Vitamin B Deficiency and Its Effects On Your Body

In March, Doctor James H. Redford wrote a comprehensive article on the topic of avitaminosis, or vitamin deficiency. He promised to follow up with another article covering the B Complex Vitamins, or mere specifically Vitamin B deficiency. Here are his teachings.

Vitamin B1 – Thiamine

B1 is required for carbohydrate metabolism, a hearty appetite, normal digestion, growth, fertility, lactation, nervous tissue function and formation, gastrointestinal muscle movement, and the formation of acetylcholine.

A deficiency of Vitamin B1 causes a number of serious problems, some of which are nearly beyond belief: mental instability, absent-mindedness, difficulty in thinking clearly, vague fears up to paranoia, and feelings of uneasiness.

The physical problems are no less serious: retarded growth in children, loss of ankle and knee reflexes, including calf and thigh muscle weakness and pain, cardiac beriberi with swelling and/or water retention of the heart and possible right-side heart failure, dry beriberi, affecting the nervous system, brain lesions, convulsions and, finally, death.

In milder cases of B1 deficiency, the only problems that may appear are the loss of appetite, and nausea and vomiting.

Vitamin B1 needs are directly related to how many calories are taken in per day, with the minimum amount somewhere between 0.27 and 0.33 milligrams per 1,000 calories. The body cannot store much B1, with the total amount present only sufficient for a few days of normal functioning. Anything that interferes with the absorption of B1 will result in its deficiency.

Diarrhea that persists for several days, oral antibiotics, raw fish and/or raw shellfish, raw red cabbage, raw Brussel sprouts, some berries, and intestinal disorders will lower the absorption ratio.

Raw Shellfish

In the mid-1960s, John W. Campbell reported in Analog magazine an instance in which hallucinations were suffered by one of his daughters after she had taken antibiotics for only five days! The treatment was 200 milligrams of Vitamin B1. The problem was ended in five hours!

While hallucinations are not normally listed as one of the symptoms of B1 deficiency, other mental problems tend to support his report. Major trauma rapidly depletes what little B1 is stored in the body, with the body’s need for B1 rising to approximately 10 milligrams per day in severely injured persons.

Any deficiency increases the chances of bacterial infection, and such infection can produce a deficiency of all of the B Complex vitamins. Even fevers of as low as 100.0 degrees can double the need for B1. The USRDA is very low for this vitamin, between 0.2 milligrams for infants and 1.5 milligrams for teens, with need-based on calorie intake, as noted previously.

Because Vitamin B1 is water-soluble, it is easily passed through the body, hence overdoses are nearly impossible. There are no known dangers involved in taking too much B1. However, there are unconfirmed reports that the U.S. armed forces experimented with mega-doses during the Vietnam War, which resulted in hyperactivity of the subjects. Ingestion of live yeast can lead to B1 deficiency.

Vitamin B2— Riboflavin

B2 – is neither heat- nor light-stable and can be destroyed by exposure to either. Up to 85 percent of B2 found in cows milk is destroyed by exposure to sunlight, rapidly.

Vitamin B2 is essential, along with B6, for the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into nicotinic acid (Niacin). The retina requires B2 to allow it to adapt to light. Individual cells require B2 for the conversion process that allows them to “breathe.”

Deficiencies can be caused by anything that interferes with absorption, such as listed for B1 — especially diarrhea. Vitamin B2 is depleted rapidly by major trauma, with those needs being set at around 2 milligrams per day for mild trauma and 10 milligrams per day for severe trauma.

The USRDA is based on an intake of 0.5 milligrams per 1,000 calories of food, and varies from 0.4 milligrams per day for infants, up to 2.0 milligrams per day for pregnant women.

Vitamin B2 deficiency symptoms include eye problems such as cataracts, cloudy or ulcerated retinas, dim vision, impaired color vision, burning and itching, congestion of the rear portion of the eyeball, abnormal color of the iris, and mild to extreme sensitivity to light.

Lack of B2 can result in skin problems, including a kind of false psoriasis, in particular at the corners of the nose and ears, and around the scrotum and labia majora; in sores on the lips, cracks or fissures on the lips, and at their corners; in changes in the skin of the nose making it look and feel like sharkskin and in some impairment of wound healing. Children stop growing when deficient in B2, and adults may die when the deficiency endures long enough.

Finally, B2-deficient mothers run the risk of producing malformed children. Vitamin 82 deficiency is usually found along with other B-Complex deficiencies. As with B1, B2 overdoses are nearly impossible. Deficiency has been known to lower antibody production, thus increasing infection.

Vitamin B6

Pyridoxine, a hydrochloride salt known as Vitamin B66, is heat and alkali-stable but is easily destroyed by light, in particular ultraviolet radiation. The other two forms of B6, Pyridoxamine, and pyridoxal, are readily destroyed by exposure to air, heat, and light, particularly when in dilute solutions.

Vitamin B6 is necessary for the body’s processing of many of the amino acids, and more than 40 different fats and/or fatty acids, in particular the unsaturated one. It is needed for antibody production and the normal functioning of cells.

Vitamin B6 deficiency produces most, if not all, of the skin problems associated with B2 deficiency, as well as some of those presented by lack of niacin. Symptoms are numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, as well as hyperirritability, extreme response to any sensory input, and loss or impairment of the senses of position and vibration.

Irritable Person

Also occurring with Vitamin B6 deficiency are anemia and unusual blood cell size problems, convulsions in infants, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and confusion. An unnatural desire to sleep rounds out the symptoms of B6 deficiency.

The USRDA for adults is 2.0 milligrams per day. Major trauma increases this requirement to as much as 40.0 milligrams per day. If you should have injectable pyridoxine hydrochloride in your survival medical supplies or should you manage to forage it during an emergency, be advised that intramuscular injections of it will cause pain, sometimes considerable, at the site of injection.

The symptoms of a B6 deficiency may vary greatly depending on the age of the affected person and cause. Vitamin B6 is present throughout the entire body— approximately 100 milligrams in an average person— and its loss or use will vary as it is needed. This will cause only some parts of the body to be deficient at any given point in time, with attendant problems.

Deficiency can be caused by anything that interferes with the intake of B6. This is the same as with other water-soluble vitamins. Also, penicillamine will block B6 absorption. Intake above 300 milligrams per day is dangerous, causing nerve function impairment!

Vitamin B12

Cyanocobalamin is both light- and oxygen-stable, as well as resistant to low levels of heat. Vitamin B12 serves as a growth factor in children, with no effect on weight gain in healthy children. However, B12 functions to add height to overweight youngsters until they conform to correct height/weight ratios.

Moreover, B12 will add weight— given proper calorie intake—to underweight children. Vitamin B12 is needed for the body’s conversion of certain amino acids and is absolutely necessary for normal red blood cell development and function. It is used in microgram amounts in the treatment of various types of anemia and is usually given by injection, rather than by mouth for those problems.

B12 deficiency results in anemia and anemia-related central nervous system damage such as “combined system disease,” which presents these symptoms: loss of the senses, optic damage, mental disorders (See B1 deficiency), reflex changes, and loss of coordination.

Deficiency can be caused by a strictly vegetarian diet— no meat of any type or meat byproducts—by the presence of a fish-ingested tape-worm, by surgical or traumatic damage to the stomach and/or intestines, by lack of absorption as a result of tuberculosis, or Crohn’s disease, or any inflammation of the lower intestine, or bacterial problems such as being trapped in intestinal blind loops, instead of in their proper locations(s), and, of course, the same kinds of interference as with other B vitamins.

Major trauma will increase the need for B12, but medical literature is not in agreement on the amount of increase. However, doubling the USRDA of 5.0 micrograms seems to be the lower limit.

Other B Complex Vitamins


Niacin is relatively stable and is not affected by ordinary cooking processes. It is necessary for the body’s oxidation-reduction reactions, and for carbohydrate metabolism.

It is found in two forms: nicotinic acid and niacinamide, and can be produced within the body from the amino acid “tryptophan,” with 60 milligrams of tryptophan being converted into 1 milligram of nicotinic acid.

A diet that is composed of poor quality protein and lacking in tryptophan, such as that based largely on corn products, can cause niacin deficiency and can lead pellagra.

Pellagra means, literally, “rough skin” and presents numerous symptoms, including the “Four Ds:” diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death. These Four Ds represent many individual symptoms, including loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain (all early symptoms), tissue atrophy in the tongue and esophagus, lesions in the colon, intestinal cysts, ulcers, bloody and watery stools, and, in approximately half the cases, the absence of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

Bad Skin From Vitamin Deficiency

Liver damage may occur, leading to fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies. Blood vessels will dilate and interfere with circulation. Skin problems, such as eruptions that resemble a sunburn, may appear. Sores may appear, change color and darken, fall apart and cause scan. These sores are easily affected by sunlight and any kind of heat, and they may become inflamed and overly sensitive to pressure or circulation problems.

Central nervous system problems, such as damage to ganglion cells in the brain, impairment of nerve impulse transmission, slowly failing vision, headaches, dizziness, loss of ability to sleep, depression, memory loss or impairment, any of the other mental problems listed under B1 and B6, and problems in walking can result from a niacin deficiency, and is usually found along with other B- Complex vitamin deficiencies, and may be the cause of them.

Pellagra usually is aided in its development by a combination of hard physical labor and exposure to sunlight. In some non-specific circumstances, diabetics may develop niacin deficiency.

Diets containing large amounts of the amino acid, leucine, may interfere with the conversion of tryptophan into nicotinic acid.

The effect of trauma raises niacin requirements to as much as 100 milligrams per day from the USRDA of 13 to 20 milligrams per day. Niacin is rapidly depleted by major trauma because of the low amount present in the blood and liver, which together contain approximately 100 milligrams.


Biotin is a heat- and light-stable vitamin that exists in both water-soluble and water-insoluble forms. It is relatively unaffected by normal cooking processes, but the water-soluble form can be lost from cooked foods that have been subjected to total water loss.

The body requires Biotin for the conversion of various “-acetate’s” and acids, including the amino-acids, and is used functionally in the body’s processing of “Pantothenic Acid,” another of the B-Complex vitamins.

Doctors have successfully treated cases of childhood “dandruff” with Biotin. Biotin deficiency symptoms include dandruff, skin lesions, unusual gray skin color, muscle pain and/or incoordination, unusual desire for sleep, lassitude, depression, loss of appetite, and localized nerve dysfunction.

Deficient states may come about due to lack of dietary intake, impaired synthesis by intestinal micro-organisms through the use of oral antibiotics, radiation exposure, etc., or by the presence of avidin in excessive amounts in the diet. Avidin is a glycoprotein that is present in, as far as is known, all egg whites.

Because egg yolks contain large amounts of biotin, the presence of avidin is not normally a problem. But, if for any reason a diet should contain no egg yolks, the avidin will combine with any biotin to form a new, more stable complex that can’t be used by the body.

The USRDA for biotin is about 300 micrograms. Dietary sources of biotin are relatively low, with 31/2 ounce portions of most foods supplying less than 10 micrograms each. Nuts, fresh whole eggs, and beef liver all contain much higher amounts, and sprouting seeds contain more than enough per portion to meet the USRDA. Because of the low potential food source intake, overdoses are nearly impossible.

Pantothenic acid

Pantothenic acid, another of the B-Complex vitamins, is stable in air but becomes unstable when subjected to dry heat as in baking. This vitamin is essential for carbohydrate and fat metabolism, as well as cell growth and central nervous system development.

Human bodies require both biotin and folic acid in order to make use of any ingested pantothenic acid, and pantothenic acid itself is required for the body to use other B-Complex vitamins such as B2.

In the 80s, there were medical authorities who did not recognize any deficiency signs of this vitamin, and the USRDA had not been firmly established at 10 milligrams per day as it is now. Most of the deficiency symptoms are either similar to or identical with those of other B-Complex related problems.

Burning and itching, along with numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, have been attributed to lack of this vitamin. So have mental problems, such as headaches, being easily upset, or quarrelsome and hot-tempered.

Mental Problems

However, other, less-common problems such as dizziness, sudden heart rate increases above normal upon exertion, lowered blood pressure when standing upright, constipation, indigestion, weak hand-unclenching action, and hyperactive deep tendon reflexes.

Because it is present in virtually all foods and produced in human intestines by the bacteria E. Coli, it is nearly impossible to be deficient under normal circumstances!

Because the concern of this article is not with normal times, and because anything that would kill intestinal bacteria would leave people wide open to becoming deficient, it is necessary to be prepared to handle this, as well as other deficiencies.

The effects of trauma alone could cause such a deficiency as mild trauma raises the requirement to around 18 milligrams per day, and severe trauma ups it to around 40 milligrams per day—four times the USRDA!

A note of warning to diabetics: There is an opinion that deficiency lowers the tolerance to insulin. Check this with your doctor.

Folic acid

Folic acid is relatively unstable and is easily lost from foods stored at room temperature and during cooking. Exposure to sunlight rapidly destroys Folic acid that is present in solutions.

Human bodies require this vitamin for normal blood production, prevention of several types of anemia, particularly nutritionally based anemia, the normal metabolism of growing cells, tissues, and many of the amino acids.

Folic acid stimulates reticulocytosis, which aids in wound healing, and has been used to treat sprue, which is a chronic disease that affects the digestive system in such a manner so as to interfere with its absorption of fats and certain vitamins.

Deficiency symptoms include megaloblastic anemia, lowered blood cell production and/or altered blood cells, irritability, and, of course, sprue. The symptoms of sprue are loss of appetite, extreme weight loss, and pale, greasy, unformed, foul-smelling, watery stools and/or diarrhea.

In addition, Folic acid deficiency may result in stomach cramps and flatulence and inflammation of the mouth. There is some difference in medical opinion as to whether or not folic acid deficiency causes or is caused by sprue, but either way, folic acid enters into this picture.

As with the other vitamins, intake can be affected by oral antibiotics such as sulphonamides, and/or anything which disturbs intestinal absorption, as well as by increased requirements.

The USRDA is 400 micrograms. This is doubled by pregnancy, quadrupled by mild trauma, and raised to 2.5 milligrams by severe trauma.

Any deficiency during pregnancy can result in fetal deformities. Folk acid is present in most foods, with animal liver having the highest content, but most non-meat foods are quite low in this vitamin. Plant greens such as mustard, spinach, and lettuce contain as much or more than any other plant source with about 50 micrograms per 3 ½ ounce portion.

Overdoses from natural sources would be almost impossible because toxic effects such as seizures have been reported in people who took 100 milligrams per day for several days-100 milligrams is about 250 times the USRDA!


Vitamin B deficiency can cause both physical and mental damage, and it’s useful to know what types of vitamins you should stockpile and which is the daily intake recommended for each person. In normal times, vitamin B deficiency is rarely seen, but during a lockdown scenario, when proper food intake is not available, it may cause serious problems.

This article has been written by James H. Redford MD for Prepper’s Will.

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