Vitamin B6

The A-B-C's of Vitamin Supplements

Peer Reviewed

Active senior exercising in the parkVitamin B6 (also known as pyridoxine) is involved in most bodily functions. It affects both mental and physical health. This vitamin is required for the production of hydrochloric acid (digestion) and aids in the body's absorption of fats and protein.

Additionally, it balances sodium and potassium levels and promotes the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B6 may work to prevent arteriosclerosis. It hinders the formation of homocysteine, a toxin known to affect heart muscle and influences cholesterol to deposit in heart muscle. Vitamin B6 is given to patients who overdose on isoniazid (a drug used to treat tuberculosis) and to treat nervous system disorders and anemia associated with use of this drug. Even the effects of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may be reduced because pyridoxine acts as a mild diuretic to reduce swelling.

The symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include depression, confusion, chapped lips, mouth sores, and acne, inflammation of the mouth and gums, and irritability. Since this vitamin is water-soluble and not stored in the body, it is important an adequate amount is either consumed through food or supplements.

Dosage Guidelines

  • Men 2.0-mg daily
  • Women 1.5-mg daily
  • Pregnant Women 2.2-mg daily
  • Nursing Mothers 2.1-mg daily

A regular healthy diet usually supplies an appropriate amount of vitamin B6 to keep the body in good working order. However, if a vitamin B6 supplement is taken, take with water following a meal. Check with a medical professional prior to giving this vitamin to a child or if prescription medications are taken on a regular basis.

Foods that contain the highest amounts of vitamin B6 include carrots, chicken, eggs, fish, meats, peas, spinach, sunflower seeds, walnuts and wheat germ. Other sources include avocado, bananas, beans, broccoli, brown rice, cabbage, cantaloupe, corn, potatoes and soybeans.

Vitamin B6 is readily available (pyridoxine hydrochloride) in multivitamin and B-complex formulas. Dosages vary from 1-mg to 150-mg in tablet, chewable, and liquid forms.

Neurologic disorders may be caused by taking high doses (200-mg or more daily) of vitamin B6.

This vitamin interferes with the effectiveness of Levodopa, a drug used to treat Parkinson's disease.

Some medicines may increase the need for vitamin B6, including certain antidepressants, estrogen therapy and oral contraceptives. Diuretics and cortisone drugs may block the absorption of vitamin B6 by the body.

Disclaimer: Many people report feeling improvement in their condition and/or general well-being taking dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements. The Editorial Board of, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer-reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.

Updated on: 03/08/16
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Thomas G. Lowe, MD
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