Your brain and spinal cord comprise your central nervous system, and they work in tandem to relay messages throughout your body to control your muscles and organs. The B vitamins are vital to the health of your central nervous system, and numbness or tingling could indicate a deficiency in one or more of these important nutrients. B vitamins are typically found in animal sources, so if you lack meat, poultry and seafood in your diet, speak to your doctor about supplementing with a B vitamin complex to avoid numbness and tingling.
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You rely on vitamin B-12, or cobalamin, to manufacture nerves. The recommended dietary allowance for an adult is 2.4 micrograms, which you must get through food or supplements. A lack of B-12 in your diet or the inability to adequately absorb it causes a deficiency, symptoms of which could include numbness and tingling in your hands, legs and feet. This can intensify over time.
A vitamin B-1, or thiamin, deficiency can result in beriberi, a disease affecting your central and peripheral nervous systems. Beriberi is characterized by burning, pain and numbness in your arms and legs due to nerve degeneration. A thiamin deficiency is prevalent in developing countries and can affect those who consume a high-carbohydrate diet. The deficiency can also occur among those with anorexia, bariatric surgery patients and individuals with malabsorption problems. In the United States, it’s most commonly found in alcoholics. Adult males and females need 1.2 milligrams and 1.1 milligrams, respectively, of vitamin B-1 daily.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states a vitamin B-3, or niacin, deficiency can cause peripheral neuropathy. With this condition, your peripheral nerves are damaged, interfering with sensory information being transmitted from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. Nerve damage leads to temporary numbness and tingling. The RDA for adult men and women is 16 micrograms and 14 micrograms, respectively. You can easily meet this requirement through diet, and a deficiency is not common in the United States.
A deficiency in many B vitamins results in numbness and tingling, but taking too much vitamin B-6 can also produce those symptoms. According to Dr. Bruce Bistrian of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, large amounts of B-6 alter the nerves carrying information to your brain, causing a tingling sensation. Adults 19 to 50 years should get 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B-6 a day. After age 50, the recommendation rises to 1.7 milligrams a day for men and 1.5 milligrams a day for women. The upper limit is set at 100 milligrams daily. Fortunately, symptoms typically disappear after decreasing your B-6 intake, but it can take several months.
- BrainFacts.org: Parts of the Nervous System
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin)
- Harvard Health Publications: Vitamin B-12 Deficiency Can Be Sneaky, Harmful
- Linus Pauling Institute: Thiamin
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)
- Chicago Tribune: Can Vitamin B-6 Cause Tingling?
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins