The last of the fabulous B’s, is lucky number 5, also known as pantothenic acid. This vitamin plays an extremely important role in the synthesis of acetylcholine, the brain’s primary memory neurotransmitter.
Acetylcholine is most well known by its connection to Alzheimer’s disease. On autopsy, patients with the degenerative brain disorder show a loss of cholinergic (acetylcholine) neurons. For many years the standard treatment for Alzheimer’s was a drug that stimulated the cholinergic system, which would enhance alertness. But this treatment was slow and has since been replaced by other chemicals.
An interesting aside note however, is that normally we get acetylcholine from food and researchers are now investigating the role of diet in the development of the disease.
Without acetylcholine our brain doesn’t stay active and excited long enough to fire off the memory neurons. No firing means no memories made and no recall. Vitamin B5 is vital in the manufacture of this key neurotransmitter, and the brain contains the highest concentration of it.
Helping make neurotransmitters isn’t all B5 important for; it also stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisone and other adrenal hormones, which help our body, handle and deal with stressful situations both mentally and physically.
B5 could also be called “The Great Facilitator” as it helps the body use other B vitamins more effectively. And remember the first article I wrote talked about Coenzyme Q10? Vitamin B5 and CoQ10 are first class working buddies in helping get fatty acids to the brain.
Pantothenic acid is found in many foods. However, it is also synthesized by the healthy bacteria found in our gut. If ones gut flora is absent, B5 cannot be manufactured. Then it is more important to supplement this vitamin.
Because the brain normally needs higher levels of this vitamin a deficiency can manifest in insomnia, fatigue, depression and memory problems.
Therapeutically it has been used to prevent nerve degeneration, speed wound healing, protect against cell damage from excessive radiation and as an added bonus! Ladies, you will love this! It removes age spots, prevents wrinkles and in animal studies slowed graying!
Mind Medicine Prescription
So how much is too much and how much is too little? For optimal brain function, take a B complex vitamin formula that contains a dosage of between 50-250 mg of B5, 50 mg of B6, 25-50 mg. of B12 and 25-50 mg of B3. A well-balanced formula should contain all of these B’s plus folic acid.
More importantly than the dosing though, is ensuring your gut works effectively. Does it have the necessary components to break food into its constituent parts, including the B vitamins? Hydrochloric acid and intrinsic factors are necessary for B12 absorption and good bacteria for B6 production. As we get older, these vital digestive agents diminish. If you don’t have enough, you may become deficient in the B’s and other nutrients.
What is truly amazing and wonderful is how synergistic all these nutrients, compounds, neurotransmitters and enzymes are to the proper functioning of our body. They perform this incredible dance of life, keeping us thinking, moving and feeling. All I can say is…AMAZING!
Talk to your naturopathic doctor if you are concerned about gut health. They have a wealth of useful information and safe and natural treatment solutions.