As the name implies, water soluble vitamins dissolve in water. They are eliminated in the urine and therefore are not stored in the body. These vitamins include the vitamin B complex and vitamin C. Foods rich in these vitamins may not always be available, so you can resort to taking supplements in order to ensure that your body is adequately supplied.
The vitamin B complex includes B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid) and B12 (cyanocobalamin). All B vitamins are important for efficient energy utilization, because they act as cofactors of enzymes (coenzymes) that catalyze the breakdown of food in order to produce energy for different body functions. They are important for healthy mental function, sufficient red blood cell production, healthy skin, good vision, muscle strength and good appetite. Excellent sources of B vitamins include meat (pork, chicken or beef), liver, kidney, whole grains, legumes, green leafy vegetables, eggs, shellfish, milk and milk products.
1. Vitamin B1
Vitamin B1 prevents or treats a disease called beriberi, which is either wet or dry. The symptoms of dry beriberi include a tingling or loss of sensation in the hands and feet, vomiting, paralysis and mental confusion. Those of wet beriberi include swelling of the feet (edema), palpitations and shortness of breath. Wet beriberi can lead to death because of heart failure.
2. Vitamin B2
Vitamin B2 activates both vitamins B6 and B9. If you lack this vitamin, you can have frequent oral ulcers (angular stomatitis), inflammation of the lips (cheilosis) and a red-looking tongue (magenta tongue). Personality changes also occur with riboflavin deficiency.
3. Vitamin B3
Vitamin B3 prevents or treats pellagra, a disease characterized by dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia. If you have pellagra, you might also experience psychological or emotional disturbances.
4. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 prevents or treats microcytic anemia, a condition wherein the red blood cells are smaller than normal and are less efficient in oxygen delivery. A deficiency of this vitamin can also cause inflammation of the tongue (glossitis), depression and confusion.
5. Vitamin B9
Vitamin B9 prevents neural tube defects, which is why folic acid supplementation is important during the first month of pregnancy. An insufficient intake of folic acid during this period can cause the malformation of the baby’s nervous system.
6. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 prevents megaloblastic anemia, a condition wherein the red blood cells appear big, but are actually underdeveloped. Alcoholics often have vitamin B12 deficiency, because chronic alcohol intake destroys the cells that absorb this vitamin.
7. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is important in wound healing and in maintaining the integrity of tissues such as bones, teeth and blood vessels. This is because this vitamin helps in the formation of collagen, a connective tissue present in many organs. It also facilitates absorption of calcium, iron and folic acid. It appears to boost the immune system and acts as a good antioxidant. If your vitamin C intake is not enough, you can have wounds that heal slowly and dry, rough skin that bruises easily. You can also be at increased risk of infection and scurvy. Excellent sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables and tomatoes.