Why You Need Vitamins During Stress and Adrenal Fatigue
Commonly, people experiencing adrenal fatigue are not taking in sufficient essential nutrients to meet the increased nutritional demands of stress. When your adrenal glands respond to stress, the metabolism of your cells speeds up, burning through many times the amount of nutrients normally needed. By the time you are in a state of adrenal fatigue, your cells have used up much of your body’s stored nutrients and are in desperate need of new supplies just to continue to function, let alone rebuild.
Superior nutrition is essential to your ability to handle and recover from stress, as well as remain healthy during stressful times. Good quality food is the best source of nutrients – there is no substitute. However, well designed nutritional supplements can be an important adjunct to a nutritious diet by replenishing depleted nutrient stores, supplying additional nutrients during periods of higher demand, and providing nutrients or combinations of nutrients that are difficult to get adequately through food alone.
Supplements designed especially for adrenal fatigue can play an important role in nourishing, supporting and strengthening your adrenals and the other glands and biochemical pathways involved in the stress response. When properly formulated, they fortify the tissue structure of the adrenals, facilitate healthy adrenal function, support production of appropriate levels of adrenal hormones, and promote effective biochemical communication among the glands that interact to respond to stress and maintain homeostatic balance.
B Vitamins and Adrenal Function
Your adrenal glands manufacture a number of hormones, such as cortisol, adrenaline, aldosterone, estrogen and testosterone that regulate many processes in your body as well as help you cope with stress. This hormone production system is referred to as the adrenal cascade. Each of the eight B vitamins that make up vitamin B complex is essential in varying quantities throughout the adrenal cascade, as well as in many other processes from mood to DNA synthesis to energy production. Most B vitamins act as coenzymes, which means that they help form enzymes to become catalysts in biochemical transformations throughout your body.
Three Major Bs in the Adrenal Cascade
Vitamin B3 (niacin) is one of the most important of the B vitamins to the adrenal cascade. Large amounts of niacin are necessary to form the molecular structure of certain coenzymes critical for almost all of the steps in this cascade.
B5 (pantothenic acid) is another essential contributor in the adrenal cascade and is converted in the body into acetyl-CoA, a substance critical to the conversion of glucose into energy. It is present in all cells but in higher quantities in the adrenals because so much energy is needed to produce the adrenal hormones.
B6 (pyridoxine) is also a coenzyme in several of the biochemical pathways in the adrenal cascade and plays a role in the functioning of the hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal (HPA) axis that modulates adrenal activity and the stress response.
Although proportionately larger quantities of B3, B5 and B6 are used in adrenal hormone production, all of the B vitamins help generate energy and work in concert with each other. Therefore, the presence of the complete B complex is necessary for each individual B vitamin to optimally do its job. Their relative ratios are especially critical to how well they are able to support adrenal function.
Vitamin B Complex – Optimal Ratios for Stress and Adrenal Fatigue
When buying a stress supplement containing B complex, the key is to look for one that has the B vitamins in the proper proportions for the human body to utilize, and specifically for the relative ratios that the adrenals need. The stress formulas that are composed of equal amounts of the B vitamins are not metabolized efficiently. An optimal formula for stress and adrenal fatigue should provide, per day, approximately:
- 75-130 mg of B3 (niacin)
- 700-1200 mg of B5 (pantothenic acid)
- 90-150 mg of B6 (pyridoxine)
- 15-25 mg of B1 thiamine)
- 15-25 mg of B2 riboflavin)
- 300-500 mcg of B7 (biotin)
- 600-1000 mcg of B9 (folic acid)
Because some people do not absorb vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) well in a regular vitamin supplement format, it may be preferable to take this in a separate 200-400 mcg sublingual supplement.
B Vitamins – Form Matters
Another important factor to consider is the form of each B vitamin in the supplement because this significantly affects the way it is metabolized and how fully it can be utilized by your body. For example, when vitamin B2 is provided as both riboflavin HCL and riboflavin-5’-phosphate, you get an immediate effect from the active HCL form which does not need to be broken down in your body, plus a delayed effect from the 5-phosphate form which has to be converted in your liver into the active form. The same goes for vitamin B6 when it is provided as both pyridoxine HCL and pyridoxine-5’-phosphate. This dual action means that the supply of these B vitamins lasts longer. Also, a small percentage of the population has difficulty metabolizing the regular vitamin B6 (pyridoxine HCL) and requires the pyridoxyl-5’-phosphate form to fully activate the enzymatic pathways in the adrenal cascade.
Vitamin B3 as niacin can cause an unpleasant hot flushing above certain doses, but when it is provided as inositol hexaniacinate, it does not cause flushing and is also better tolerated by your body. The metabolism of vitamin B12, cyanocobalamin, is complex and B12 can be difficult to absorb, especially for people with low levels of hydrochloric acid in their stomachs. Taking the active form, methylcobalamin, sublingually bypasses this problem and may provide the best results for many people.
B vitamins are water soluble which means that much of supplemental Bs are fairly quickly lost through sweat and urine. To make the most efficient use of these vitamins and to produce calm, steady results, find a true sustained release supplement that makes them available gradually over a period of hours.
Natural or Synthetic B Vitamins
Many people are concerned about whether their vitamins are “natural” or synthetic. Almost all vitamin B supplements contain synthetic B vitamins, especially if they are in high enough amounts to make a difference to someone experiencing stress and adrenal fatigue. The real question to ask about supplemental vitamins is if they are bio-identical, meaning do they have the exact same structure as those that occur naturally in food. Bio-identical synthetic B vitamins can be used effectively to help reinvigorate adrenal function and perform all of the other functions B vitamins normally have in your body. If you find a B complex from completely natural sources, it will contain much lower amounts of each B vitamin, or the individual amounts will not be listed.
Food Sources for B Vitamins
The best food sources of B vitamins include the following: whole grains, brewer’s yeast, pollen, miso (a Japanese soup stock), Marmite (a vegetable concentrate paste), liver, certain raw nuts, sprouts and rice bran syrup. These all contain natural forms of B complex.