B complex is a term used to refer to all essential water-soluble vitamins aside from vitamin C. Each of these eight vitamins -- thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid and cobalamins -- plays a role in the functioning of the human body. If you have a vitamin B complex deficiency, you may experience one or more of several symptoms, depending on the vitamin you lack.
Vitamin B1 –- Thiamine
Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is critical for the body’s energy production process. It is also used to ensure the proper functioning of the nervous system and in the regulation of the digestive system. If you’re lacking in thiamine, you’ll have trouble digesting carbohydrates, which leads to heart damage or beriberi, loss of mental alertness and breathing difficulties. You may also experience an upset stomach, depression, irritability, fatigue, insomnia and memory lapses. Good sources of vitamin B1 include liver, pork, wheat germ, beans and whole grains.
Vitamin B2 -– Riboflavin
Riboflavin is an important vitamin that lets your body process amino acids and fats. It is also used in combination with two other B complex vitamins, folic acid and vitamin B6. A riboflavin deficiency can lead to depression and complications in pregnant mothers and women taking oral contraceptives. Milk, dairy products, whole grains and leafy green vegetables are all excellent sources of riboflavin.
Vitamin B3 –- Niacin
Niacin is used to maintain the health of the nervous system and digestive system. It also helps keep your skin tone and lowers the amount of cholesterol in the blood. A lack of niacin may lead to agitation, anxiety, depression, psychosis, mental fatigue or dementia. To keep your vitamin B3 levels up, make sure to eat nuts, beans, whole grains, poultry and fish.
Vitamin B5 –- Pantothenic Acid
Pantothenic acid, also called vitamin B5, influences your body’s growth and development. It also acts as an anti-aging vitamin, protecting vital systems from the negative effects of physical and mental stress. An insufficient amount of pantothenic acid may lead to hair loss, chronic fatigue, constipation, irritability, depression, dizziness, constipation and muscular weakness. Good sources of this vitamin include lean meat, legumes and whole grains.
Vitamin B6 –- Pyridoxine
Pyridoxine is a particularly important B complex vitamin. It is used in processing amino acids and transferring nutrients to the body. Pyridoxine also helps to maintain red blood cells, the nervous system and some parts of the immune system. A deficiency in this vitamin can cause migraine, fatigue, headaches, insomnia and eczema. Foods to eat to keep a healthy vitamin B6 level include fish, whole grains, lean meats and poultry.
Vitamin B7 –- Biotin
Biotin aids the body in breaking down and using proteins, carbohydrates and vitamin B5. It also helps the body make hormones and is an essential component in maintaining hair health. Low levels of biotin can result in hair loss, hallucinations, depression, fatigue and confusion. Mushrooms, salmon, poultry, whole grains, green vegetables and sunflower seeds are all good sources of this vitamin.
Vitamin B9 –- Folic acid and Vitamin B12 -– Cobalamins
Folic acid, also called vitamin B9 or folate, is used by the body in the process of making red blood cells and DNA. Folic acid is also particularly vital for pregnant women. Without enough folate, mothers have a greatly increased risk of miscarriage, birth defects, premature birth and stillbirth. Other symptoms include skin disorders, infertility and cancer. Foods with high folic acid content include oranges, beet roots, whole grains and wheat.
Vitamin B12 or cobalamins play a role in red blood cell production and the body’s processing of carbohydrates and folate. A lack of cobalamins can develop into fatigue, anemia, depression and several other neurological disorders. Foods such as lean meat, dairy, fish and other poultry products can help you maintain a healthy amount of this vitamin.