B Vitamins: A Potential Sexual Powerhouse
Weeding out quack "miracle" products from ones with actual value can feel overwhelming. This challenge gets more difficult with products that encompass a large family, like B vitamins. In the supplement facts section of a multivitamin bottle label, you can see lots of ink dedicated to a wide variety of B's. It's hard to pick and choose which are meaningful and which are bunk.
Sheldon Zablow, M.D., a nutritional psychiatrist based in San Diego, explained why this classification of vitamins is vital for overall health.
"B12 and folate [B9] are used to make neurotransmitters and the sex hormones that support healthy sex. The highest concentration of B12 in the body is in the pituitary gland," he explained. "B12 and folate are required to maintain the insulation [myelin] that surrounds nerve cells. If this lining has gaps due to a deficit, there will be static on the line and a decrease in sexual function."
'Vitamin B1 specifically aids in maintaining one's sex drive and energy. Vitamin B3, which is another name for niacin, helps to improve your blood flow, which has an impact on sexual performance.'
The myelin sheath surrounding a nerve cell is similar to rubber encasing a phone charger cord. If the covering breaks, the electrical wiring sending signals and energy is vulnerable.
"B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning your diet must supply them each day as they quickly get excreted," said Pamela M. Peeke, M.D., chair of the Solaray Science Advisory Board and a Maryland physician who specializes in women's health and nutrition. "There are eight B vitamins and they do better at supporting each other when taken together, such as in a B-complex supplement or a multivitamin. They each perform unique functions, from supporting normal metabolism, converting food to energy, directing DNA production and repair, producing hormones and cholesterol, producing red blood cells, creating neurotransmitters and lots more."
Essential for your sexual health
The most important takeaway from Peeke's statement is that B vitamins need to be replenished regularly. Every benefit she mentioned sounds impressive and vital, but why are they so essential to sexual health?
"B1, B2, B3, B5 and B12 vitamins primarily affect one's blood flow," said Adylia-Rhenee Gutierrez, a certified nutritionist in Los Angeles. "Vitamin B1 specifically aids in maintaining one's sex drive and energy. Vitamin B3, which is another name for niacin, helps to improve your blood flow, which has an impact on sexual performance."
In fact, niacin is so powerful in regulating circulation that some first-time users of large doses of B3 supplements may experience the "niacin flush," or a nonlethal but uncomfortable side effect resembling a sunburn with the tingle or itch of a bug bite.
Increasing energy and blood flow
Just as B vitamins can vastly contribute to health, a deficiency can cause serious problems.
"Megaloblastic anemia is very common when vitamin B is deficient in the body," said Nadir Qazi, D.O., a cosmetic surgeon based in Irvine, California. "It causes the bone marrow to produce oversized and fragile red blood cells that don't carry oxygen efficiently to the rest of the body."
There are also sexual side effects of such a nutritional imbalance.
"Men with B12 deficiency had lower intravaginal ejaculation time and higher rates of premature ejaculation," Peeke explained.
So it's a green flag to use vitamin B to meet nutritional needs, but Zablow issued a "buyer beware" warning.
"Multivitamins might not supply adequate levels of these B vitamins because they are often poorly made with synthetic B12 and folate or have lower doses than required," he explained. "Natural B12 is absorbed at a rate of 30 to 40 percent from food, while synthetic and natural forms from supplementation are only absorbed at a rate of 1 percent. Vitamin labels are misleading by not acknowledging this limited absorption factor."
A natural B vitamin diet
Obtaining naturally derived B vitamins is inevitable, but how do we do that? Gutierrez described the kinds of food you should incorporate into your diet:
- Brown rice
- Limes and lemons
"Any source of whole grains or leafy vegetables contains various B vitamins," Qazi said. "Foods high in vitamin B12 include eggs, beef, cheese, milk and broccoli. Prune juice and orange juice are very healthy and effective beverages that contain vitamin B6."
He applied this science to explain a common old wives' tale: "Oysters as a mild aphrodisiac actually makes biological sense since shellfish have a high concentration of B12 and could positively affect brain function in someone with a deficiency," Qazi said.
Peeke also recommended some convenient B12 sources.
"People over the age of 60 don't produce enough [B vitamins], so a good solution is the methylcobalamin lozenge," she said. "It is recommended to hold the lozenge in the mouth for five minutes sublingually."
"B vitamins are found in common foods such as Brussels sprouts, peas and kidney beans, as well as less common foods like brewer's or nutritional yeast and any fortified foods, such as cereals," Peeke added. "A great idea is sprinkling some savory nutritional yeast flakes on your popcorn for a natural full range of B vitamins."
Editor's note: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Our medical experts advise that you consult with your primary healthcare provider before you begin using a supplement. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.