Vitamin B6 Deficiency

Sit back and relax. I have an interesting story that might even cause a mild chuckle. Over the years, I must have tried hundreds of supplements, searching for a magic cure to my sulfite condition. Most of the vitamins and herbs I tried didn't help and quite a few caused unwanted side effects, usually from inactive ingredients in the formula. Molybdenum without copper seemed to help the most, but the improvment occurred slowly over many months. Nothing dramatic happened until I tried a bioactive version of vitamin B6 called P5P. I took 50 mg at lunch and around bedtime I started to feel light headed until I finally fainted. Checking my blood pressure, it was so low the meter would not register. In the morning, I felt better and my blood pressure finally registered a paltry 65/43. Normally, I have high blood pressure which is why I have a meter. After the shock wore off, I wondered if P5P might actually be helpful and I began taking more moderate doses. Well, it actually worked. I now take 15 mg per day and my blood pressure is usually a respectable 110/70. Not bad for an old man.

Doctor Taking Blood PressureIf you look up vitamin B6, you will learn that it is one of the most widely utilized chemicals in the human body. It participates as a cofactor in at least 140 different enzyme pathways. It is involved in the production of neurotransmitters, in protein metabolism, lipid chemistry and immune function. It can address any number of conditions including nerve injury, PMS, arthritis, memory loss, chronic fatigue, diabetes, asthma, autism, ADHD and even acne. Some symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include dermatitis, inflamed tongue, confusion, depression, insomnia and brain disorders. I guess we should add high blood pressure to the list. In other words, B6 plays a part in just about anything you can imagine.

So what happened in my case? I guessed I wasn't getting enough B6. For instance, I shun ordinary vitamin pills to avoid sulfite reactions from biotin, which is included in all modern multi-vitamin formulations. So, my apparently unique B6 deficiency was messing with my blood pressure. But there is much, much more to this story. According to the Linus Pauling Institue at Oregon State University, recent studies have noted a very strong correlation between vitamin B6 deficiency and sulfite intolerance due to molybdenum cofactor mutations. Apparently, excess sulfite in the body acts on an enzyme called alpha-AASA dehydrogenase resulting in an increase of alpha-AASA and a cousin called P6C. In turn, P6C traps the bioactive form of vitamin B6 which leads to the observed B6 deficiency. In cases of severe sulfite intolerance, there is a near total shutdown of B6, resulting in a form of epilepsy. I guess I'm not that unique. At least I don't have epilepsy.

Unfortunately, the story does not end here. As mentioned above, Vitamin B6 is a necessary cofactor for over 100 enzymes in the human body. Two of those enzymes are directly involved in the production of the molybdenum cofactor which powers sulfite oxidase enzyme. They are Moco sulfurtransferase and cysteine desulfurase both of which play a role in the attachment of sulfur atoms to the molybdenum cofactor. If vitamin B6 is in short supply, molybdenum cofactor production must slow and that affects the available sulfite oxidase. This allows the level of sulfite to increase which depresses B6 further. And round and round we go, as shown in the flowchart below. Depending on your personal genetics, this may strongly affect your sulfite levels or it may be less pronounced. Note that this "Excess Sulfite Feedback Loop" is not described in the medical literature. It is based solely on my interpetation of published cofactors and inhibitors of the referenced enzymes.

The above feedback loop can be broken by supplementing with vitamin B6. This creates an excess that overwhelms the interference of alpha-AASA. Ahhh, a sigh of relief. So, why did I react so strongly when I took vitamin B6? After all, it probably reduced my sulfite load. This may be a good question if you don't want to faint like I did. My best answer: I'm very sensitive to sulfites, which means I don't clear sulfites efficiently and have higher than normal levels in my blood. As such, the alpha-AASA enzyme was strongly affected by my residual sulfite, significantly depressing vitamin B6. Then I took P5P, the bioactive form of B6, at a relatively high dose of 50 mg. Being the bioactive form, it became quickly available at high levels. So, my body went from depressed B6 to excess B6 in a very short time. Processes that were previously blocked suddenly turned on. Hence, my strong reaction. Based on my experience, I would caution anyone to take only moderate amounts of standard vitamin B6 (pridoxine) and avoid the bioactive form until you are sure you are not affected adversely. But don't be put off. Vitamin B6 is big news, especially if you have medical conditions in addition to sulfite problems. Moderate amounts of B6 might be the discovery of your life.

Chemistry EquipmentWhat other enzymes are affected by sulfite? An interesting one is glutamate dehydrogenase. According to "A Mechanism of Sulfite Neurotoxicity" in the October 2004 edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, moderate levels of sulfite depress this enzyme by 50% or more in rat brain and human liver cells. Glutamate dehydrogenase is responsible for converting glutamate into alpha-ketoglutarate, a necessary component of the Krebs Energy Cycle. This pathway produces ATP, which is the main source of energy in cell biology. The authors conclude that such a depressive mechanism could be the direct cause of brain defects in infants afflicted with severe sulfite mutations. I might add that to a lesser degree, sulfite interference with the Krebs Energy Cycle could be playing a role in brain fog and general fatigue associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Many of the CFS websites caution patients to avoid sulfites as one treatment option for this complicated disease. In the case of glutamate dehydrogenase, there is no magic vitamin to shortcut the damage done by sulfites, although vitamin B6 couldn't hurt.

Let's talk about asthma, our favorite chronic condition. I've always been intrigued by the heavy correlation between sulfites and asthma. According to most sources, sulfites are the trigger in 5-10% of cases. And according to studies like Doai Memorial Hospital in Japan, for asthmatics with other triggers, 65% are overly sensitive to sulfites which cause symptoms seemingly unrelated to asthma. How is it possible that sulfite sensitivity and asthma are shared by up to 75% of patients? I hate to belabor the obvious but sulfites must be fundamentally involved at the very root of this disease. Note that the increased use of sulfites tracks the growth of asthma over the last 50 years. And, fast foods loaded with sulfites have increased asthmatic symptoms in teenagers the world over. Now we learn that sulfites decrease cell energy levels and depress the vitamin B6 cofactor in over 100 enzymes. That's a whole lot of bad press for the Brimstone Demons.

Asthma is triggered by a wide range of insults. Allergic triggers include pollen, mold spores, dust mites, cockroach and pet proteins. Non-allergic causes include smoke, odors, cold air and weather, NSAID medications, exercise, hormones and sulfites. In my opinion, sulfite is the common demoninator, acting as both a trigger and an enabler. Consider the following results of biochemical research over the past 20 years. (Martin Pelletier, Toxicological Science, September of 2002.) Sulfite invokes an inflamatory response from epithelial lung cells, causing the release of interleukin-8 which is a signal that attracts neutrophil cells. Neutrophils are the most common type of white blood cells, soldiers in the body's immune system. (H. Mitsuhashi, Journal of Leukocyte Biology, November of 1998.) Neutrophils produce significant amounts of sulfite as a mediator of immune response. Sulfites and other chemicals are released to destroy invading germ cells and/or allergens. (Pierrette Labbe, Human and Experimental Toxicology, July of 2016.) Neutrophils react to sulfite within 5 minutes by generating superoxide anions, another tool of the immune inflamatory response. In summary, exposure to sulfite begins a lung cascade that initiates inflamation, sounds an alarm, attracts white blood cells and primes the immune system for allergic damage by any number of asthma triggers. Add to this, down regulation of the Krebs Energy Cycle, vitamin B6 deficiency and interference with a hundred enzymes. Is it any wonder that sulfites, asthma and other chronic conditions are linked?

Failure to clear sulfites due to serious mutations can be fatal. Since you are reading this, I assume your condition is less extreme. When I first started experimenting with sulfites, I could detect as little as 100 ug of sulfur dioxide in the form of sodium sulfite. It is assumed by the FDA that an average person can tolerate up to 60 mg of sulfite. So at my worst, my enzymes were operating at about 0.2% of average. Even now, after taking the following steps and improving my tolerance, I'm still below 1% of normal.

    Steps to Defeat Sulfite Intolerance

1. Avoid sulfite, sulfur dioxide and sulfa
2. Take molybdenum but not copper
3. Try vitamin B6 and vitamin B12
4. Minimize biotin in multi-vitamins
5. Never eat fast food fries or potatoes

Perhaps I should remember my grandmother's advice: if you want to be great, you can't be normal. Please realize that in addition to being abnormal, I am not a doctor and this information is intended to enlighten but not to diagnose or prescribe.

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