Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Wisdom Wednesday: Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is part of the vitamin B complex. It is found in flesh foods, starchy vegetables, and many fruits. Like folic acid, it is involved in more than 100 chemical pathways in the body as an enzyme. Enzymes catalyze (facilitate) chemical reactions in living systems.
B6 often works with folic acid and vitamin B12 in those pathways. For example, sulfur bearing amino acids found in cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage) are stripped of their sulfur for use throughout the body. Vitamin B12 and folic acid initially create homocysteine then B6 takes over and through several steps, the sulfur is freed.
High levels of homocysteine in the blood stream increase plague formation and it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. I routinely test homocysteine to access coronary risk, but more basically to gauge sulfur amino acid metabolism and vitamin B6 status.
The freed sulfur is used to make glucosamine sulfate, chondrotin sulfate, and MSM; all necessary to repair connective tissue in the body. These popular supplements are dependent on vitamin B6 metabolism.
The sulfur is also used in phase II liver detoxification. Phase II detox is where all the man made chemicals, drugs, exogenous hormones, and other pollutants in the body are eliminated. There are 10 potential pathways and sulfur is required for 5 of them to function. In earlier times, alcohol and our own hormones were the only chemicals cleared from the body through these pathways.
Additionally, sulfur is used in the bowel to control Candida and other potential parasites.
Although vitamin B6 is abundant in food, the body can not use the food form. Like folic acid, it must be converted in the lining of the small intestine to its bio-available form pyridoxine 5-phosphate. Again, just like folic acid, 8% of the population is genetically impaired and can not make that conversion while 25% have the genetic impairment from just one parent.
Frank deficiency of vitamin B6 will create cracks in the corners of the mouth and on the tongue. Because it is involved in so many chemical pathways in the body, small deficiencies can create a myriad of symptoms.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Have your homocysteine measured as part of your yearly lab work. If you develop a lot of gas when eating cruciferous vegetables, your sulfur amino acid pathways are not functioning well and you may have a B6, folic acid, or B12 deficiency. If you take glucosamine sulfate, MSM, and/or chondrotin sulfate without apparent benefit you are either insulin resistant or have impaired sulfur amino acid pathways.