Irritability is a symptom of a B6 deficiency.

What Happens if You're Not Getting Enough Vitamin B6?

by Lynne Sheldon

Vitamin B6 is vital for proper brain and nerve function. Like all the B vitamins, Vitamin B6 is water soluble, which means your body excretes what it does not use. While some people may be mildly deficient in B6, a serious deficiency is rare. However, if you’re not getting enough vitamin B6, it could have adverse effects on your muscles, nervous system and other functions.

1. RDA & Sources

The amount of vitamin B6 you need every day will depend on your age and gender. For example, both male and female adults between the ages of 19 and 50 need 1.3 mg of the vitamin daily, but after the age of 51, men need 1.7 mg daily while women need 1.5 mg daily. If you eat a balanced diet, you should be able to meet your RDA for vitamin B6. Sources of this vitamin include whole grains, legumes, avocados, nuts, bananas, and poultry. Many cereals and breads are also fortified with vitamin B6 and it is available in the form of supplements as well.

2. Causes of a Deficiency

Mild deficiencies of vitamin B6 occur most often in the elderly and in children, and they are typically accompanied by a deficiency in other vitamins of the B complex. Though a lack of dietary B6 could contribute to a deficiency, you could also become deficient in the vitamin if you have kidney disease or another condition that impairs renal function. People with diseases such as celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis often have low levels of vitamin B6. Finally, taking certain medications used to treat asthma, high blood pressure, and other conditions may also lower your levels of B6.

3. Symptoms of a Deficiency

If you have a mild B6 deficiency, you may not notice any signs or symptoms for months, but if the deficiency progresses, you will likely begin to experience adverse effects. More serious deficiencies of vitamin B6 can lead to depression and irritability. You may also experience muscle weakness, have trouble concentrating, or develop memory loss. A B6 deficiency may also lead to mouth sores or scaling on your tongue and lips and it could impair your overall immune function as well.

4. Additional Considerations

If you believe you may have a vitamin B6 deficiency or have questions about your daily intake, consult a licensed physician. Whether you suspect a deficiency or not, do not begin taking vitamin B6 supplements without first discussing the matter with your doctor, as this vitamin may interact with certain medications. Unless your doctor allows it, never attempt to exceed the RDA of any vitamin, because doing so could lead to adverse effects.

About the Author

Lynne Sheldon has over 12 years of dance experience, both in studios and performance groups. She is an avid runner and has studied several types of yoga. Sheldon now works as a freelance writer, editor and book reviewer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and art history from Boston University and recently completed her Master of Fine Arts in writing from Pacific University.

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