Elevate your January with the power of B vitamins

Energy, Food, Vitamin B12

Elevate your January with the power of B vitamins

As we clear away the remnants of Christmas feasts and NYE celebrations, a sense of normalcy begins to reemerge. Yet the post-holiday phase often finds many of us not feeling our best perhaps due to a few extra pounds gained, battling a winter bug, or struggling to catch up on lost sleep.

January is a time that we naturally feel drawn to retreat from the world, especially after a hectic December. It is a season conducive to rest, renewal, and quiet reflection. However, this natural desire for tranquillity clashes with the reality of our everyday responsibilities and duties.

How can we find a balance of the demands of daily life during the winter months when there’s a natural inclination to slow down? One way is to integrate and align with nature’s cycle as much as we can which means we have to make some small adjustments.

Tune in to our natural rhythm

We are in the midst of our winter in the UK, and with that we have longer hours of darkness and the increase of artificial blue light that alters our internal body clock also known as circadian rhythms. Most of our physiological functions are governed by an untold number of carefully synchronised biological clocks that each complete one cycle about every 24 hours.

With the longer, darker nights during winter, we are exposed to less daylight which means an increase in the use of artificial blue light that can interfere with our natural hormonal production such as cortisol, growth hormone, leptin, ghrelin, and melatonin which are negatively impacted by lack of sleep and circadian disturbances [i]. Changes in these hormonal cycles can lead to fatigue, appetite changes, low mood, weight gain and more which many individuals experience in the winter.

The importance of melatonin and our circadian rhythms

Melatonin is a neurohormone best known for its effect on sleep, with its levels peaking at night triggered by darkness. It regulates blood pressure, and supports mood and immune function. It is also a natural antioxidant that has been shown to have significant anti-aging properties.[ii]

We can support melatonin production by getting as much natural light during the day as possible (even on dull days) as this stimulates the production of a neurotransmitter called serotonin which is then later converted to melatonin in response to the dark. When we stay up too late being stimulated by unnatural blue light this can affect the natural rise in melatonin production as the body is not getting the correct cues to tell the body it is dark.

We need less exposure to bright artificial blue light from bulbs as well as avoid screen time (TV, mobile, computers) at least 1 hour before bed. Aiming for sleep no later than 10.30-11pm and switching off all electronics can help. Equally, getting outside first thing in the morning when the sun is rising (even on dull days) signals to the brain via the receptors in the eye that it is daytime, melatonin is then lowered as other hormones naturally rise to get us through the day.

We also need adequate levels of B vitamins, in particular B12 and B6 as they too are required by the enzymic pathways to convert the appropriate chemicals at the right times.

What are B vitamins?

B vitamins also known as B-complex vitamins are a group of nutrients found in a variety of foods such as fish, leafy greens, meat, offal, eggs, legumes, seeds, dairy, and brewer’s yeast. These water-soluble vitamins need replacing daily as our body does not store them. Of the many functions, energy production, neurotransmitter production, brain and nervous system function are perhaps the best known.

During the winter months especially after the highs (or lows) of Christmas along with the late nights and the overindulgence, we are often left feeling not just bloated and unhappy with a few pounds gained but can feel low in mood, have brain fog, lack concentration and experience sluggishness and fatigue.

Low levels of B vitamins can be a contributing factor as refined carbohydrates, sugars and alcohol are devoid of B vitamins and can lead to deficiencies. Not only can we become low in B vitamins by simply not eating the correct foods, but other factors such as the inability to absorb them or using them up too rapidly to keep homeostasis such as at times of high stress.

Other factors can include:[iii]

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Birth control pills and other medical drugs
  • Kidney diseases
  • Alcoholism
  • Gastrointestinal surgical procedures such as bariatric surgery
  • Vegan diets (B12)
  • Frequent use of Antacids
  • Excess of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Excess exposure to environmental toxins
  • Low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria)

We also must consider times of increased need such as pregnancy, lactation and chronic stress as previously mentioned.

A healthy balance of gut microbes is also supportive of our vitamin B nutrition, as they too are B vitamin producers. Equally, the overgrowth of certain bacteria can deplete certain B vitamins, therefore probiotics could be considered as a potential support for vitamin B deficiencies or lowered levels along with a supplemental B Complex [iv].

As we can see from the above, it is not too difficult to lose our B vitamins and therefore common to become low or deficient in 1 or more of the B vitamins.

How to boost our vitamin B levels

As we tend to gravitate to a healthier plate of food in January, embracing more fresh fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods we naturally invite more B vitamins to the table (so long as we can absorb them). Taking a supplement(s) during the winter is also very popular with many of us reaching for those that help to support our immune system to fight off winter bugs. Taking a B complex supplement is often overlooked, but they can be very supportive of our circadian rhythms and overall health physically, mentally, and emotionally, especially through the winter months.

When choosing a B complex it is important to have a bioactive form which means they do not need to be further converted (methylated) and are ready for action!

So, after the post-Christmas carb-loading, sugar-rich foods with a few extra glasses of merriment, you may find that a short time on a bioactive B complex supplement may give a nutritional high-five to kick off the new year with a boost of energy, upgraded sleep quality and a lift of those natural feel-good chemicals.


[i] Kim TW, Jeong JH, Hong SC. The impact of sleep and circadian disturbance on hormones and metabolism. Int J Endocrinol. 2015;2015:591729. doi: 10.1155/2015/591729. Epub 2015 Mar 11. PMID: 25861266; PMCID: PMC4377487.

[ii] Srinivasan V, Maestroni GJ, Cardinali DP, Esquifino AI, Perumal SR, Miller SC. Melatonin, immune function and aging. Immun Ageing. 2005 Nov 29;2:17. doi: 10.1186/1742-4933-2-17. PMID: 16316470; PMCID: PMC1325257.

[iii] Hanna M, Jaqua E, Nguyen V, Clay J. B Vitamins: Functions and Uses in Medicine. Perm J. 2022 Jun 29;26(2):89-97. doi: 10.7812/TPP/21.204. Epub 2022 Jun 17. PMID: 35933667; PMCID: PMC9662251.

[iv] Wan Z, Zheng J, Zhu Z, Sang L, Zhu J, Luo S, Zhao Y, Wang R, Zhang Y, Hao K, Chen L, Du J, Kan J, He H. Intermediate role of gut microbiota in vitamin B nutrition and its influences on human health. Front Nutr. 2022 Dec 13;9:1031502. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.1031502. PMID: 36583209; PMCID: PMC9792504.

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Elisabeth Philipps

Karen Devine

Karen Devine

Shelley Harvey

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