Understanding Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine



Pyridoxine is needed to make more than 60 different enzymes, help the immune system stay in top gear, keep red blood cells red, and help nerves communicate with the rest of the body. When pyridoxine teams up with folic acid and cobalamin, the risk of heart disease drops. “Pyro-” is a Greek prefix, meaning “fire”. Pyridoxine gets its name from pyridine, a highly flammable liquid.

The Role It Plays

We need pyridoxine to turn the proteins we eat into the proteins we need and is also needed to covert carbohydrates from the form we store them in into the form we use for energy.

Hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells, along with hormones, neurotransmitters, and enzymes, all proteins, need pyridoxine. We also need it to make prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that regulate things like blood pressure.

Pyridoxine is crucial for converting the foods we eat into carbohydrates or fat the body can store – and for the stored forms into forms we can use when we need extra energy.

Normal amounts of pyridoxine keep the body working normally. Extra amounts of pyridoxine does a lot, especially for the heart and immune system, and for asthma and diabetes.

Pyridoxine is needed to turn amino acids into all the other proteins the body needs.

Heart Health

Pyridoxine, folic acid and colalamin combine to fight heart disease by breaking down homocysteine. You need all three working together for the maximum effect. On its own pyridoxine plays some other roles that also help prevent heart disease. One of the most important is keeping red blood cells from getting sticky and clumping together, or aggregating. When that happens the cells release powerful chemicals that eventually cause atherosclerosis – deposits that clog up your arteries and could lead to a heart attack or stroke. If enough cells clump together, they form a clot that blocks an artery (heart attack or stroke). If you’re at risk for heart disease pyridoxine supplements could slow down the process. Talk to your doctor before trying them.

Here’s an interesting fact: People who have just had a heart attack have low levels of pyridoxine. Researchers are not sure if this is the cause or effect but are currently looking into it.

Immune Health

You need all the B’s for the immune system to work right, but pyridoxine is key. Without it, you can’t produce enough of the special infection-fighting cell that fend off illness. People with low immunity – alcoholics, the elderly, cancer patients, and others – also usually have low pyridoxine levels.


Some people with asthma benefit from pyridoxine supplements, possibly because their bodies don’t use it properly to begin with. Taking extra may bring their pyridoxine level closer to normal, which reduces their wheezing and cuts back on how often they have attacks.

Diabetic Complications

People with diabetes sometimes get diabetic neuropathy, a painful nerve condition. The symptoms are similar to the symptoms you would get with severe pyridoxine deficiency – and many diabetics are low on pyridoxine. Some researches say that neuropathy could be prevented by taking 150 mg of pyridoxine, talk to your doctor first.

Carpel Tunnel

To make the wrist joint flexible, bones, ligaments, and muscles all come tightly together leaving only a narrow passage – the carpal tunnel – for the nerves leading to your hand. If any swelling (even a little) happens it presses on the passage and squeezes the nerves. That’s where you get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), a painful problem that is very common. Along with physical therapy pyridoxine supplements (150 mg a day) might help relieve the swelling. Talk to your doctor first.


Taking 50 mg a day in the days before your period might help with PMS symptoms including depression, irritability, headaches, and fluid retention.


Pyridoxine may help stop the growth of melanoma. This is exciting news because right now melanoma is very hard to treat. Stay tunes on the research being done.


Some people hospitalized for depression have low pyridoxine levels and seem to get better if they take a supplement. The pyridoxine supplements don’t help if the levels are normal to begin with.

Kidney Stones

If you get the calcium oxalate type kidney stone, pyridoxine supplements along with extra magnesium, could keep the stones from coming back. Talk to your doctor before you try this.

Cancer Drug Toxicity

The nasty side effects of some cancer drugs, such as vincristine, are reduced by extra pyridoxine.

Morning Sickness

A small amount of pyridoxine (25 mg) seems to work for about one out of three women. Talk to your doctor about supplements.

Research is still ongoing but pyridoxine may help with some forms of infertility.

Pyridoxine research continues on ways to help fight cancer.

Types of Pyridoxine

Pyridoxine (also called pyridoxol or PN), pyridoxol (also called PL), and pyridoxomine are all closely related versions of the same thing. To keep things less complicated they’re lumped together as pyridoxine, because that’s the form usually used in vitamin supplements.

The RDA for pyridoxine is in most multivitamin supplements; it’s also in B vitamin formulas.

Supplements of pyridoxine alone come in tablets or capsules in sixes ranging from 25 to 500 mg.

Some manufacturers offer pyridoxine supplements in the form of P-5-P (pyridoxal – 5 phosphate) tablets. The claim is that this form is more active and more absorbable and therefore worth the extra money. Unless you have liver disease (in which case your doctor will most likely prescribe P-5P shots, not tablets), stick to plain old pyridoxine. It works just as well and costs a lot less.


The RDA is based on how much protein the average person eats. The RDA assumes that an average adult male eats about 126 g of protein a day and the average adult woman eats about 100 g a day. If you eat less protein than the RDA assumes, you still need the RDA for pyridoxine. If you eat more protein, you need to increase your pyridoxine intake to keep up with the extra protein.

Age Pyridoxine
0 – 0.5 years 0.3 mg
0.5 – 1 year 0.6 mg
1 – 3 years 1.0 mg
4 – 6 years 1.1 mg
7 – 10 1.4 mg
Men 11 – 14 years 1.7 mg
Men 15 + 2.0 mg
Women 11 – 14 years 1.4 mg
Women 15 – 18 1.5 mg
Women 19 + 1.6 mg
Pregnant Women 2.2 mg
Nursing Women 2.1 mg


Safe Dosage

Be very cautious about taking pyridoxine supplements. This is one of the few water-soluble supplements that actual overdoses occur on. Too much pyridoxine causes neurological problems such as numbness or tingling in the hands and feet and trouble walking. The symptoms usually go away if you cut back on the dose, but sometimes they’re permanent.

Neurological symptoms usually only happen when taking really big doses of over 2,000 mg a day. Most people can take up to 500 mg a day without any problems, but even 200 mg a day could cause trouble. To be on the safe side, take no more than 50 mg a day of pyridoxine.

Make It Work Better

You need to have good levels of magnesium – at least the RDA- for pyridoxine to work properly. Pyridoxine is also needs riboflavin, Vitamin C, and Selenium.

Good Sources

Here is a rare case where you won’t be told to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables: most of them don’t have much or any pyridoxine. The best plant choices are avocados, bananas, mangoes, and potatoes (skin on) with bananas and potatoes being the highest sources. Whole grains are also good with oats being the highest. High quality protein choices are good sources of pyridoxine. Chicken, beef, eggs, fish, and dairy – though milk, dairy products, and eggs don’t have much – they’re still good sources. Also, pyridoxine is added to flour, corn meal, breakfast cereal, and many baked goods.


We get so much pyridoxine from food that it’s not likely at all to be deficient. If you’re low on pyridoxine, you’re probably also low on the other B’s, usually from poor diet.

Pyridoxine is needed for a lot of different roles in the body, but the first place a deficiency shows up is usually your immune system – you get sick more. That might be blamed on a lot of things, but the next common symptom, anemia, or red blood cells that aren’t carrying enough oxygen, is the clincher. There are different kinds of anemia, but your doctor can tell from a blood test if yours is caused by pyridoxine deficiency. This will clear up with a better diet and supplements.

More than 40 different prescription drugs affect pyridoxine levels, though, and there are some other reasons for being low on pyridoxine:

If you’re pregnant or nursing, The bay is taking up a lot of pyridoxine, so you would need about 0.5 to 0.6 mg extra a day.

If you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, milk and dairy products are relatively poor sources of pyridoxine and most fruits and vegetables have little or no pyridoxine, so vegans have to get theirs mostly from nuts and whole grains.

If you take birth control pills your pyridoxine level could be 15 to 20 percent below normal. Talk to your doctor about supplements.

If you abuse alcohol you’ve got about a 1/3 chance of being deficient in pyridoxine.

If you smoke, tobacco blocks your use of pyridoxine.

If you take certain prescription drugs that make you excrete more pyridoxine, including: hydralazine (Apresoline). Used to treat high blood pressure; isoniazid (Laniazid), used to treat tuberculosis; and penicillamin (Cuprimine), used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Talk to your doctor about taking a complete B supplement.

If you take theophylline to treat asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. This drug is so widely prescribed- it’s effective but has a lot of bad side effects, including headaches, nausea, irritability, tremors, sleeping problems, and even seizures. The side effects are caused because theophylline blocks the way the body uses pyridoxine. Even if you’re taking enough through your food, the drug is keeping you from using it. Pyridoxine supplements have been shown to reduce the side effects of theophylline, especially tremors. If you’re taking this drug, talk to your doctor about pyridoxine supplements before you try them.

Large doses of pyridoxine can make the drug phenytoin (Dilantin), which helps control epilepsy and seizures, break down too quickly in your system. If you take this drug, talk to your doctor about taking any supplement before you try them.


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