Updated: Mar 11, 2021
The B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that are important in cell metabolism and the production of red blood cells. There are actually 8 different ones of these B vitamins but as they usually show up together in certain foods, they all share the same name of B. Each vitamin B is either a cofactor for an enzyme, which is a molecule that makes metabolic processes happen, or a precursor for a cofactor.
A nutritional supplement that contains all 8 of these different compounds is referred to as vitamin B complex and you can get B-50 which contains 50 mg or mcg of each B with the exception of folic acid, which is dosed at 0.4 mg or B 100 which contains 100 mg or mcg of each vitamin with the exception of folic acid which is dosed at the same 0.4 mg. You can cover your bases by taking one of these complexes and then supplement individual Bs if you need more of them. Andy suggested some really high doses for some B vitamins.
The B vitamins are:
B1 or thiamine
B2 or riboflavin
B3 or niacin
B5 or pantothenic acid
B6 or pyroxidine
B7 or biotin
B9 or folate
B12 or cyanocobalamin
There used to be a vitamin B4, B8, B10 and B11 but they no longer fit the official definition of what a vitamin is, so they got purged from the list.
I used the book, Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, by Michael T Murray, N.D. as a reference along with Andy’s Amalgam Illness which looks at supplements more from the point of view of people who are toxic with mercury.
Vitamin B1, or thiamin was the first B vitamin to be discovered when its deficiency was found to cause the disease beriberi. Beriberi first showed up in sailors who ate horrible diets and got deficiency diseases because of this.
Thiamin is a component of an enzyme which is essential for energy production, (particularly in the brain), carbohydrate metabolism and nerve cell function.
Severe, thiamine deficiency can obviously cause beriberi, but milder deficiency can cause fatigue, depression, neuropathy and constipation. This can be a big problem for elders in nursing homes and also for alcoholics.
Andy Cutler notes that B1 helps the liver to process xenobiotics, which are those substances that have no business being in your body. B1 can be helpful for people with multiple chemical sensitivity for this reason. He says that it can also be calming and helps stimulate the appetite. Combined with vitamin B2 it is essential for the proper functioning of insulin and thyroid hormone.
Vitamin B2 or riboflavin, is the vitamin that you may notice turning your urine neon yellow-green, which means you have taken more than your body can use. It was discovered as a yellow-green pigment in milk way back in 1879.
Thiamine deficiency shows up as various mucous membrane disorders, light sensitivity, and a tendency to develop cataracts. It is important for fostering the production of red blood cells and is useful in preventing leaky gut.
Vitamin B3 or Niacin, was discovered in the eighteenth century during the search for the causes of pellagra, another pesky deficiency disease characterized by “the three D’s” of dermatitis, dementia and diarrhea.
Niacin is important for the functioning of many enzymes that catalyze chemical reactions in the body. Your body needs niacin for energy production, fat, carbohydrate and cholesterol metabolism and the formation of important compounds such as sex hormones.
Niacin comes in two forms, niacin and niacinamide. In Amalgam Illness, Andy Cutler tells us that these two have a few similar and a few different functions. He emphasizes the aspects of the two compounds that are important for mercury toxic people: niacin speeds up phase one liver metabolism whereas niacinamide slows it down. We often recommend niacinamide (as well as grapefruit oregano products) to people who suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity because their phase one liver metabolism is too fast. Andy suggests 1 to 3 grams for people who may feel anxious when exposed to hydrocarbons like exhaust fumes for this reason.
Andy states that 1 to 3 grams a day of niacinamide can be anti-depressive and that niacin increases blood circulation to the brain, whereas niacinamide does not.
Niacin has been found to help with high cholesterol and niacinamide with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Niacinamide helps with rheumatoid arthritis and allergies and Andy says it would be expected to stop other autoimmune problems, too.
Niacin can cause the famous “niacin flush.” According to Andy, this flush is caused by a release of histamine and can help some people who have schizophrenic disorders caused by low histamine.
Because it is found in so many foods It is rare for people to be deficient in Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid. Like Vitamin B3, B5 comes in two forms, pantothenic acid and pantethine, and like niacin and niacinamide these do different things. Pantothenic acid is mostly used to support adrenal function and help with rheumatoid arthritis. According to Andy, it also helps the brain to make the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.
Murray says that pantethine, “for some reason” lowers blood cholesterol and triglycerides while pantothenic acid does not.
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine is one of those vitamins that you feel you should take “just in case” as it has so many jobs. It helps form proteins and structural compounds in the body, neurotransmitters for the nervous system, red blood cells and prostaglandins for healing wounds. Over 60 different enzymes require it to work properly.
According to Murray, deficiency of this vitamin causes depression, convulsions, glucose intolerance, anemia, impaired nerve function, cracked lips and tongue and seborrhea or eczema. The conditions deficiency of B6 can cause include asthma, PMS, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, morning sickness and kidney stones. Murray suggests, interestingly, that these conditions have gone up since the 1950s parallel to the rise of B6 antagonists in the food supply. One of these antagonists is yellow dye #5 which he tells us is consumed at the rate of 15 grams per day by, I assume, the American public, while the RDA for B6 is only 2 or less mg per day!
Many of the conditions Murray mentions that B6 is useful for treating are conditions that can be caused by mercury: asthma, autism, heart disease, diabetes and epilepsy for example. Andy Cutler writes that mercury appears to interfere with brain uptake of B6 and B12 which can lead to chronic fatigue. You can take B6 to reduce anxiety, help the liver do its work and stimulate antibody response. In women it lowers estrogen and increases progesterone and often helps with PMS
Vitamin B7 or biotin is an essential cofactor for four different enzyme that help metabolize sugar, fat and amino acids. It is involved in how glucose and fatty acids are broken down to produce energy. Biotin is manufactured in the intestine by the microbiome. It is also available from a lot of different foods, so deficiency is not very common. When it does occur, it manifests as skin problems, nausea, and/or anorexia. Biotin deficiency is thought to be the underlying cause of cradle cap in infants.
Andy does not discuss biotin at all in Amalgam Illness. In The Detox Manual, it appears in the lists of supplements that are useful for people with diabetes and again in the chapter on dysbiosis. Biotin, he says, interferes with the lifecycle of yeast and improves blood sugar regulation which makes it easier to follow diets. Most people take biotin to promote strong nails and healthy hair.
Vitamin B9 or folate got its name from the Latin word for “leaves” because it is found in so many green, leafy vegetables. It come in the forms of folate and folinic acid, the latter being its most active form. It works along with vitamin B12 in many processes in the body and is critical for DNA synthesis. Without folic acid, cells do not divide properly, and this is why Andy emphasized it in the chapter he wrote about pregnancy in the Mercury Detoxification Manual.
Folate is a methylation metabolism enhancer and as such may be anti-depressive. Ten mg a day has been reported to alleviate depression by enhancing brain methylation which increases serotonin.
Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin was isolated from a liver extract in 1948 when scientists were trying to find the factor in liver that prevented “pernicious anemia.” B12 works with folic acid in many processes including DNA synthesis, red blood cell synthesis and the synthesis of the myelin sheath. The myelin sheath is the insulating sheath that protects the nerves, somewhat like electrical wires, and when it breaks down and gets leaky people get conditions like multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin B12 is mostly only found in animal foods and vegetarians are at risk of not getting enough and should probably supplement. Murray says that the form found in fermented foods is inconsistent in its level and may not be useful anyway because it is very likely a form that the body can’t use. Food only contains small amounts of B12 and the stomach has to secrete a substance called “intrinsic factor” to help the small intestine to absorb B12. Mercury interferes with the production of intrinsic factor.
Vitamin B12 deficiency may take years to show up. The main manifestation is pernicious anemia, but impaired nerve function can lead to peripheral neuropathy. Elderly people should be particularly tested for B12 deficiency as it can cause depression and also mimic Alzheimer’s disease in this community.
B12 is a “methyl donor” and is involved in methylation reactions which are chemical reactions which happen all over the body to keep your chemical machinery running smoothly. This machinery metabolizes energy, homocysteine, immune and nerve function. According to Andy, Lack of enough B12 is a big factor in deranged brain metabolism.
Andy says that there is a transport mechanism in the gut which will only want to move so much B12, so you need to take extremely large quantities in order to get enough. Only 1.2% of what you swallow will wind up in your blood. He suggests taking between 1 to 12 mg (milligrams). Start out low and keep building up until you feel you are taking as much as you need. B12 injections will ensure a much greater amount is absorbed but taking B12 orally works just as well, you just have to take a lot more.
In his book, Encyclopedia of NutritionalSupplements, Dr. Murray describes in detail, many studies using various B vitamins to treat various serious diseases and problems. At one point he asks, “How much proof is required when human lives are at stake?” He wonders why more doctors. don’t try useful and harmless vitamins instead of some pharmaceutical product with side effects.
“I read so much research where I ask myself the question, how much more proof is required before the majority of physicians begin prescribing a particular vitamin, mineral, or botanical extract to prevent or treat a particular health condition,” he laments. Yes, Dr. Murray, we often ask ourselves that question, too.