And then there was the time vitamin B-complex drove me insane…

One of the first things you discover when you start investigating nutritional therapy is that vitamin B-complex formulations are badly designed. Never mind the dubious value of having most of the B vitamins in the same milligram amounts when no one can really say just what ratio they should ideally exist in. (Here’s a chart by Ronald Roth at illustrating the unbalancing effect that causes.) And never mind the fact that the majority of the complexes use forms of the vitamins that really don’t work well in people with stressed or overworked livers — cobalamin instead of methylcobalamin, folic acid instead of methylfolate, and pyridoxine instead of P5P (two types of vitamin B6). And what livers among us these days are not stressed and overworked?

The biggest problem with B-complex preparations is that to save on costs manufacturers seriously shortchange you on the more expensive biotin, vitamin B12, and folate. Typically only the US RDA amount is provided, which is pointless. 400 mcg of vitamin B12, only 3% of which is absorbed, will not do much for anyone.

If you rely on vitamin B-complex for a long period of time without taking additional B12, folate, and biotin supplements, you’ll eventually induce a deficiency of them. The extra, larger amounts of the other B vitamins, all of which work together and need each other to be processed, now have increased the need for that vitamin and you’re drawing on more of it than you were before you were taking the supplement. If you’re given a ton of one but too little of another, eventually those bigger doses will require too much of the lower doses.

I experienced this effect in a dramatic fashion when in an attempt to combat fatigue I decided to try 300 mg of vitamin B-complex a day, which is advocated in some circles as a fast way to get B vitamin levels up in situations where they are presumably very low — newly diagnosed celiacs for example, or recovering schizophrenics.

At the time, I was reading what someone had recommended as one of the best American detective novels ever, The Death of the Detective by Mark Smith. As it turned out, the book made the post-apocalyptic Children of Men look uplifting by comparison, and it didn’t even involve an apocalypse. As I read it, each menacing, creepy scene created stronger feelings of dread and anxiety. Paranoia carried over into my other activities — driving a car, walking around a store, etc. When I started shaking while reading one scene, it occurred to me that this probably wasn’t a normal reaction.

I figured the best culprit was the recent megadose experiment. I had taken extra vitamin B12 and biotin for a long time so I thought folic acid was probably the problem. I took 2 or 3 800 mcg methylfolate supplements and in about an hour was noticeably more relaxed.

I tossed the book without finishing it. Luckily for the author I couldn’t track him down. I was denied the satisfaction of sending him hate mail or hate tweets or some other social media hatefulness about his soul-sucking piece of crap.

Illustration: Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd., Paramount Pictures 1950. Remix by MRhea.

7 thoughts on “And then there was the time vitamin B-complex drove me insane…

  • john

    Is there a B-complex without b-6?I take b6 at night to make me sleepy and I’m looking for energy during the day but all but one b-complex that I can find has b6 in high dosages.

    • Marjorie

      Not that I know of. That’s a common problem with B-complex — one of them defeats another’s benefit — and why a lot of people end up taking all the B-vitamins separately.

  • rose

    in april 2014 i began taking sublingual b12. almost immediately i started feeling odd, but persevered for a couple of weeks, during which time i got severe headaches and dizziness. it seemed obvious to me it was the b12. i had a blood test and although my b12 was elevated slightly higher than the normal range the doctor wasnt concerned. i have been experiencing headaches and dizziness since then, which are exacerbated by various supplements, for some reason. what would you suggest i try. i have found a b-complex that doesnt contain b12 (or folate). i would appreciate any advice.

    • Marjorie

      Some ideas:

      — The B12 might have depleted a nutrient that you had previously only been borderline-deficient in. To figure that out, you have to sort of triangulate. 1) Look for a common interaction among all the supplements you react badly too. For example, if you react to iron, B12, calcium, and B6, your magnesium might be really low. ( has lists of interactions.) This is easier said than done. Everything interacts with everything. 2) So it might be easier to experiment to see what you DON’T react to and assume the culprit is one of those. Which isn’t exactly convenient, either. 3) If your dizziness is flat-out vertigo, you might investigate what deficiencies are associated with it, then cross-reference that info with whatever info you’ve gathered from 1 & 2.

      — Reaction to a filler. For example, any type of calcium ingredient suppresses my breathing for some reason. Watch out for supplements with registered trademark ingredients, which have unlisted ingredients. Eg., Metafolin turns out to be made with calcium. A few commenters here have mentioned that they have had to try several brands of a supplement before they found one they could tolerate.

      — MTHFR methyl issues. If you are a MTHFR sufferer, taking a methyl version of B12, folate, or B6 for the first time might have a weird effect. More likely you’d be feeling weird with the regular versions — plain old folic acid or cobalamin or vitamin B6.

      BTW if you have a B12 test within something like 10 days of taking a B12 supplement, the test won’t be accurate. The B12 has to be well out of your system.

      You might also check out this post, if you haven’t already. A few commenters had good points.

      Hope this helps.

  • applewine

    Could you please tell us where we can find Thiamine TTFD in pill form online? Also, I’d be interested to know how you got TTFD injection in the USA, I’ve only seen it talked about in Japan.

    I have only been able to find allithiamine (TAD) and thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP).

    • Marjorie

      I bought Authia EC tablets from Westlake Laboratories (Westlake-labs dot com), which is affiliated with the clinic I got the IV at — Preventive Medicine Group in Westlake, Ohio. I believe the clinic simply relabels Cardiovascular Research Ltd’s lipothiamine enteric coated tablets, which you can get at iherb dot com. Now that I look at the two, the latter is about half the cost. Now I feel like an idiot.

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