Most people who have a healthy and varied diet will consume all the B vitamins they need without the need for additional supplements. However, one of the side effects of cancer treatment is a lack of appetite and perhaps not eating enough of all the healthy things your body needs. This means your reserves of vitamins, including Vitamin B, can be depleted.
You might have been told by well-meaning friends and family to take a B vitamin or a multi-vitamin tablet to top you up, but be careful! Vitamin supplements, that are normally considered perfectly safe, might not be when you have cancer or are undergoing treatment. In particular, there is evidence that some B vitamin supplements should not be taken as they can intensify or weaken the effects of chemotherapy drugs.
So, before you reach for any vitamin supplements you must speak with your doctor or medical specialist first. And if you are already taking any supplements – inform your doctor.
What are B Vitamins
B vitamins help the body convert food into energy (metabolism), create new blood cells, and maintain healthy skin cells, brain cells, and other body tissues. There are 8 B vitamins in total, each one playing a vital part in keeping the body functioning.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is vital for the healthy growth and function of organs, including the brain and heart
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) helps break down fats and drugs.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) is essential to maintain healthy skin, nerves, and digestion
- Vitamin B-5 (pantothenic acid) is essential for the health of the brain and nervous system
- Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) helps make new red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. It also helps keep the immune system strong
- Vitamin B7 (biotin) is often taken to strengthen hair and nails. In fact, it’s also known as Vitamin H - for hair
- Vitamin B-9 (folic acid) helps to make DNA and genetic material. During pregnancy, folic acid may reduce the risk of certain birth defects
- Vitamin B-12 (cobalamin) is vital for life itself as it helps make deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). It’s important for brain function, healthy nerve cells and red blood cell formation.
Where do B Vitamins come from?
People can usually get all the B vitamins that they need from a balanced healthy omnivorous, vegetarian, or vegan diet. However, animal products are a major source of B vitamins, so people following restricted diets should take extra steps to ensure that they are eating the right foods. In particular, chemo patients on a vegan diet should endeavor to check out food high in Vitamin B (and other essential vitamins and minerals) and ensure they're on the menu.
Some of the best food sources of B vitamins include:
- organ meats
- leafy greens
- enriched and fortified bread and cereals
If you have cancer and are undergoing treatment, you should try to get al the B vitamins you need by eating a variety of healthy foods. However, if you believe you have any B Vitamin deficiency and it’s affecting your health, see your doctor and ask to have your vitamin levels tested.
Above all, even if you think you need them - do not take any Vitamin B supplements before consulting with your medical team.
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Disclaimer: Penguin Cold Caps has compiled this blog from information gathered from reputable cancer websites and sources. We are not subject matter experts. If you require more information about B Vitamins and how they may conflict with your chemo and cancer, please seek advice from a medical expert.
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