Vitamin B for PwMS

By: Elna Botes van Schalkwyk

Vitamin B for MSers
The most important B’s are B12, 9, 6, 3 and 2. The others are not less important, but these are essential for my MS-body. Studies have reported a significantly higher rate of vitamin B12 deficiency in people with MS than in people without MS, which is suspected to be due to problems with binding and transport of vitamin B12 (meaning that the body does not process vitamin B12 efficiently, which makes it difficult to maintain normal levels without supplementation or the right diet).

B12: (Cobalamin) - A slight deficiency of vitamin B-12 can lead to anemia, fatigue, mania, and depression, while a long term deficiency can cause permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system. Vitamin B12 can only be manufactured by bacteria and can only be found naturally in animal products.

What Does Vitamin B12 Do in Your Body?

  • Helps to form myelin, which is a fatty cover that insulates your nerves.
  • Helps to produce energy from metabolism of fat and protein.
  • Helps to produce hemoglobin, which is the component of your red blood cells that carrys oxygen to your cells. This is why a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause fatigue.
  • Reduces your homocysteine level, which lowers your risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's disease, and many degenerative diseases.
  • Regulates growth, maintenance, and reproduction of all of your cells
Foods containing Vitamin B12: Lean chicken, liver, beef, lamb, white cheeses and eggs. (I don’t do fish). 
Veggies such as spinach, beetroot, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, bananas and peaches are also rich in folic acid and good food to maintain the vitamin B levels in your body. Vegetarians may need to take vitamin supplements to get the recommended daily allowance of B12. Look for other foods rich in vitamin B12, such as seafood, milk and yogurt. (Vitamin B12 is usually fairly well-tolerated, but can cause itching, rashes and diarrhea.)

B9: (Folic Acid) - Vitamin B9, is required for cell growth and maintenance. Folate is important in the development of red blood cells or erythrocytes. A lack of this compound can make the body susceptible to cancer. In addition, the body’s defense mechanism, the white blood cells, are also manufactured in the presence of folate supplements. A folate deficiency may cause an increased risk of depression and dementia. Adequate folate levels are necessary for proper brain functioning.
Many foods are rich in folic acid, including beans, peas, broccoli, beets, asparagus, turnip greens, spinach, mushrooms, cantaloupe, wheat bread and fortified juices.

B6: (Pyridoxine) - Normal cellular growth in the body requires vitamin B6 for many reasons. Firstly, the nucleic acids that create DNA need vitamin B6 to operate. The building blocks of protein - amino acids - also need vitamin B6 to synthesize. Finally, important compounds such as heme (the protein center of red blood cells) and phospholipids (cell membranes components that allow messaging between cells) need vitamin B6 to form. Because of its importance to protein metabolism and new cellular growth, vitamin B6 helps maintain the health of lymphoid glands, such as the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes, and thus ensures the production of healthy white blood cells that protect the body from infections. Vitamin B6 has a wide-range impact on the body’s nervous system. For instance, messaging molecules called amines require amino acids to develop, which in turn rely on vitamin B6 to form. Furthermore, the phospholipids (mentioned above) play a vital role in the formation of myelin, the insulating sheath around nerve fibers that allow optimal messaging between nerves.

Most vegetables typically contain reasonable levels of vitamin B6, but there are some vegetable powerhouses that are B6-rich. Bell peppers, spinach, baked potatoes ( I only eat the skins, because of the acidity of the meat), green peas, yams, broccoli, asparagus and turnip greens are all excellent sources of vitamin B6. Nuts and seeds: Peanuts, sunflower seeds, cashews and hazelnuts. Beans and legumes: Chickpeas and lentils are great examples of vitamin B6-rich beans and legumes. Kidney beans are another good source of the nutrient. By including a single serving of any of these foods with your meals, you can maintain your intake of vitamin B6 and lower the risk of experiencing B6 deficiency.

B3: (Niacin) - Because vitamin B3 is a water-soluble vitamin, your body is constantly using vitamin B3 and flushing it out of your system. There is no way for your body to store extra vitamin B3 for later, so you need to rely on a steady diet that includes plenty of this crucial vitamin in order to make sure that you're getting enough into your system regularly. Foods containing Vitamin B3 includes the following: Chicken, turkey, mushrooms, marmite (yeast extract spread),paprika, peanuts, liver, fish like swordfish, tuna and anchovy, rice bran and venison. Vitamin B3 also aids digestion, metabolizes food and produces the good kinds of cholesterol that your body needs.

B2: (Riboflavin) - works with your metabolism to convert food into energy. It also aids in the production of red blood cells. Mushrooms, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and green leafy vegetables are rich in riboflavin.