More research needs doing but, perhaps, it’s a good idea to create a ‘neck pain diet’ including vitamin B6-rich foods to lower inflammation.
Chronic Inflammation and B6 Deficiency
The study was carried out by researcher Lydia Sakakeeny, PhD, at Tufts University, a well-regarded institution as concerns nutritional science. Dr. Sakakeeny looked at data from the Framingham Offspring study and assessed the blood levels of vitamin B6 and thirteen inflammatory markers in 2,229 adults enrolled in the research. Her results showed that those with most vitamin B6 in their bloodstream were the least likely to have indications of inflammation whereas those with the lowest levels of the vitamin had the highest rates of chronic inflammation.
CRP and B6
The details of this strong association between chronic inflammation and vitamin B6 were published in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of Nutrition and the work follows previous research finding a link between C-reactive protein and vitamin B6. CRP is a key inflammatory marker but this is the first study to find a relationship between vitamin B6 and a wide variety of inflammatory markers, including CRP. Interestingly, the researchers also established that functional deficiencies of vitamin B6 were present in the patients with signs of chronic inflammation, even when adjusting for intake of vitamin B6.
Taking B6 Supplements for Chronic Neck Pain
Unfortunately, in these types of research it is not possible to simply say that taking vitamin B6 supplements will relieve neck pain or other pain condition from chronic inflammation. In addition, taking too much vitamin B6 has its own problems, with some people experiencing neuropathy when taking levels of 500mg or more a day of the vitamin. Further research will hopefully elucidate the connection between inflammation and vitamin B6 and even lead to new treatments for neck pain through diet. The two mechanisms proposed by the researchers as connecting pyridoxal-5-phosphate (PLP) and inflammation were tryptophan metabolism (as vitamin B6 is essential for tryptophan to convert to serotonin and other neurotransmitters), and serine hydroxymethyltransferase activity. A functional vitamin B6 deficiency would also have ramifications for how patients cope with neck pain as the nutrient is also connected to emotional well-being; theoretically, some patients could be helped by raising low vitamin B6 levels to reduce chronic neck pain and stress.
Foods High in Vitamin B6
In the meantime, some vitamin B6-rich foods that you may consider incorporating into your diet include:
- Chickpeas (one of the best sources of B6)
- Bell peppers
- Pinto beans and other legumes
Vitamin B6 Deficiency
Vitamin B6 levels tend to be low in people who consume alcohol to excess, those who are obese, and for pregnant women. Malabsorption is also a problem and so patients with Coeliac’s, Crohn’s Disease, and ulcerative colitis may wish to pay particular attention to their intake of vitamin B6 to compensate for issues of absorption.
Vitamin B6 for Chronic Pain
Until a controlled clinical trial looking at the efficacy and safety of vitamin B6 for chronic inflammation and neck pain is carried out it is probably best to avoid taking high dose vitamin B6 supplements and simply concentrate on having a healthy balanced diet which includes plenty of foods rich in this nutrient. The B vitamin group is also extremely important for healthy sleep (which can be affected by neck pain), coping with stress, and releasing energy from food. Vitamin B6 is involved in over a hundred enzyme processes in the body, many of which are centered on protein metabolism. As such, vitamin B6 may help in cases of acute neck injury as protein production is ramped up to help regenerate damaged tissue. Linking low vitamin B6 and chronic inflammation may prompt some to change their diet for neck pain but high dose supplements are not recommended.
Sakakeeny, L., Roubenoff, R., et al, Plasma Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate Is Inversely Associated with Systemic Markers of Inflammation in a Population of U.S. Adults, The Journal of Nutrition, July 2012.
National Institutes of Health: “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B6.”