You need B-6 to keep your energy levels up by powering your metabolism. It works side by side with several other B vitamins to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Aside from its major role in energy production, vitamin B-6 has a hand in forming blood proteins, makes brain cells known as neurotransmitters and plays a role in more than 100 biochemical reactions in your body. Because B-6 has so many different functions, consuming the amount you need each day is important for your health.
Your daily B-6 needs depend on your gender and stage of life. Adult men require 1.3 milligrams of the vitamin up through age 50. After that, as a man, you’ll want 1.7 milligrams. As a woman, aim for 1.3 milligrams of daily B-6 until you’re 50 years old. Once you reach age 51, you’ll need to increase your intake to 1.5 milligrams each day, according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine.
As with many nutrients, your vitamin B-6 recommendation goes up if you’re pregnant to further help your body get the energy you need from food and to support your increase in blood. Throughout your pregnancy, you’ll need 1.9 milligrams of B-6 each day. Then, if you decide to nurse your newborn, increase your intake a little more to 2 milligrams daily. You may need a little more B-6 as well if you fit into other categories. If you're recovering from alcoholism, have kidney failure or if you suffer from a bowel disorder such as Crohn's or celiac disease, you might need to up your B-6 intake. Your doctor will give you specific recommendations in these cases.
Too much vitamin B-6 from supplements can be dangerous, although you’re not likely to get too much B-6 from your diet. Long-term, high-dose B-6 intake can result in neurological issues, such as losing the ability to control body movements. Skin lesions, extreme sensitivity to the sun, nausea, diarrhea and heartburn are other warning signs that you ingested too much B-6. Avoid going over the tolerable upper intake level for the vitamin, which is 100 milligrams a day for all adults, the Office of Dietary Supplements reports. This is the maximum amount you can have before negative side effects generally start occurring. Before taking a vitamin B-6 supplement, read the label on your daily multivitamin, if you’re taking one. Most multivitamins include adequate doses of B vitamins, and you need to make sure adding a B-6 supplement doesn't give you too much of the vitamin.
Where to Get It
Rather than adding another supplement to your diet, focus on eating more vitamin B-6-rich foods. A cup of chickpeas gives you a big chunk of your daily requirement -- 1.1 milligrams. Three ounces of cooked liver or yellowfin tuna provide 0.9 milligram, while the same amount of sockeye salmon, roasted turkey or chicken breast each contain around 0.5 milligram of B-6. A medium banana, 1 cup of diced, cooked potatoes or 8 ounces of marinara sauce each give you 0.4 milligram of the vitamin. You’ll even get around 0.1 milligram of B-6 from 1 cup of cooked, enriched rice, 1/2 cup of raisins, half a cup of cooked spinach or 1 ounce of mixed nuts. Many of these foods are full of other B vitamins as well, so you won’t miss out on any of them.