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Stress Management for Health Course

Stress and B-Group Vitamins


"B-vitamins are essential for the manufacture of chemical transmitters such as serotonin, the chemical which controls moods and other enzymes in the nervous system.  If levels drop, the body copes less well with stress."  (Dr J. Herbert)


The B-group vitamins which are B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and folic acid are collectively known as the anti-stress vitamins because of the important role they play in keeping the nervous system healthy.  The typical western diet is high in refined carbohydrates which have a lot of their b-group vitamins milled out and this is further complicated by the fact the body needs b-group vitamins in order to process carbohydrates.  Whole grains retain all of their b-group vitamins and fibre, however when they are refined into refined grains like white flour they can loose many of the vital B-group vitamins and minerals.  Stoneground Flour has high B vitamins. Rice when it is milled into white rice retains less than half its Vitamin B6, a third of its B3 and only 20% of its original B1. 

B-group vitamins make us less sensitive to stress for example in one study research subjects who were under stress were given daily vitamin B-complex and their stress levels were assessed before and after the treatment and the data found that people were more stress resistant after a month of taking the vitamin B-complex.

The B group vitamins are essential for nervous function, vitamin B1 (thiamine) in particular may reduce stress-induced anxiety and improve mood.  In a study of young Welsh women, there was an association between low thiamine levels (Vitamin B1) and feeling less composed, less confident and more depressed.  Yet when these women received vitamin supplements for 3 months there was a marked improvement in mood in those whose thiamine levels increased.  According to Professor Benton who carried out the research at the University of Wales in Swansea, about 6% of this Welsh sample of 20 year olds had thiamine levels so low that their mood was adversely affected.

Vitamin B6 is involved in the manufacture of a neurochemical in the brain called serotonin.  Low serotonin makes the sympathetic nervous system (which triggers the fight/flight response) more sensitive, making us more vulnerable to stress.

B-group vitamins are needed to break down the carbohydrates that we eat; usually the body can use the B-group vitamins that naturally occur within the food that is being metabolised, however many of the foods we eat have the b-group vitamins refined out and so therefore the body has to rob its own stores to process the food.


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