IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.
Phillipa was curled up on the large overstuffed armchair next to the fire with a really good book. She had just finished a delicious dinner with carrots, curried chicken and spinach and was feeling pleasantly full. The fire was flickering away, its flames dancing as if performing for Cirque du Soleil.
She was pleasantly relaxed after a long day at work. Her mind had reached a nice, calm state and she was beginning to feel the first tiny waves of sleepiness creep into her brain.
The sun had set about an hour earlier and the old farm house was dark inside except for the light Phillipa had turned on to read by.
The closest neighbour was about a quarter of a mile away so the house was bathed in quietness except for some raccoons squabbling outside and the thump of deer hooves close to the house as the deer chomped on the last vestiges of the flower garden.
There was no wind that night so Phillipa was jolted into reality as the back door slammed open with a loud bang.
Instantly her heart began to race. “What was that?” She thought in terror.
She unconsciously stopped breathing, her brain apparently telling her that the sound of air escaping from her lungs would prevent her from hearing.
Her entire body froze! Should she run or should she investigate.
“Running wasn’t a good idea,” she thought,” too far and too dark.”
Her cell phone in hand she decided to investigate. She could hear a clomping noise in the back hall. Now her fears began to subside slightly. Whatever it was was not human. That was probably a good thing. Whatever it was was not carnivorous. That was definitely a good thing. Whatever it was had hooves. “O.K. now what?” she thought.
Reaching for the hall light switch she turned the overhead light on and to her amazement and then mild amusement she looked down the hall at a very frightened young deer.
Upon seeing her it turned and fled back where it came from, down the hall and back out through the door it had inquisitively pushed open.
“O.K., now I really have to fix that door handle. That door simply has to close properly. I never want a scare like that again,” she said to herself, “never, never!”
Slowly her heart rate returned to normal. Her adrenalin levels dropped. Those neurotransmitters in her brain had certainly done their job.
She turned on more lights and secured all the doors this time.
Those neurotransmitters in her brain are called epinephrine and norepinephrine. They regulate our fight or flight response. They are created with the assistance of a vitamin called pyridoxal phosphate or Vitamin B6 as it is more commonly called. Without the ‘fight or flight response we would never have survived as a species because we would have ended up as some lion or tiger’s breakfast many, many centuries ago.
B6 is not only responsible in part for this response but for many other valuable chemical reactions which our bodies need to survive.
WHAT IS PYRIDOXAL PHOSPHATE ?
Vitamin B6 aka pyridoxal phosphate is a water soluble coenzyme derived from the natural forms of B6 found in food. The natural forms are called pyridoxal, pyridoxine and pyridoxamine.
It cannot be synthesized by the human body in any of its forms so it must be transported into the body. Once in the body it is vitally important to the functioning of about 100 enzymes that are used in catalyzing essential chemical reactions throughout our bodies.
The most important roll for pyridoxal phosphate is to assist enzymes in the reactions involving the metabolism.
PLP or vitamin B6 is involved in these metabolic processes:
1. Amino acid metabolism turning amino acids into proteins
Every time you enjoy a steak, a piece of salmon, a 3 bean salad something amazing happens in your body. Ingested proteins are broken down into amino acids and then built back up again into countless different proteins for your body’s many needs. The building blocks for every cell in your body.
When we eat protein it is broken down into amino acids and then our bodies use these amino acids to reconstruct a multitude of new proteins each with a specific function. ( Many of these amino acids are created within the body and do not have to be eaten.) For instance, muscles are made up of proteins so amino acids are used to create muscle fibers. Enzymes are proteins so amino acids are used to create many different types of enzymes. Your hair is made of proteins and so are your blood and your nails.
Vitamin B6 plays an important role as a coenzyme or partner in assisting certain enzymes to turn these amino acids into proteins.
2. Glucose metabolism as well as helping with the release of glucose from its glycogen storage units.
Need some energy. Well the simple sugar glucose is ready and waiting to get turned into a source for your body to use as energy. It is stored in the cells of your body in the form of glycogen. Vitamin B6 helps insulin get the glucose from your blood stream into the storage units and then it helps in the process to release it to be used by your body for energy so you can run around the block.
3. Fat metabolism: turning fat into energy.
After your body exhausts the glucose energy sources in your body it turns to the fat stores and proceeds to use these for its energy requirements. That is why low carb diets so quickly deplete fat stores. Keep in mind that this is not a particularly healthy way to lose weight as it creates other problems. A healthy diet consisting of moderate amounts of whole carbs will have the same effect over a longer period of time and is much more sustainable.
Again Vitamin B6 helps specified enzymes to metabolize these fat molecules into energy.
4. The synthesis of the neurotransmitters seratonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine and gamma-aminobutric acid.
Have you ever been faced with a charging tiger? Did you stand and fight back or run like hell? Epinephrine and norepinephrine are the neurotransmitters in our brains which produce the reactions to fight or take flight. Vitamin B6 is part of the process which involves the amino acid called tyrosine in creating norepinephrine and epinephrine.
Gamma-aminobutric acid is the neurotransmitter which keeps us calm by inhibiting excess neuron activity. It helps us achieve sound sleep, keeps our blood pressure normalized and is also believed to have pain blocking ability. Once again Vitamin B6 is instrumental in synthesizing this neurotransmitter.
5. Someone with a cold sneezes right in your face. Yeeech! Fortunately your body with the help of Vitamin B 6 produces histamine the response element to foreign invaders in our bodies. If you have a well developed immune system you may very well avoid catching that cold because histamine rallies the bodies defense system to destroy foreign invaders.
6. One of the most important things for marathon runners to maintain is the oxygen levels in their blood so that their muscles can keep moving. Not all of us are training for a marathon but it is important to your body to maintain a high oxygen level. Our oximeter readings (the measure of oxygen in our blood) should range between 95 to 100 percent. Under 90% is considered low. It is the hemoglobin in your blood that binds oxygen so that it can be carried throughout your body and vitamin B6 helps in the synthesis and functioning of hemoglobin so that we can get oxygen.
7. Proteins are the building blocks that build the cells in our bodies and keep them functioning. Amino acids are the building blocks that make proteins. Homocysteine is one of these amino acids but too much homocysteine can create inflammation leading to cardiovascular problems. Vitamin B6 is involved in converting homocysteine to other forms (cysteine, ammonia and alpha-ketobutyrate) thus helping to prevent cardiovascular problems.
8. Gene expression – As a coenzyme B6 helps to synthesis nucleic acids. Vitamin B6 acts as a coenzyme for a special reaction (one carbon metabolism) which is involved in the creation of nucleic acids. Nucleic acids carry the instructions from our DNA throughout our body. When B6 is deficient these instructions become corrupted and are not programmed into our cells correctly thus creating problems throughout our bodies including our immune system.
According to one study from the Netherlands B6 is also believed to play a role in decreasing the risk of Parkinson’s disease but more research is needed.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH PYRIDOXAL PHOSPHATE ?
Although a deficiency in vitamin B6 is rare it does occur in conjunction with other B vitamins. Those that are at the greatest risk are the elderly and alcoholics. As with other B vitamin deficiency the neurologic symptoms are irritability, depression and confusion. The physical symptoms are inflammation of the tongue, sores or ulcers in the mouth and ulcers of the skin at the corners of the mouth.
Because pyrodoxine plays a role in serotonin and other neurotransmitters depressed people often feel significantly better when they use moderate supplementation of vitamin B6.
WHAT HAPPENS IF WE GET TOO MUCH PYRIDOXAL PHOSPHATE ?
The only known toxic affect of Vitamin B6 is a painful condition known as sensory neuropathy from the supplemental form, pyrodoxine. This only happens if large amounts well over the recommended amounts are taken in supplemental form.
WHERE DO WE GET PYRIDOXAL PHOSPHATE ?
Far less Vitamin B6 is lost during the cooking, storage and processing of vegetables than of meats.
Up to 70% of B6 is lost from milk when it is dried.
B6 is lost completely when flour has the germ removed when it is processed.
Freezing and canning also results in the loss of B6.
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