Vitamin B6 plays an essential role in the metabolic process and in forming hemoglobin. It may help with nausea during pregnancy, improve depression, and prevent cognitive decline.

An estimated 10% of people in the United States have vitamin B6 deficiency, and you may not be aware that you’re one of them.

This vitamin plays an important role in over 100 enzyme reactions and healthy hemoglobin formation. Serious health consequences such as nerve pain and a weakened immune system can result from not having enough in the body.

The body doesn’t naturally produce vitamin B6, so it’s essential that you consume it in foods such as chicken, pork, and bananas or through supplements.

If you take oral supplements to boost vitamin B6 levels, it’s important to avoid excessive amounts to prevent side effects and damage to the nervous system.

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin also known as pyridoxine.

It’s involved in:

  • the formation of hemoglobin
  • the metabolization of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates for energy
  • immune system functioning
  • fetal and infant brain development
  • creating neurotransmitters

Vitamin B6 may help:

Remember that even if you believe additional vitamin B6 might benefit your emotional, cognitive, or physical health, it’s important to talk with your doctor before taking any supplements. They can offer advice about appropriate dosages and consider your overall health needs.

Vitamin B6 can be found in a variety of foods including:

  • pork
  • chicken and turkey
  • soybeans
  • peanuts
  • oats
  • wheat germ
  • bananas
  • milk
  • some fortified breakfast cereals

Many people can get enough vitamin B6 through the foods they eat.

But if you eat only a plant-based diet or have certain medical conditions, you may find it difficult to achieve the necessary daily amounts of vitamin B6 solely through the foods you eat.

Between 28-36% of people in the United States take an oral supplement including vitamin B6. Those who are ages 51 years or older and younger than 9 years are the most likely to take one.

Oral vitamin B6 supplements can offer a way to raise the level of vitamin B6 in the body.

But it’s possible to have nerve damage, skin rashes, and nausea when you have high levels of vitamin B6 supplements, so it’s important to stay within the recommended upper limits.

Symptoms of a vitamin B6 deficiency can include:

  • skin rashes (also known as seborrheic dermatitis)
  • cracked or sore lips
  • glossitis (a swollen, smooth, inflamed tongue)
  • increased feelings of anxiety, depression, and irritability
  • fatigue (low energy)
  • a weakened immune system
  • pain or tingling in the hands and feet
  • seizures

In addition to these physical and emotional symptoms, people with low levels of vitamin B6 may have a greater chance of developing:

Some people more likely to have difficulty getting enough vitamin B6 are those with:

It’s important that all people avoid excessive amounts of vitamin B6 from supplements. Eating foods high in vitamin B6 is unlikely to cause serious negative side effects, but experts have noted nerve damage and pain from taking excessive supplement amounts.

For children under 1 year of age, experts recommend that the only sources of vitamin B6 be breastmilk, formula, or solids.

It’s also important that people taking a medication known to interact with vitamin B6 create a plan with their doctor to ensure they can maintain healthy levels of this essential vitamin.

Some medications that vitamin B6 can interact with include:

  • cycloserine (an antibiotic frequently used in the treatment of tuberculosis)
  • some antiepileptic drugs such as valproic acid, carbamazepine, and phenytoin
  • theophylline (a drug used to treat shortness of breath, wheezing, and other breathing problems)

Vitamin B6 is essential for hemoglobin formation and involved in over 100 enzyme reactions. Consuming healthy amounts promotes brain, heart, and eye health. It can also be useful in improving depression and reducing nausea during pregnancy.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency such as skin rashes, fatigue, or painful tingling in the hands and feet, it’s important to talk with your doctor. They can suggest dietary changes and recommend appropriate amounts of vitamin B6 supplements.