Why Vitamin B6 is Vital to a Healthy Menstrual Cycle and Pregnancy

Why Vitamin B6 is Vital to a Healthy Menstrual Cycle and Pregnancy

Bananas are a rich source of vitamin B6.

Bananas are a rich source of vitamin B6.

Are you trying to conceive? If so, I am sure you are already thinking about eating better, taking better care of your body; you are getting prepared so you can have a healthy pregnancy and baby. Despite our best efforts at living a healthy lifestyle, we can still fall short of getting all the nutrients needed to achieve pregnancy. Often times our bodies will signal to us that something is lacking in the diet: sneaky changes in our menstrual cycles such as PMS, mid-cycle spotting or an early period. When menstrual cycle irregularities like these happen, it may be time to look to nutrition for answers. It makes sense, the nutrients we consume from foods are the building blocks for everything within the body.

One of these important nutrients is vitamin B6. It is part of the intricate processes of the formation of body proteins, structural compounds, chemical transmitters in the nervous system, red blood cells and prostaglandins. It is also necessary for the body to maintain a stable hormonal and immune system. Research has shown that vitamin B6 supplementation can be helpful for many women’s fertility health issues, including…

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Vitamin B6 was first used for women’s cyclical conditions after researchers found it successfully helped women with depression caused by birth control pills. Seeing the success they had with these women, researchers decided to see if B6 could relieve PMS symptoms.

There have been several studies performed since the 1970s on the use of vitamin B6 for PMS. While PMS may be caused by a variety of factors, not related to vitamin B6 deficiency, most studies showed that the majority of women with PMS had improved symptoms once they began supplementing with vitamin B6. Some studies determined that not all women saw an improvement in symptoms from supplementing with B6. There could be additional contributing factors to why they saw no improvement, such as other nutrient deficiencies or a difficulty in converting vitamin B6 into its active form pyridoxal-5-phosphate.

Today vitamin B6 is highly regarded as a first line of defense in treating PMS. It has been shown especially helpful for cyclical acne and mood disorders that come along with PMS. B6 plays a lead role in brain chemistry because it is involved in the manufacture of all amino acid transmitters. Some examples of these amino acid transmitters you may recognize are serotonin, dopamine and melatonin. As most of us know, these all play a critical role in our mood and behavior.

Luteal Phase Defect

The luteal phase starts just after ovulation and ends when menstruation begins. In order to sustain an early pregnancy, the luteal phase needs to be at least 12 days long. Women with a short luteal phase, also known as luteal phase defect (LPD), may struggle to carry an early pregnancy due to low progesterone levels and an insufficient uterine lining. B6 is necessary for the formation of prostaglandins and is involved in hormonal balance. Many women have reported an improvement in the length of the luteal phase by supplementing with vitamin B6 daily. Read one woman’s story here…

Pregnancy

Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in the multiplication of cells, making it very important for a healthy: pregnancy, immune system, mucous membranes and red blood cells. The health of your immune system, mucous membranes, and red blood cells make achieving pregnancy possible, or not. Proper cell division and replication is necessary for the health of a developing embryo.

    Nausea and Vomiting
    Vitamin B6 supplementation, at 30mg per day, is considered an effective treatment for morning sickness in the first trimester of pregnancy. Researchers have found that combining vitamin B6 supplementation with powdered ginger root, at 250mg per day, was even more effective.

    Homocysteinemia
    Homocysteinemia is an elevation of homocysteine in the blood which can cause the blood to clot more easily than normal. Pregnant women with this issue are at a higher risk for recurrent miscarriage, preeclampsia and premature birth. Elevated homocysteine levels are most common in women with a defect of the MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) gene, known as MTHFR C677T. According to one study, “Homocysteinemia is regulated by a complex metabolism in which vitamin B6 and folate are involved. These two vitamins may have, in themselves, some impacts on embryonic and fetal growth… homocysteinemia increases in the case of vitamin B6 or intracellular methylfolates deficiency…” (Fertility and Sterility: 75; 823-825. 2001)

How to Ensure You are Getting Enough Vitamin B6

First and foremost, you should be getting enough B6 through your diet. Foods that are rich in vitamin B6 are whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, bananas, tuna, turkey and dark leafy green vegetables. Because vitamin B6 levels in the body are closely linked to magnesium intake, it is also important to be sure you are eating a diet rich in this mineral.

Supplementation
We hear all the time, “if you are going to supplement with vitamin B6, you had better be sure to include it in a B vitamin complex.” B complex refers to all of the known essential water soluble vitamins, except for vitamin C. It was once thought that vitamin B was one vitamin, but researchers later discovered that in fact this “vitamin B” was actually many different types of vitamins, thus they were given numbers and names to identify them…

  • vitamin B1 – thiamine
  • vitamin B2 – riboflavin
  • vitamin B3 – niacin
  • vitamin B5 – pantothenic acid
  • vitamin B6 – pyridoxine
  • biotin
  • vitamin B9 – folic acid/folate
  • vitamin B12 – cobalamin

What may be confusing, to all of us non-scientists, is that just because these vitamins are classified and numbered as “B vitamins” doesn’t mean they are similar or related to one another, but in fact they all play a different role in the health of the body. So, why should you take them together? Many of the B vitamins are vital to various intricate processes within the body, and some rely on each other to do their jobs properly. For example, riboflavin (B2) is necessary to convert pyridoxine to pyridoxal-5-phosphate. By taking a B complex supplement, or a multivitamin that contains a B complex, you are ensuring that you aren’t missing out on any one of these life and health giving vitamins.

The average daily therapeutic dose for health issues associated with low vitamin B6 levels is between 50-100mg along with a B complex or with other B vitamins as part of a whole food multivitamin. Talk to your doctor to see if vitamin B6 supplementation is right for you.

We carry three products that contain vitamin B6:

    Fertile Woman One Daily – Whole Food Multivitamin – contains 2mg of B6
    Baby and Me Multivitamin (prenatal) – contains 4mg of B6
    Fertilica Choice Antioxidants – contains 2mg of B6

What to Avoid to Ensure Optimum Vitamin B6 Levels
There are certain things that can inhibit vitamin B6, putting some of the population at risk for B6 deficiency. They are:

  • oral contraceptives (birth control pill)
  • Hydrazine dyes, especially FD&C Yellow #5 (yellow food dye #5/tartrazine) – found in many processed foods, especially artificially flavored and dyed juices or soda pops
  • alcoholic beverages
  • excessive protein intake

Safety and Toxicity
B6 is one of the only water soluble vitamins that does come with some risk of toxicity when taken at higher doses or long-term supplementation at moderate doses. It is best to supplement below 50 milligrams per day. If recommended supplementation is 100mg, be sure to spread the dose out several times per day. As always, be sure to speak with your doctor about supplementation of B6 if you think you need a therapeutic dose.

Have you supplemented with vitamin B6 for any fertility-related health issue? If so, we would love to hear your experience in the comments below.


References:
-Murray, Michael T., ND. (1996). Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements; pp. 80-136. New York: Three Rivers Press.
-Quéré, I., Mercier, E., Bellet, H., Janbon, C., Marès, P., & Gris, J. C. (2001). Vitamin supplementation and pregnancy outcome in women with recurrent early pregnancy loss and hyperhomocysteinemia. Fertility and sterility, 75(4), 823-825.
-Romm, Aviva., MD. (2010). Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health; Premenstrual Symptoms, Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), pp.163. St. Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
-Pitchaiah Mandava, MD, PhD. (n.d.). Homocystinuria/Homocysteinemia. Retrieved online from:
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1952251-overview

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