I originally wrote this post in 2009 and while I’ve left much of my older writing in tact, aside from some small edits, I felt a need to update this one. I’ve been taking B vitamins since 2005 and I’ve learned some things along the way.
I take St. John’s Wort for mood support. It’s touted as a mood enhancer that promotes a sense of well-being. It too works for me but I noticed it didn’t do too much around pre-menstrual time when I am easily irritated. I’ve also tried kava tea, holy basil, ashwagandha and schizandra and use everything from peppermint oil to ginger for occasional ailments.
UPDATE: Kava has been tied to liver issues with excessive use but it will chill you out. Schizandra makes my stomach talk. No upset. It just talks. I like ashwagandha and holy basil.
I began taking a B-complex for energy and metabolism support at least three years ago. Truthfully, B-complex generally gives me more energy than a double latte. Here’s the proof: A few months ago, I was traveling by plane on little sleep. I don’t sleep on planes, trains or buses unless I’m sick. I knew it was only a matter of time before I completely crashed. When I landed at my destination airport, I seriously considered getting a quick caffeine pick me up, but decided against it. In my purse were a stash of B-complex vitamins. I took several with water. From what I’ve read, B-vitamins in excess are not likely to be toxic. They are water-soluble so if your body can’t absorb them, they pass through via urine, sweat, etc. I walked from my terminal to baggage claim (a little shy of a mile). I don’t know if it was the vitamins, the exercise or both, but I was re-energized. That energy lasted until about 10 pm that night and that was long enough to get me through an event. I think I only slowed down because I didn’t eat a whole lot and I had a few drinks. I haven’t forgotten how the vitamin pick me up worked, and whenever I feel sluggish, I take B-complex. I’ve never tried that 4-hour energy stuff you see on TV but I bet it works.
Toward the end of my outdoor walking season, I noticed that I was feeling tired more often. I was under quite a bit of stress and I’m sure that contributed, still, sometimes I was absolutely exhausted. I visit medical information and holistic health sites regularly and though I had no other symptoms…. Oh WAIT. I did have one major symptom that was wigging me out. An obsession with Walmart brand anti-bacterial liquid hand soap. No other brand. I loved the smell of it and would wash my hands many times through the day so I could breathe it in. My hands were very clean, but also chapped! At first I thought I was on my way to OCD but I already knew what it was because I’d looked it up before: pica. It’s a desire to smell, taste or consume soap, detergent, dirt, ashes, chew ice chips, etc. I didn’t eat it but the main problem with my hand washing? Antibacterial products contain triclosan – which is actually a pesticide – and it is easily absorbed through the skin. Pica is common in pregnant women but is also a sign of…. anemia.
I knew iron deficiency can cause anemia so I made some small dietary changes just in case. I haven’t had blood work yet, but I’ve had family members who’ve had anemia from time to time. It’s not that my diet is all bad, I just don’t eat large portions. I found a list of foods that are rich in iron and added those. I searched for more info on anemia and found another common cause is a B-12 deficiency. I didn’t know there were different types! To test my theory (anemic or on the way to becoming anemic), I started an iron supplement on a small daily dosage. I monitored it for a month or so and determined it was helping with my overall energy level. My soap obsession completely subsided. Aha.
I thought about the two types of anemia and decided I would get some separate B-12 tablets. I took those for a week or so…didn’t notice a huge difference. Then, while browsing in the supplement aisle, I came across sublingual B-12. It’s a potent dosage that goes under your tongue until dissolved. It was really easy to take so I stopped the tablets when I bought the sublingual B-12.
Here’s the wild part: I noticed a huge difference in my energy level and mood. I suffer from mild PMS nearly every month. I haven’t had a migraine in quite a while but they are often part of the week of hell. I’m usually irritable partially because of the discomfort I’m in. I stay away from people so as not to subject them to my fits of rage. One of the ways I know my monthly is coming is pain in my head – not quite a headache, just little twinges. I got those yesterday… and was like why is my head hurting?? I checked my calendar and sure enough, it was time. I thought back to the previous week and guess what? I can’t remember one crotchety day! My mood is even and stable. Holy crap. It has to be the B-12 because nothing else has changed.
Some research on B-12 online took me to several articles and studies about B-12 and its impact on mental health, mostly depression. The conclusions were astonishing. I also read that sublingual is the best absorption you can get outside of an injection. Now that I know how it impacts me, I’m never without my B complex, B-12 or St. John’s Wort.
Not all herbs and supplements are created equal. Here are a few Favorite Brands:
B-complex: Vitamin Shoppe brand 100 or 125. St. John’s Wort: Nature’s Way or Walmart’s Spring Valley. Ashwagandha: Vitamin Shoppe or Solaray Sublingual B12: Sundown Naturals 5000 mcg, Wellesse Liquid Iron. For overall health, I’m hooked on Capital 02 Living Bitters from All Africa Imports. The owner is a really good dude (and a client) with some excellent products. Tell him the “brownwoman” sent ya.
DISCLAIMER: Always check with your doctor before taking supplements and vitamins as they could interact with medication you’re taking. For example, vitamin E is a blood thinner so people on blood thinners for hypertension should not take excess vitamin E. Not all herbs are produced under strict standards. Look for reputable brands on Amazon and always check for contraindications. Some herbs will jack you up!