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Sneaky Vitamin Overload Could Be Making You Feel Tired, Foggy & Achy — Here’s Help

Vitamin B6 is such a vital vitamin, it’s easy to assume we should get as much of it as possible. After all, studies show B6 supports upbeat mood, steady energy and optimal immune system function. But in excess, the nutrient can cause vitamin B6 toxicity, a condition marked by nerve pain, nausea, dizziness and more. Read on to learn how too much B6 can be a bad thing, how to know if you’re suffering and what to do about it. Then, keep reading to learn how Joan Ballantyne, 56, overcame a sneaky overload of vitamin B6.

What is vitamin B6?

Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 plays a number of crucial roles in the body. It helps the body make infection-fighting antibodies and hemoglobin, the red blood cell protein that carries oxygen throughout the bloodstream. Plus, it’s essential for producing neurotransmitters that send signals between nerve cells. What’s more, B6 keeps an amino acid called homocysteine from climbing in the blood. That’s key since high levels of homocysteine can increase the risk of heart disease.

Given the important actions of B6, getting 1.5 mg per day (the recommended amount for women over 50) is smart. In fact, research suggests safeguarding against B6 shortfalls can decrease the risk of dementia, cancer and heart disease. But when it comes to B6, more isn’t always better. In fact, experts warn that getting to much can produce vitamin B6 toxicity.

How vitamin B6 toxicity damages health

Most doctors misdiagnose toxic levels of vitamin B6, says Orestes Guitierrez, DO, a holistic health specialist in Springfield, Oregon. As noted above, an adequate B6 intake helps to maintain immunity, nervous system function and more. But B6 is added to so many foods and supplements that women can unknowingly ingest excess amounts and suffer from vitamin B6 toxicity. That’s a problem, since toxicity triggers symptoms like fatigue, nerve pain, muscle weakness and GI distress.

Complicating matters: Since the body stops processing B6 when levels get too high, symptoms of overload can mimic those of B6 deficits, notes Alan Christianson, NMD. But researchers reporting in The Biomedical Scientist found B6 excess was 1,900% more common than deficiency. And while the NIH maintains B6 doses of up to 100 mg daily are safe, a British study found 60% of women showed signs of B6 toxicity after taking 50 to 100 mg of B6 daily for more than 6 months. Plus, Dr. Gutierrez has seen patients develop vitamin B6 toxicity symptoms from supplementing with as little as 25 mg per day.

Could you be suffering from vitamin B6 toxicity?

B6 toxicity can be diagnosed with a simple blood test that measures levels of the vitamin, says Dr. Gutierrez. So, if you experience the following symptoms, see your doctor:

  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Bone pain
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Memory lapses
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Skin rashes

Easy ways to alleviate vitamin B6 toxicity

Findings in the journal Drug Safety reveal addressing B6 toxicity can ease draining symptoms in as little as four weeks — and all it takes is a few simple strategies. To outsmart vitamin B6 toxicity and keep B6 levels in healthy balance, here’s what experts advise:

Ease overload by avoiding extra B6

Spinach salad with chickpeas and onions; vitamin B6 toxicity

Christianson recommends discontinuing any supplements, processed foods, sports drinks, energy drinks and herbal tea blends that list B6 in their ingredients. But since B6 does serve important roles in the body, he advises enjoying food-form sources such as tuna, chicken, chickpeas, potatoes, bananas, onions and spinach daily. “B6 found naturally in foods doesn’t produce toxicity,” he explains.

Boost recovery with alpha-lipoic acid

As Dr. Guiterrez notes, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) defends against oxidative stress, a cell-damaging process triggered by excess B6. Plus, it boosts blood flow to nerves and aids in their regeneration. He recommends taking 300 to 600 mg of ALA daily. That’s an amount that can decrease nerve pain within three weeks, say experts reporting in the journal Antioxidants.

Address deficits with this form of B6

The pyridoxine form of B6 that’s typically found in supplements and fortified foods is a well-known trigger of B6 toxicity. But findings in the journal Toxicology in Vitro suggest a form of B6 known as P5P (also called pyridoxal – 5 phosphate or PLP) doesn’t have a toxic effect on cells. If blood tests reveal you need additional B6, ask your doctor about the P5P dose that’s right for you.

Vitamin B6 toxicity success story: Joan Ballantyne, 56

Joan Ballantyne, who overcame vitamin B6 toxicity
Lesley D’Ortenzio

“What was I saying?” Joan Ballantyne asked her husband as she sat confused at the dinner table, struggling to stay engaged in their conversation. Forgetting what she was saying — or doing — had become part of Joan’s day-to-day and made it nearly impossible for her to function.

Joan’s fatigue was relentless

“For seven years, I was constantly trying to either hide or overcome my failing memory,” says Joan. “I couldn’t even watch television because I would constantly zone out and had to rewind and rewatch scenes several times. I was always forgetting what I was saying or doing and feared I was developing early-onset dementia or another neurological condition. Along with fear for my brain health, I was embarrassed that I appeared to be drunk or that something was wrong with me because I would completely lose my train of thought—all the time!

“The insomnia I battled made my brain fog even worse, but no matter what I tried — meditating, turning off electronics, counting sheep—I was never able to get a good night’s sleep. Many nights, I had shooting pains running up and down my legs that forced me out of bed to slather topical pain medication, hoping for relief that never came. But even if the pain subsided, I still couldn’t fall — or stay — asleep all night long.

Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong

“My doctor sent me for numerous tests, including blood and nerve testing, but they never uncovered a reason for my symptoms. He thought perhaps I had sciatica and prescribed medication, but it didn’t help.

“As my symptoms lingered, my stress soared as I worried about my declining health and inability to sleep. My doctor suggested an antidepressant, and I started taking an herbal anti-inflammatory vitamin for osteoarthritis. I also took turmeric tablets to combat the hip and knee pain I developed. I tried taking a magnesium supplement for my leg pain, melatonin to sleep and probiotics and a brain health supplement, too. Nothing helped. Eventually, I required a cane to walk.

“Bouncing from several specialists, I was tested for everything from ALS to cancer, MS, diabetes, lupus, Lyme disease and more. Yet no one was able to pinpoint a cause for my declining health. I started feeling like doctor after doctor thought my symptoms were all in my head.

An answer at last

“In March of 2022, I had surgery for a hiatal hernia, and my surgeon was baffled by my symptom. He said he wanted me to get a blood test to check my vitamin B6 levels. When he called with my results a few days later, he explained my levels were 240 and that the normal range is 5 to 50.

“He told me to immediately stop taking all vitamin B6, but I was confused because I didn’t take a B6 supplement. He explained that this vitamin is in any food that says ‘enriched and fortified,’ like bread, cereal and more. I couldn’t believe the strict diet I believed was healthy was now poison and making me feel like I was slowly dying.

“He explained that my muscles were so full of vitamin B6, they could no longer absorb it and I had vitamin B6 toxicity. I was shocked that a vitamin — something you think of as good for you — was making me so sick.

How Joan removed excess B6 from her diet

“I discovered vitamin B6 lurks everywhere; it was added to the melatonin, magnesium and vitamin D supplements I was taking. It was also in the energy drink for menopausal women I drank daily.

“Once I started scouring labels and learning all the ways B6 is part of a daily diet, I began reducing the amount of B6 I consumed. After six weeks, the tingling and pain in my legs and feet greatly improved and no longer kept me awake. I also started sleeping all night long without tossing and turning. After a few months, I was able to walk without my cane.

“I was thrilled that I could also read again! My brain fog had made reading impossible because I couldn’t concentrate or remember anything I read. I also stopped zoning out when watching TV. I’m so happy to have my life back and to feel so alive!”

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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