Vitamin B6 deficiency is a result of this vitamin being absorbed in the body by disease, drugs or an unusually quick metabolism. Vitamin B6 exists as pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine in the human body. These are its three natural forms, which are converted by the human body to become biologically active. It is also found in the food of plants and animals and is a cofactor in the metabolism of certain amino acids, lipids and carbohydrates. Vitamin B6 is also of critical importance for nucleic acid biosynthesis.
Vitamin B6 deficiency is rare because it is present in so many foods. Foods that are especially rich in Vitamin B6 include wheat, yeast, soy beans, sunflower seeds and walnuts. When food is cooked, some of this vitamin is killed off. Treating a deficiency of vitamin B6 should include consuming extra amounts of these foods. Taking an oral Vitamin B6 capsule is also a treatment option. The best treatment, however, is to treat the cause of the deficiency.
People who are depressed are often experiencing Vitamin B6 deficiency symptoms, as this vitamin heavily regulates mood disorders. Vitamins B1-B5 also affect mood and mental health, and patients who experience depression or similar conditions should look for vitamin supplements. Additionally, a deficiency of Vitamin B6 is usually present in women taking birth control or estrogen. Vitamin B6 is often taken for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), but only small, monitored doses should be consumed.
Drugs such as penicillin, isoniazid and hydralazine interact with the pyridoxal phosphate in the body, causing a deficiency of Vitamin B6. A polyneuropathy, or neurological problem that occurs when several peripheral nerves in the body stop functioning at the same time, can happen after large doses of Vitamin B6 are taken over a long time period. Other symptoms of Vitamin B6 deficiency include anemia, seizures, weakness, insomnia, aggression and mental confusion. Rarely, the loss of Vitamin B6 is a problem in children or infants who have extremely fast metabolism, and the most common signs of Vitamin B6 deficiency in small children are seizures. While no single test can measure Vitamin B6 levels, measuring pyridoxal phosphate is the easiest way to test for this vitamin in the body.
Taking extra pyridoxine can usually correct a deficiency of Vitamin B6. More pyridoxine should be taken in patients who experience this vitamin deficiency due to fast metabolism. Establishing appropriate levels of Vitamin B6 in the body is a slow process, and some patients never reach recommended levels.