Counseling Sheet

The Effect of B-Vitamins on the Nerves

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

Even though only minute quantities of B-vitamins are needed by the body, they form an essential part of the enzyme economy of the tissue cells. Their absence or scarcity causes all cells of the body to suffer. Effects can be seen in skin, digestive system, heart, and blood systems, etc. Perhaps in the nervous system the most troublesome, and early signs are noted. The following items point to the importance of abundant B-vitamins in storage in the body:

  • Three groups of chickens were fed diets as follows: (1) 100% whole wheat flour, (2) enriched white flour, and (3) un-enriched white flour. The effect of the reduction in B-vitamins caused the third group of chicks to die in five days. Those fed brown flour and enriched flour both feathered out and gained weight in a normal fashion, the two groups having only the barest detectable difference in five days, the advantage being in favor of the brown flour group. Although the chicks in both groups were about the same weight and feathered about the same, the chicks fed the enriched white flour had a high-pitched, rapid chirp. They were untidy in their cage, stepping in the water, then in the flour, making "boots" for their feet. The chicks were high-strung and nervous, often pecking each other, or jittering together in one corner of the cage if a slight noise frightened them. We can conclude that plumpness and condition of the skin, hair, or feathers are not the only criteria to be used to determine the adequacy of a diet. Cheerfulness, self-control, order, mental efficiency, and productivity all count in this determination.
  • Certain hyperactive children have become more calm and easier to control when foods poor in B-vitamins, food additives, and rich or irritating foods have been removed from their diets. Many adults report a similar calming effect from a simple diet.
  • It has been observed for years that individuals with blood sugar problems, either too high or too low, were often difficult to work with and had wide mood swings. In the metabolism of sugar in the body, B-vitamins are used up. The periodic irritability and emotional instability seen in these persons are typical of B-vitamin deficiency. As the blood sugar rises, whether from reactive hypoglycemia, diabetes, or from eating largely of refined carbohydrates, B-vitamins are removed from the body stores to care for the elevated blood sugar. A B-vitamin deficiency results.
  • Pellagra, pernicious anemia, beri-beri, and all other diseases caused by a B-vitamin deficiency have nervous or mental symptoms as a part of the disease complex. Long before the full-blown disease there are neurological deficiencies that may be barely noticed, but cause more or less discomfort to the person and his associates.


In all of nature we find definite cycles, varying in length from a few seconds to several years. The best known of these are the 28-day hormone cycles in both men and women (the menstrual cycle is the most dramatic), the 18-month hair growth cycle, and the 24-hour fluctuations of enzymes and hormones that control states of wakefulness, digestion, and sense of well-being, There are also ultradian cycles of 90 minutes, weekly cycles, annual and seventh annual cycles. Not only in humans, but also in soybeans, fiddler crabs, salmon, brown bears, and in a host of other living things we have discovered distinct rhythms.

The human organism is ideally adapted to be a "lark" and not an "owl." At about 3:00 a.m., the hormone and enzyme support to such functions as muscular strength, cheerfulness, proper thought processes, the digestive system, the genitourinary system, and even respiration, is profoundly reduced. For one who is accustomed to arising at 7:00 a.m. there is a release of ACTH from the pituitary about 5:00 to stimulate the adrenals. By 6:00, adrenalin is being secreted in a small quantity to arouse the thyroid, the ovaries or testes, the stomach and pancreas. Throughout the day there is much benefit to us from these rhythms. Taste, smell, hearing, and reaction to noises and noxious stimuli are all on a circadian rhythm. Pain tolerance is greatly influenced by circadian rhythms as are allergies and histamine skin reactions. Drugs may alter the circadian rhythm, and may reset the time clock.

Protein eaten at 8:00 a.m. rapidly raises the amino acid levels in the blood, but the same meal at 8:00 p.m. does not. Peak performance on tasks requiring close attention or muscle coordination usually occurs around afternoon or evening, the time of peak rise in body temperature (1.5 to 2 degrees over the morning temperature). By simply inverting the light-dark cycle once a week, one laboratory has shown a significant reduction in the average lifespan of certain animals.

Following are some ways one can cooperate with the biologic rhythms and enhance the sense of strength and well-being, even the memory and concentration, which will come from close attention to regular habits:

  • Eat at the same mealtime each day.
  • Have the same bedtime and rising time 365 days in the year. Take a nap later in the morning if necessary, but do not sleep late.
  • Have a set time for study, private devotions, and other heavy mental functions.
  • Have a pattern for daily exercise, preferably out-of-doors.
  • Maintain a relaxed attitude about your schedule, but be careful.

There are variations of body temperature on a circadian basis. When the body temperature is low, the person will count slowly. Estimation of eight second time intervals will be longer when the body temperature of a subject is lower and shorter when the body temperature is higher.

If a gland is producing peak levels of hormones out of regular phase, another organ, being in another phase, cannot make use of the first hormone, and weakness and inefficiency result. Certain cancer patients as well as psychiatric patients have shown a disordered body temperature rhythm. Rhythms are to some extent acquired. If one acts in tune with his changing environment, it is obvious that this is an aid to survival.

Light affects the brain through the optic tract which resembles a complex cable system consisting of bundles of nerve fibers that run from the eyes to the back of the head. A small bundle of fibers branches off from the cable system and goes downward to the nerve ganglia in the upper segment of the neck. This second optic tract is called the inferior accessory optic tract, terminating in the superior cervical ganglia. The optic tracts go by the pituitary, the pineal, and many other structures in the brain. The superior ganglia activate the sympathetic nervous system. From thence the pineal is activated through bioelectric messages rather than chemical messages such as trigger the thyroid, the adrenals, etc.

Sleep and waking act as synchronizers for many internal functions. Daytime naps show more REM sleep in the morning, little or no REM sleep in the afternoon, and deep (Stage IV) sleep in the afternoon and early evening. A normal person has a cycle of 110 minutes for eating, if he is instructed to eat at random. Smoking is also on this same cycle. Schizophrenic subjects and obese subjects have 60-90 minute cycles of eating. Boredom, tension, and overwork will shorten the normal period. Deep, Stage IV sleep normally occurs early in the night, while REM sleep is most prominent toward morning. Stage IV sleep can be enhanced by daily exercise. Certain individuals who have spent considerable time at the polar experimental stations show lack of Stage IV sleep for over a year after returning to their hometowns. Cats deprived of REM sleep show voracious and uncontrolled hunger, as well as perverted sexual behavior. Studies suggest that REM sleep is a periodic discharge to mounting excitement in certain centers of the brain. Without this release, perverted activity is more likely. Sleep loss is associated with retention of nitrogen, sodium and water. More protein is required to compensate for excessive losses which occur on the second day of sleep deprivation.REM sleep is important to learning, memory, and adaptation. Irritability, anxiety, and mental disturbance follow REM deprivation. Depression and lethargy follow Stage IV deprivation. Growth hormone is produced in deep sleep. Individuals who sleep poorly and have poorly defined circadian rhythms have more mental illness than normal people. Eskimos have more mental illness than other nationals. These findings suggest that the alteration in circadian rhythms and sleep patterns which may be brought on by the use of alcohol or drugs, habits of irregularity, and poor exercise programs, may be very influential in inducing insanity.

The liver is the only organ that has the capacity to store glycogen and release blood sugar around the clock. Glycogen is the food of the brain. It is essential at night when glucose from food is not available for energy. In the human, the glycogen curve appears to begin its circadian descent around late afternoon. By the early hours of the morning, the liver has used up much of its glycogen. The liver, in its rhythmic way, detoxifies the metabolites of many foods and drugs. The slightest malfunction of the liver is quick to affect the brain, and may, in sensitive persons, cause poor or perverted thoughts.

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