A video summary

Do you eat less healthily and drink more alcohol when you are stressed?

If your answer is yes, a supplement of B complex and Magnesium may help to protect health while the stressor lasts. I will explain why.

Imagine, until 1937, a deficiency in B3 was thought to be an infectious disease called Pellagra, that caused the 4 D’s – Dermatitis, Diarrhoea, Dementia and Death. A deficiency in a nutrient can be serious and stress certainly challenges our supply of nutrients because it changes our eating and behaviours!

The human body is like a factory with millions of chemical reactions. Vitamins and minerals help chemical reactions take place and without them, the product coming off the factory line can be imperfect. Food and the human body are complex. Everything is interconnected. During a stressful time, we burn through B vitamins faster or need more. There is also a possibility that when we are stressed, we drink more alcohol and crave rubbish food with little energy to cook for ourselves.

1. Food Sources of B Vitamins

A summary of food sources are Nuts, Seeds, Animal and Dairy product, Lentils, Beans, Wholegrains and Vegetables.

The amount of nutrient will depend on farming methods and the richness of the soil. Some are more widely available than others. For example, Folic acid is not widely available in animal product and the best source is green leafy vegetables, not overcooked.  Another example is B12. Animal product and fermented foods are best sources for B12.

2. What B Vitamins do in the Body and Symptoms of running low in B Vitamins

There are 9 members of the B Vitamin family – B1 Thiamine, B2 Riboflavin, B3 Niacin, B5 Pantothenic Acid, B6 Pyridoxine, B12 Cobalamine, Folic Acid, Biotin and Choline.

Here is a snapshot of what B Vitamins do

  • Energy production from food
  • Nervous system working well (brain-body-brain communication flow)
  • The maintenance of a Healthy Gut
  • The production of Sex and Stress hormones
  • Red Blood Cell formation, Bone marrow regeneration
  • DNA repair, Cell Division, Normal Growth
  • Production of Collagen and Protein
  • Management of Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Here are some of the symptoms (mild to severe) to look out for, if you are running (low or deficient) in B Vitamins.

Energy: Tiredness, anaemia,

Mind: Mood changes (depression, irritable, listless, anxious), Poor memory and concentration, anorexia, insomnia

Skin disorders such as dermatitis, poor skin healing and repair, swollen tongue, dry or sore lips, sore mouth, bleeding gums, loss of eyebrows, hair-loss, crusted eyelids, visual fatigue

Nervous System pins and needles, burning feet, restless legs, muscle weakness and cramps, reduced or absent tendon reflexes

Gut disorders such as ulcers, colitis, diarrhoea or constipation, fluid retention, vomiting, increased cholesterol

Sex & Stress Hormones: PMS, menopausal symptoms, less able to cope with stress, salt cravings, fading hair and skin colour, increased risk of infections

3. Why Supplement B Vitamins

There are 3 main reasons –   unstable, minimal storage and they rely on each other


Aside from B12, the B Vitamin family have minimal storage in our body making the food that we eat daily, the most important source of B Vitamins. If you are eating badly and cannot see that behaviour changing in the days and weeks ahead, it would be a good idea to supplement B Vitamins.

Aside from B3, they are unstable in either heat, light, acid or alkaline conditions. This means they can be lost from the food during cooking or storage.

Thirdly, they are all reliant on each other so if one is low, it can affect how the others work. For example: B12 reactivates Folic acid; B2 and B3 increase the absorption of folic acid; B2, B6 and Magnesium convert B5 to its active form. Therefore, if you decide to supplement B vitamins, they are best taken as a complex together.


Lifestyle choices such as Diets, Alcohol and Stress affect B Vitamins

Different diets have varying effects. High protein diets can adversely affect B6 levels. High Carbohydrate diets deplete B1.  Vegetarians usually need to supplement B12 but tend to have higher levels of Biotin.

Alcohol depletes B1 and folic acid. Sulphites, a preservative found in wine, dried fruits and ready-made salads depletes B1. High intakes of tea affect B1 levels.

Ongoing Stress creates a higher demand for B Vitamins and remember there is not a store of B vitamins in the body except for B12.  When the stress response is activated in the body, our mind communicates to our muscles,  and organs via nerve impulses which need B1 to work. B3, B5 and B6 are involved in the production of the stress hormones themselves.

B5 is our anti-stress vitamin, protecting the outer lining of nerves and along with Choline helps to produce a brain neurotransmitter called Acetylcholine. This brain chemical controls mental alertness, concentration, learning, memory and muscle contraction. A chronic stress response over a long period of time may be linked with memory loss and symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimers. Chronic Stress may damage the brain.

Individuals under stress show less DNA repair and less protein production affecting hair, skin and the entire body.

The term I like to use with B vitamins and stress is ‘burn through’. With increased demand for stress hormones and B vitamins, we may burn though our supplies at a time when we are at risk of eating less healthily and drinking more alcohol.

Other factors such as the contraceptive pill, oesterogens, antibiotics, antacids and other medications can adversely affect some of the B vitamins.

When you supplement B Vitamins, any excess is excreted from the body in urine.

4. Magnesium

Magnesium works well with B vitamins to transmit nerve impulses and is essential in the production of energy, activating the B vitamins.

Magnesium Food Sources

It is found as part of chorophyll molecule in green vegetables. Other food sources include meat, milk, nuts, wholegrains, seafood.


Modern farming techniques strip the minerals from many of our food. Alcohol depletes Magnesium.

The best form of supplemental Magnesium to take is amino-acid chelate, ascorbate or citrate. Take magnesium with the B vits in the morning. Very often magnesium will be included in a B complex. Magnesium is also useful in the evening when it is time to wind down and can be taken as an Epsom salts foot bath before bedtime.

Joan Moloney

I studied nutrition for 3 years and decided to specialise in weight-loss. Helping people to eat healthier food is a very fulfilling role. Especially mothers, as they have such an influence on the eating habits of the next generation.

Vitamins and minerals are a complex area because we cannot test ourselves regularly, to see if we are running low in anything and we have no insight into how nutrient-poor or rich our food is. Educating clients on signs and symptoms of deficiency is a good start.

I offer a 1-on-1 motivational weight-loss service. For more detail visit www.JustWeight.ie

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