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Sandy Coghlan B6 and the

by Sandy

The first time I saw Laura (not her real name) I thought she had been a victim of domestic violence. The black shadows around her eyes stood out dramatically against her pale complexion .

Laura came to me because she had been suffering PMS and menstrual cramps for 20 years. She also complained about fluid retention, low back pain, fatigue and depression. She had tried a number of therapies, and Polarity was next on her list.

After two visits - and little, if any, improvement - a casual remark about her "only child" jogged my memory and sent me on a search of something I had read years before.

"One was enough," she had insisted. "Months of morning sickness, then I had a kidney fit during labour!"

During Laura's next visit, I delved a little deeper. Sure enough, all the signs were there. She admitted to regularly experiencing digestive problems, and had also suffered bouts of mental confusion recently. When we looked into her family tree, I learned that Laura's mother was Diabetic, and her grandmother was Epileptic. Her aunt had undergone surgery for kidney stones, and her brother had been diagnosed as schizophrenic. Her own daughter, now 20, had recently developed carpal tunnel syndrome.

I discussed my suspicions with a naturopathic friend and suggested Laura make an appointment to see her. Six weeks later, Laura stopped by to say she had been taking vitamin B6 and Magnesium as prescribed, and had just experienced her first trouble-free period. I noticed with relief the absence of blackened eye sockets.

What led me to suspect a B6 deficiency? To begin with, one of the most common symptoms is muscle spasm. This vitamin helps maintain the balance of sodium and potassium - which regulates body fluids and promotes normal functioning of nervous and musculo-skeletal systems. It also participates in the activity of more than one hundred enzymes and thereby plays a major role in the digestive process.

B6 is also involved in the production of serotonin and is essential for the proper action of DNA and RNA. Dr. Lendon Smith calls it "the busiest of all vitamins", while world-renowned nutritionist Lelord Kordel dubbed it the "tonic member of the B vitamins". Kordel states that when B6 is lacking, a poisonous substance (tyramine) is formed in the body, while oxalic-acid production increases and can eventually result in the formation of stones.

More recent studies have revealed that a number of neuro-transmitters rely on vitamin B6 for their formation, and a deficiency may result in brain imbalances such as depression, mental confusion and schizophrenia.

In his book "Let's Eat Right" , Dr. Lendon Smith includes brain allergies in his long list of deficiency symptoms.

What significance would Laura's family tree have on her condition? According to the late nutritionist and author Adelle Davis: "studies indicate that families in which several members suffer Diabetes or Epilepsy appear to have an unusually high hereditary requirement for B6."

My own interest in this vitamin developed as a result of a long-term study of allergies. Aware that many diverse symptoms could be traced to food intolerance, and that this malady was on the increase due - presumably - to the high number of chemicals consumed each day, I began to pay particular attention to the digestive system.

Consumption of chemically-saturated foods can cause damage to the small intestine, which in turn becomes porous and allows undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream. This causes further havoc to the immune system and adds to the number of foods triggering allergic reactions. It becomes a vicious circle.

For many years, I searched for an understanding of why some people ate selectively yet experienced allergic reactions, while others ate indiscriminately and rarely suffered. Allergist Sherry Rogers, MD, provided the answer. In her book "The E.I. Syndrome" (Prestige, 1987) Rogers reported on tests she carried out on the vitamin levels of her patients. Over 80% were markedly deficient in one or more vitamins and B6 was the most common culprit. Dr. Hoffer of the Huxley Institute for Biosocial Research carried out similar research on patients with psychiatric problems and found that up to 75% were lacking B6.

Vitamin B6 plays a major role in digesting proteins. According to Adelle Davis, when proteins remain undigested, the amino acid histidine can be changed by putrefactive intestinal bacteria into a toxic substance, histamine. As we now know, this substance is found in abnormally large amounts in the blood of many allergic persons, and an anti-histamine is often prescribed to combat symptoms.

In her book "Let's Get Well" , Adelle Davis writes: "vitamins B6, C and Pantothenic Acid (B5) each have antihistamine actions, and a lack of any one allows certain blood cells (eosinophils) to increase abnormally, which is a characteristic feature of allergies."

Of course, this does not mean a few doses of B6 will overcome all allergies, cure epilepsy and turn depression to glee. There may be a number of causes of these and other symptoms, and supplementation with B6 will only have an effect if (a) a deficiency exists in the first place, (b) the body is able to absorb the form of supplementation provided, (c) sufficient B6 is given to meet the needs of the individual, and (d) other nutrients - such as magnesium, zinc, and the other B vitamins - are included in the program. (Indications are that if absorption is a problem, B6 is more likely to be utilised if it is taken apart from the other B's,. Magnesium, however, is essential to assist absorption.)

Davis believed that if a recognised deficiency of B6 exists, 50 mgs taken at each meal is sufficient to rebuild health within a few weeks. However, this vitamin has recently come under the scrutiny of the FDA as a result of a paper by the University of Michigan which warned against regular high doses of B6. While this may merely be a "storm in a teacup", it is certainly true that excessive doses can result in numbness and tingling, that long-term abuse can cause peripheral nerve damage, and that supplementation is contra-indicated when certain prescription medicines are necessary. For this reason it is recommended that doses be monitored by a trained professional.

However, those who suspect they may be food intolerant or are working with food intolerant clients may find it worth their while taking the time to look into the family tree and/or trying supplementation of B6 and magnesium. Consider it if any of the following symptoms are evident:

  • Menstruation : menstrual disturbances, menstrual cramps, PMS
  • Sleep : insomnia, sleep disturbances, lack of dream recall
  • Kidneys/Adrenals : fluid retention, impaired kidney function, low or middle back-ache,
          stones (kidney or gall), adrenal exhaustion
  • Ears : over-sensitive hearing, middle-ear infections, air/sea sickness, dizziness
  • Mouth : sore tongue, prominent taste-buds, halitosis
  • Face : cracks around mouth or eyes, darkened eye-sockets, pre-menstrual acne
  • Mental : depression, confusion, schizophrenia, stress, irritability, brain fag
  • Muscle : spasms, tics, convulsions, restless leg syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Digestion : indigestion, food allergies, loss of appetite, constipation, nausea (particularly in the morning)
  • Allergies : including hay fever, migraines, allergic asthma, hypoglycemia,
  • MSG intolerance
  • Immune depletion
  • Also consider when there have been multiple pregnancies, long-term stress, prolonged use of oral contraceptives, or family history of Epilepsy or Diabetes .