vitamin B6 hormones

Vitamin B6 Benefits for Women

The Vitamin B6 benefits for women are numerous and at the top of the list is certainly hormone balance. Sometimes the issue for women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, like PMS and infertility, is a need for the nutrients that support healthy hormones.

Vitamin B6 benefits include:

  • Hormone balance
  • Pregnancy nausea support
  • Reduce PMS 
  • Better sleep
  • Brain health optimization 
  • Mood support
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Autoimmunity support

Vitamin B6 is a blanket term that encompasses pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine, as well as their coenzymatic forms pyridoxal 5’ phosphate and pyridoxamine 5’ phosphate. B6 is water-soluble, and it’s unable to be stored or made by the body. 

As a nutritional biochemist and naturopathic physician — let’s just say I could geek out about this humble vitamin all day long. And in my clinical practice, I’ve seen just how important it can be in creating optimal health for so many women.

If fact, in my clinical experience and from the research, I believe vitamin B6 is so important for women’s hormones that I included it in my Balance Women’s Hormone Support formula. 

In this article I’ll give you a breakdown of everything you need to know about B6. Why it’s important, how it works in the body, and the best ways to make sure you’re getting enough of it. 

I hope the information empowers you to make the best choices for your health and well being. 

What does vitamin B6 do?

Proper vitamin B6 levels are a critical component of good health. B6 is a part of more than 100 chemical reactions in your body!

It works to help synthesize brain neurotransmitters (like serotonin — a neurotransmitter that supports a positive mood). It’s a part of making hemoglobin (responsible for oxygenating organs & tissues). Period problems can lead to anemia problems and girl, you don’t want any of that. Read up on heavy periods and anemia.

B6 also is integral to immune function and metabolism of proteins, carbs, and fats. 

And it’s an important partner in balancing hormones

B6 for hormonal balance

You may have heard me talk about how important it is to support your liver in clearing estrogen from the body. Well, B6 (along with B12 and folate) plays a starring role in this process. It’s one of the reasons why so many women are able to help their estrogen dominance with a high-quality B-vitamin supplement.

Another reason B-vitamin supplementation helps estrogen dominance symptoms is because B6 can help increase progesterone and decrease estrogen — which for many women, is the sweet spot for hormonal balance. It’s why I included it’s most bioavailable form in my Balance formulation.

B6 is also important in the function of the adrenal glands. It helps in the production of adrenal hormones. Many women who are struggling with HPA Axis Dysfunction (a term that basically means your adrenals aren’t functional as they should so you feel exhausted, irritable, and have poor memory and low libido) find that focusing on getting enough B-vitamins helps to get their adrenals back up to proper functioning.

I created my Optimal Adrenal Kit with these women mind — it contains the levels of B6 (along with other standout ingredients) necessary to support the adrenals and make them happy again.

>> Suspecting your hormones and/or adrenals are not quite where they should be? 

I encourage you to pick up a copy of the best-selling Beyond the Pill so I can walk you through exactly what steps to take to figure out your particular imbalance and the labs and testing I can help you use to get more details. 

How much B6 do I need per day?

My free meal plan and recipe guide is designed to help women get the nutrients they need to bring their hormones in balance. Grab it here and get the info you need to leverage your diet for better hormones.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B6 is:

Ages 19-50 — 1.3mg

Men ages 51+ — 1.7 mg

Women aged 51+ — 1.5 mg

Pregnant and lactating women — 1.9 mg

Understand that the RDA is based on the minimum it takes to not develop deficiency symptoms. But the minimum isn’t going to help many of us achieve optimal health. And when we are in a healing phase or have symptoms, we often need more.

But keep in mind, just because something is good for you doesn’t mean a whole lot more is better.

How much is too much vitamin B6?

The research has shown that toxicity symptoms can develop in some individuals who use very high dose for a very long time. Toxicity can occur at doses of 1,000 mg or more daily. The most common symptom is numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, also known as neuropathy.

There have been a few case studies of people developing neuropathy at doses of 500 mg daily. What’s important here is to evaluate what is true for you.

There haven’t been studies which include objective neurological examination that have demonstrated nerve damage in supplement doses under 100 mg a day. If you’re concerned, keep the dose until 100 mg and of course, talk with your doctor before starting supplementation.

While it’s nearly impossible to get too much B6 from food, over-supplementation can result in:

  • Nausea 
  • Heartburn
  • Ataxia (loss of motor coordination)
  • Neuropathy (numbness and pain in feet and hands)
  • Skin rashes or lesions
  • Sensitivity to light

What whole foods contain B6?

While many packaged foods have been “fortified” with B vitamins, I’m a huge proponent of eating whole foods to get proper nutrition. 

Some of the best whole food sources of B6 include:

  • Chickpeas
  • Beef liver
  • Avocado
  • Salmon
  • Chicken breast
  • Potatoes
  • Turkey
  • Banana
  • Beef
  • Bulgur

It’s been shown that animal sources of B6 are more bioavailable than forms of it in some plant foods. Just a few ounces of turkey, pork or beef can get you 30-40% of the RDA. 

A cup of chickpeas contains about 50% of your daily needs.

Vegetarians, Vegans, and B vitamins

While serious Vitamin B6 deficiencies are rare, many people experience a subclinical B vitamin deficiency.

It’s a problem that’s often missed by practitioners because the signs and symptoms can be mild for years before they progress into a full-blown deficiency.

And while it is possible to ingest B6 from plant-based sources, vegetarians and vegans are at risk of having lower levels of B vitamins. Usually, a high-quality B-complex vitamin is enough to keep levels optimal.

B6 and absorption issues

Another common reason for mild B6 deficiency is that absorption of the nutrient is blocked, either by medications or existing conditions that prevent it from being fully utilized by the body. 

Some of the most common root causes that B6 can’t be absorbed properly are:

What are the signs & symptoms of B6 deficiency?

A significant B6 deficiency typically co-exists with other B-vitamin deficiencies, like B12 and folate. 

Even a minor B6 deficiency can begin to show up as:

  • Low energy
  • Dry lips
  • Skin issues
  • Depression
  • Anemia
  • Lowered immune function
  • Brain fog & confusion
  • Dreamless sleep
  • PMS

Can B6 help with nausea during pregnancy?

B6 can be a safe and natural way to help women deal with nausea often experienced during the first trimester of pregnancy. 

A dose of 40 mg taken twice daily has shown to be as effective as ginger for relieving morning sickness.

With this dose, many women see an improvement in their levels of nausea within 4 days.

As always, if you’re pregnant then you definitely want to chat with your doc. 

Vitamin B6 and PMS

Studies have shown that B6, especially when combined with calcium or magnesium, can reduce PMS symptoms. Participants reported a marked decrease in symptoms like:

  • Irritability
  • Backache
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Bloating

You can read more about supplements for PMS in the article I’ve written.

Does vitamin B6 help you sleep? 

B6 is crucial in the production of serotonin. Which as you probably know, plays a huge role in making you feel happy. But it also gets converted into melatonin, the sleep hormone and a potent antioxidant.

For years, there has been tons of anecdotal evidence suggesting that B6 levels are a key component in determining one’s quality of sleep and the ability to dream.

A recent study set out to finally demonstrate the claims, and had participants ingest 240 mg of B6 before bed — and the result was a significant increase in the amount of dreams participants recalled.

Furthermore, multiple studies suggest formulations including B6 are extremely effective in inducing sleep. Especially when combined with melatonin and botanicals — which is why my Sweet Dreams formula includes exactly those ingredients. Warning: only try it if you want to have the best night’s sleep of your life!

Vitamin B6 and brain health

B6 plays such a critical role in brain health because it helps produce the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and norepinephrine

Depression

Levels of these chemicals have all been shown to play a role in depression. In fact, one study found that low levels of B6 in blood doubled the likelihood of depression in seniors.

Additionally, this study showed that seniors who consumed more dietary B6 were 43% less likely to become depressed.

Unfortunately, we still have a lot more to learn about how to use B6 to treat depression. In this clinical trial, supplementation had no effect on the condition.

Alzheimer’s

Similarly to depression, it’s possible to show a correlation between B6 levels and Alzheimer’s disease. 

You see, homocysteine is an amino acid that is typically broken down by B6, B12, and folate Once it’s been properly metabolized, most people will have very low levels of it in the blood.

Studies have shown that dementia and Alzheimer’s patients have elevated homocysteine levels. B6 has been shown to effectively reduce homocysteine levels. It would stand to reason, then, that supplementation with B6 could help Alzheimer’s patients.

However, just like with depression, it seems as though B6 supplementation may not be as effective in Alzheimer’s treatments as one would hope.

On the one hand, this study showed that high doses of B-vitamins resulted in a sevenfold reduction in gray matter atrophy in Alzheimer’s patients. On the other hand, this study showed that while B6 supplementation reduced homocysteine levels, cognitive function wasn’t really improved. 

As this study concluded, more research and testing is needed to determine exactly how to help dementia and Alzheimer’s patients with B-vitamins. 

The reality is, we need B6 for brain health, but when it comes to a multifactorial condition like Alzheimer’s, we need a holistic approach. 

B6 and cardiovascular health

Similarly to Alzheimer’s, high levels of homocysteine are indicative of heart disease. And this study showed a strong association between low levels of B6 and coronary artery disease.

Could B6 supplementation be the answer to the heart disease epidemic? The results of this study are promising — the group that took B6 along with folate had favorable results on heart tests during exercise — which means they’re at less risk of heart attack.

Vitamin B6 and cancer

It’s become well accepted that inflammation is linked to cancer. And the role of B6 in lowering inflammation is beginning to emerge. 

In the case of colorectal cancer, studies have found that individuals with the highest levels of B6 were less likely to develop the disease. The same goes for breast cancer, too.

Unfortunately, there’s just not enough data to draw conclusions from — but researchers remain hopeful.

And just to be clear, there isn’t one nutrient or even one thing to prevent cancer. It’s more complex and we do need more research. 

Age-related macular degeneration and B6

Homocysteine is again a factor here — higher levels of it in the blood means an individual is more likely to present with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Again, could B6 supplementation mean we can lower homocysteine and therefore the likelihood of developing AMD? This study seems to indicate it’s a possibility. Participants in the study found that taking a B-vitamin supplement reduced risk by 35-40%.

Can B6 help people with rheumatoid arthritis?

Those with rheumatoid arthritis have shown to have low levels of B6 and high levels of homocysteine. 

A 2010 study showed that B6 supplementation could improve the pro-inflammatory response in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Study participants were given 100mg of B6 per day for 12 weeks. 

It’s a hopeful indication that B6 can be used to improve the lives of those with the condition. 

Is B6 the same as folic acid?

While this is a common misconception, B6 and folic acid are not, in fact, the same.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, which is vitamin B9.

Drug interactions with vitamin B6

If you take any of the following medications, you want to be cautious with vitamin B6 supplements and talk with your doctor — they could interfere with the effectiveness of your drugs:

  • Anti-seizure medications — Cerebyx, Dilantin, Phenytek
  • Parkinson’s medication — Levodopa
  • Barbiturates — Secobarbital, Phenobarbital, Amobarbital
  • Chemotherapy drugs — Altretamine (Hexalen), Cisplatin

What if I have MTHFR gene variation?

The methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene has been getting attention for the past several years because those with a variation of it often have elevated levels of homocysteine. Which, as you know now, can be an indicator of disease. While there’s not really any associated symptoms, people with a variant of the MTHFR gene are more likely to be susceptible to a host of issues, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Migraines
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Colon Cancer
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Miscarriage

By some estimates, 40% of the population may have this gene variant.

This gene affects B-vitamin processing, so it comes as no surprise that an increased homocysteine level accompanies it. 

Luckily, proper supplementation shows great promise as treatment. In one study, women with MTHFR variants who had experienced recurrent miscarriage where given supplementation of B6, B12 and folic acid to great effect — homocysteine levels were reduced, and 7 out of the 16 participants delivered babies within a year.

Individuals with an MTHFR variant have to be careful about what kind of B-vitamins they supplement with and what kind of fortified packaged food they consume. Because they cannot process folic acid (the synthetic form of B9) certains foods and low quality supplements can cause folic acid to build up to unhealthy levels in their bodies.

Our Supplements with B6

If you know you have difficulty absorbing or utilizing B6 then you’ll want to look for a formulation that includes Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate (P5P). This is the most bioavailable form of B6 — meaning it is easily utilized by the body. 

Pyridoxine HCl is another form that you’ll commonly find and can work well for most people. 

P5P is a star ingredient in my B-Active Plus formula, which includes the spectrum of B-vitamins that are so critical to your health! 

You’ll also find P5P in Balance Women’s Hormone Support, which helps women bring their hormones into balance and support what their body does best. 

Remember, keep those homocysteine levels down if you can by including plenty of B6-rich whole foods in your diet, and by adding in a high quality B-vitamin supplement to fill in the gaps.

B6, the superstar vitamin

Vitamin B6 is absolutely essential to optimal health and hormones that make you feel like super superhero! 

It truly is a remarkable nutrient that we all should focus on getting enough of in our diets.

Looking for a little direction on the best diet for optimal levels of B6 (and hormonal balance)? I’d love for you to check out my free anti-inflammatory and nutrient dense recipe guide.

And tell me — have you had any positive experiences with adding B6 supplementation into your life? Let us know in the comments below.

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is one of the leading experts in women’s medicine and is a pioneer in her exploration of the far-reaching impact of hormonal birth control and the little known side effects that impact health in a large way. In her best selling book, Beyond the Pill, she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. A trained nutritional biochemist and Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Brighten is the founder and Clinic Director at Rubus Health, an integrative women’s medicine clinic. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan, ABC news, and the New York Post. Read more about me here.