Search for your favorite beers!Vitamin B complex is a group of eight water soluble vitamins that play important roles in the body including the formation, metabolism and maintenance of cells.
Since the vitamin B complex group is water soluble, they are naturally eliminated from the body through the urine and require daily replenishment. Replenishment is usually attained through a healthy dietor even a regular good quality multivitamin. When consuming alcohol, not only are they necessary for preventing or aiding hangovers, they are required for maintaining adequate health. In addition to being both water and lipid soluble, alcohol has a powerful dehydrating effect, toxicity to the liver where much of the vitamin b complex activity takes place, and inhibits absorption by affecting the gastrointestinal tract.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – helps the system turn food into energy and also affects enzymes that benefit the muscles, nerves and heart.
Alcohol not only inhibits thiamine absorption, but also compromises thiamineactivation for optimal use by the body through ethanol and acetaldehyde damage to the liver. Thiamine deficiency causes a dysfunction in the brain resulting in impaired thinking, memory loss and motor coordination. A chronic deficiency also results in beriberi, damage to the nervous system, weight loss, emotional imbalances, compromised sensory perception, swelling of tissues, heart failure, irreversiblepsychosis and amnesia as well as possible death.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – aids in the metabolization of fats, ketone bodies and carbohydrates.
Riboflavin is easily eliminated through the body through urine, and is further exacerbated through alcohol use and general dehydration. Deficiencies may result in cracked and red lips, mouth ulcers, tongue and mouth inflammation, dry skin, runny nose, red eyes and sensitivity to light.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) – also plays a role in producing energy in cells and helps to maintain the health of the nervous and digestive systems as well as healthy skin.
Industrialized societies rarely see a deficiency in niacin, except with patients suffering chronic alcoholism, which leads to pellagra. Symptoms of pellagra include mental confusion, aggression, insomnia, dementia and death.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) – aids in the regulatory process of growth and development.
Deficiency is rare and may include numbness, paresthesia and muscle cramps. Extreme cases of starvation may result in adrenal insufficiency and hepatic encephalopathy.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) – is important in the production of red blood cells, decreasing the formation of homocysteine, and is required for the production of monoamine neurotransmitters (the feel good brain chemicals) serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, creating the cofactors for enzymes responsible for converting 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) into serotonin and levodopa.
Aside of the important physiological effects of B6 deficiency including elevated levels of homocysteine, hypertension and anemia, acetaldehyde destroys B6 and its role in the production of these important feel-good neurotransmitters causing severe depression.
Vitamin B7 (biotin) – helps in the hormonal creation and metabolization of carbohydrates.
Deficiencies are rare in adults but are important for infant health and avoiding infantneurological disorders.
Vitamin B9 (folic acid) – is important in the formation of red blood cells and is necessary for synthesising nucleic acid, creation and maintenance of cell division.
Deficiencies inhibits DNA synthesis, cell division and RNA transcription as well as elevated levels of homocysteine.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) – is active in every cell in the human body affecting DNA synthesis and regulation. Is is important in maintaining normal brain and nervous system functioning, while playing important roles in fatty acid synthesis and energy production as well as the formation of blood.
Alcohol directly inhibits vitamin b12 absorption as well as indirectly by negatively impacting secretion in the gastrointestinal tract. Deficiencies can be sever and causeirreversible damage in the brain and central nervous system. Some causes includemacrocytic anemia, high levels of homocysteine, peripheral neuropathy, pernicious anemia, mania, psychosis and paralysis.
I’m not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one, but examining the negative effects that alcohol does to the vitamin b complex group, it’s generally a safe bet to take a vitamin b complex supplement both before drinking as well as during the morning after.
And while the vitamin b complex group is good for preventing and treating hangovers, it isn’t necessary to take during liver detoxification or abstinence as a good multivitamin and a healthy diet will suffice in replenishing these important vitamins. Some vitamins in this group do reach levels of toxicity, therefore read labels carefully or consult your doctor.
References: Brody, Tom (1999). Nutritional Biochemistry. San Diego: Academic Press – Smith, C. M. and W. O. Song. 1996. Comparative nutrition of pantothenic acid. Nutr. Biochem. 7:312-321. – Council of Experts. USP/NF. 2006 Ed. Rockville, MD: The United States Pharmacopeial Convention; 2005. – Vitamin B6 metabolism in chronic alcohol abuse The effect of ethanol oxidation on hepatic pyridoxal 5′-phosphate metabolism. R L Vech, L Lumeng, and T K Li – Clercq, Pierre J. De (1997). “Biotin: A Timeless Challenge for Total Synthesis”. Chemical Review 97: 1755–1792. – Kamen B (1997). “Folate and antifolate pharmacology”. Seminars in oncology 24 (5 Suppl 18): S18–30–9. – Office of Dietary Supplements, Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12 – Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1998.