No person is deficient in any one B vitamin without being deficient in all of them! That’s because the B vitamins occur together in food as part of a complex. This is true of all vitamins and minerals. They work together.
There are, however, as many degrees and variations of B-vitamin deficiencies as there are different individuals. Formerly the disease beriberi was thought to be caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine) and pellagra by lack of the B vitamin, niacin (B3).
When human volunteers stayed on diets lacking vitamin B1 (thiamine) or niacin (vitamin B3), however, neither beriberi nor pellagra has been produced. These diseases actually result from multiple deficiencies of all the B vitamins, the lack of vitamin B1 or niacin being only more prominent.
Even schizophrenia is caused by a vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency but it too won’t be the only B vitamin deficiency – just the main one. Even The list goes on and on.
The good news is that you can tell how adequate your intake of B vitamins has been by looking at your tongue. It should be moderate in size, an even pink in color, and smooth around the edges without coating or indentations showing where it has rested against your teeth. The taste buds should be uniformly small and cover the entire surface and edges.
If you can find a healthy child, you may see what the normal tongue should look like.
Vitamin B Deficiency Indications
Many changes take place in your tongue when you’re short of B vitamins. The first change appears to be enlargement of the buds at the front and sides of your tongue. Later these buds become small or even disappear, making the tip and sides smooth, whereas the buds farther back will progressively enlarge. These buds have a flat appearance like button mushrooms.
As the deficiencies of these vitamins become more severe, clumps of taste buds fuse and grow together, pulling apart from other clumps and thus forming grooves or fissures. The first groove usually forms down the center of the tongue.
In a severe B-vitamin deficiency, your tongue may be so cut by grooves and fissures that it looks like a relief map of the Grand Canyon and surrounding territory or a flank steak run through a tenderizing machine.
When deficiencies are still more severe, your taste buds literally disappear. First the tip and edges become smooth and shiny; then the buds disappear progressively from front to back. This extreme condition is found most often in elderly persons whose diets have been inadequate for years; they complain that their foods have little flavor. In some cases such tongues are intensely sore. In other cases, persons having extremely abnormal tongues are surprised to find that they differ from normal.
The size of your tongue also indicates deficiencies of these vitamins. It may be large, beefy, and full of water (edematous). Often such a tongue shows scallops around the edges where it has rested against the teeth. The beefy tongue is called that because it has the appearance of beef and is usually an intense deep red. On the other hand, it may become too small, or atrophied.
Other tongues may have a purplish or magenta cast, and still others may be a brilliant red. Often the tongue shows a combination of colors with perhaps a red tip and a magenta center. The color and texture vary depending upon which B-vitamin lack is most prominent.
For example, a magenta tongue (the color seen most often) indicates that a deficiency of vitamin B2 predominates over the other B-vitamin deficiencies. A beefy tongue is thought to show that pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is particularly under-supplied. When deficiencies of vitamin B12 and folic acid are most prominent, the tongue becomes strawberry red and smooth at the tip and sides; it is often shiny and not coated.
Fiery Red Tongue
If the deficiency is predominantly the B vitamin, niacin (vitamin B3), your tongue may be fiery red at the tip and may appear to be either too small or too large and so coated that it is fuzzy with debris. The heavy coating is caused by the growth of undesirable bacteria; it usually indicates much putrefaction in the intestine. Since valuable bacteria in the intestine produce B vitamins, such coating probably never occurs if bacteria growth is normal.
Stomach Acid and Digestion
Studies indicate that 60 – 100% of the persons showing severe tongue changes are unable to produce sufficient amounts of hydrochloric acid in their stomachs. This leads to the use of antacids – the worst thing you can do because the problem is actually caused by too little acid.
The output of digestive enzymes is far below normal. In such cases, digestion is so faulty that unless tablets of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes are taken temporarily, much gas, flatulence, digestive disturbances, and discomfort may be experienced.
In fact, if your digestion is so faulty that you have intestinal gas after you add foods rich in the B vitamins to your diet, you can be sure you have been deficient in these vitamins. The best thing to do is continue and take enzymes till the deficiency has been corrected. The worst thing to do is stop because then the problem of the deficiencies is still there.
Most of the B vitamins dissolve in water and for this reason cannot be stored in the body. Just as a sponge can be slightly moist or dripping wet, however, so can the cells hold little or much of each B vitamin, depending on the amount offered. To maintain ideal health, the offering of B vitamins should be sufficient for each cell to take all it can use to advantage. Any B vitamins not needed are excreted in the urine.
B Vitamins Work Together
It appears that all B vitamins work together. This co-operation is called the synergistic action of the B vitamins. The taking of one or more B vitamins increases the need for the others not supplied, probably because any one B vitamin alone can increase the activity of each body cell. The group in its entirety can be obtained only from such foods as liver, yeast, and wheat germ. (Please note that due to a high phosphorus – also an important mineral – content in Brewer’s Yeast it is important to balance it with calcium.)
To discuss the deficiencies of the B vitamins separately is as unrealistic as to believe in men from Mars. Such deficiencies exist only in an experimental laboratory. A deficiency of one, however, often predominates over others. If the first symptoms of deficiency are recognized, they can serve as a warning that unless your nutrition is improved, great deviations from health can be expected.
(*Beriberi is a disease of the nervous system caused by a person not getting enough thiamine (vitamin B1) in the diet. Thiamine is needed to break down food such as glucose. It is also found on the membranes of neurons. Symptoms of beriberi include severe lethargy and tiredness. Beriberi may also cause problems that affect the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, muscles, and gastrointestinal systems. It is often found in people with a history of drinking too much alcohol or who don’t eat healthy. There are two kinds of beriberi, wet and dry. Wet beriberi mainly affects the cardiovascular system. Dry beriberi affects the nervous system
**Pellagra is a disease caused by a lack of the vitamin niacin (vitamin B3). Symptoms include inflamed skin, diarrhea, dementia, and sores in the mouth… Primary pellagra is due to a diet that does not contain enough niacin and tryptophan.)