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Symptoms and Causes of Vitamin B8 Deficiency

Author:   Peter Sedesse MD

Energy related Symptoms of Vitamin B8 Deficiency

As with most of the B-complex vitamins, Vitamin B8´s major role is in the conversion of food into energy that is usable inside the cells of our body.  For this reason, a deficiency of Vitamin B8 will lead to some obvious symptoms related to lack of energy.  The problem is many of these symptoms progress very slowly so are easily dismissed.  Energy related symptoms of a Vitamin B8 deficiency include tiredness, muscle weakness, rapid fatigue, mental confusion and depression.  Because of the nature of these symptoms, they are frequently ignored or attributed to some other health issue besides a vitamin deficiency.

Skin, Hair and Eye related Symptoms of Vitamin B8 Deficiency

The most obvious symptoms of Vitamin B8 Deficiency include problems with skin, hair and eyes.  After a significant amount of time with decreased levels of B8, rashes will begin to appear on the face, normally around the eyes.  There will usually be poor skin quality over the entire body, but on the face and around the eyes will be the worse. Skin will become dry and cracked.

People suffering from a deficiency of Vitamin B8 will also develop redness within their eyes known as conjunctivitis.  This is where the white part of your eye becomes inflamed and red.  The eyes can also become itchy and irritable which can lead to allergy-type symptoms like a runny nose.

Finally, hair quality is usually drastically affected.  This is often a very early symptom of Vitamin B8 Deficiency as hair can  become dry and brittle after only a few days.  As the deficiency continues, hair quality will continue to decrease rapidly.  Symptoms like loss of hair color, dry flat hair, and eventual hair loss can occur rapidly.

The Immune System and Vitamin B8 Deficiency

There are two different ways the immune system is affected by a Vitamin B8 deficiency.  The first is related to skin quality.  As skin quality decreases, the dry and cracked skin allows bacteria and fungus to enter the body and cause infections.  This is one of the more dangerous symptoms of a B8 Deficiency.

Also, like many vitamins and minerals, Vitamin B8 is used directly by the immune system to produce an effective immune response.

Causes of Vitamin B8 Deficiency

Vitamin B8 Deficiency is rarely caused by poor diet as it is found in almost all food types and only a small amount is needed by the body to avoid the symptoms listed above.  The major cause of deficiency is the inability of the body to absorb the nutrient properly.  Our ability to absorb Vitamin B8 deceases as we get older and so the amount we should be eating needs to be increased.  There are also certain intestinal diseases that can drastically decrease our ability to absorb Vitamin B8.

Antibiotics are another cause of Vitamin B8 deficiency.  Like most nutrients, our bodies actually need the help of  ´good´ bacteria that is located in our intestines.  These probiotics help extract the vitamins and minerals from food and make it easier for our bodies to easily absorb them.  The use of antibiotics will kill these helpful bacteria, thus decreasing out ability to absorb Vitamin B8 from food.  Sulfa-based antibiotics seem to have the largest effect on the probiotics needed for Vitamin B8.  Anyone who uses antibiotics long-term should pay careful attention to the early symptoms of a Vitamin B8 deficiency along with deficiencies of many other nutrients.

Finally, alcohol abuse can cause Vitamin B8 deficiency.  Alcohol not only decreases the absorption of Vitamin B8 in the body, but Vitamin B8 also is destroyed by alcohol.  Moderate use of alcohol is usually not a problem because Vitamin B8 is found in so many different food types and the minimum amount needed is easily obtain.  However, severe alcohol abuse, or moderate use in the elderly can cause a deficiency of Vitamin B8.

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