the B complex is vitamin B12 or cobalamin .Although some weight loss aficionados have hyped it as an agent for digestion, there is actually no proof of that claim. This is also because of the fact that vitamin B12 is released only after digestive enzymes have come into play as food reaches the stomach.

How B Vitamins Aid in Metabolism

Digestion and metabolism are closely related processes, and at some points, they even seem to overlap. However, it is important to note that they are still very different from each other. In the simplest of terms, digestion is the breaking down of food in the body for nutrient absorption and eventually, elimination. Metabolism, on the other hand, is the usage of that energy to perform various functions (anabolism) as well as the breakdown of complex compounds and molecules to release energy (catabolism). Not all vitamins that aid digestion also contribute to metabolism. Thankfully, B complex is beneficial for both.

Thiamine, for example, affects communication between neurons, immune system activation, signalling and maintenance of cells or tissues, and cell-membrane dynamics. This vitamin, just like riboflavin and pyridoxine, is known to play a fundamental role in the degradation of glucose and fat to produce energy.

Another B vitamin that contributes to metabolism is niacin. It is a requirement for over 400 different enzymes needed to complete oxidation-reduction (redox) reactions. These processes are for the catabolism of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and alcohol as well as the synthesis of all macromolecules. By decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride production in the liver, niacin also contributes to lipid metabolism.

Aside from breaking down fats, hormones and carbohydrates, vitamin B5 contributes to metabolism as a part of a molecule called coenzyme A or CoA. CoA is a chemical substance that facilitates the oxidation pathway that makes the production of fatty acids possible. It also improves the functioning of proteins, glucose and medications. Through vitamin B5 in CoA, the Krebs cycle is also initiated. This process produces carbon dioxide and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an energy-rich compound.

Vitamin B6 is necessary for the body to manufacture the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine. It is also necessary for the absorption of B1 and the production of red blood cells and for strengthening the immune system. Similar to niacin, more than 100 enzyme reactions involved in metabolism depend on its presence.

The metabolic benefits of the B vitamins do not end there. Biotin is crucial in the production of fatty acids and amino acids or the building blocks of protein. According to the European Food Safety Authority, this vitamin contributes to macronutrient metabolism, optimal storage of energy and many more physiological and psychological functions.

Critical to the breakdown of nucleic acids and amino acids is vitamin B9. Folate coenzymes are also indispensable participants in DNA metabolism. Sufficient amounts of this vitamin in the body contribute to healthy cell division, amino acid synthesis and normal blood formation among others.

The final B vitamin that plays a role in metabolism is cobalamin. It is necessary for enzyme production, DNA synthesis and hormonal balance. It is effective in boosting energy that’s why it is even added to energy drinks and supplements. Deficiency of this vitamin will result to a long list of symptoms including chronic fatigue and mood disorders.

Truly, not all vitamins are created equal. So even though the best way to get all the nutrition you need is to eat a healthy and balanced meal regularly, it still pays to know that you can take supplements to fill in the gaps. For optimum digestive and metabolic functioning, there is nothing like B Complex.

And since most people with digestive impairment of one kind or another have difficulty digesting synthetic vitamins, we recommend the liquid, probiotic, “pre-digested” form of B vitamins, Premier Max B-ND. It is one of the few B vitamin supplements out there that is readily bio-available. Try it, and notice the difference.

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