Q. When I was a teenager I had a brief bout with acne. A friend of my mother said I should take baker’s yeast. I took it for two weeks and it cleared up my skin. I hated the taste, though, so I switched to brewer’s yeast tablets. I have been taking five a day for 40 years.
Over the last few years I have had trouble with numbness in my feet. It’s a weird sensation, as though there were plastic wrap around them. A neurologist sent me for a battery of blood tests to rule out a vitamin B6 deficiency. He said it could cause peripheral neuropathy like mine.
My test results came back sky high. My B6 levels were seven times normal. Brewer’s yeast is high in vitamin B6. It turns out that either too little or too much of this vitamin can cause peripheral neuropathy.

A. Neurologists consider the nerve damage that occurs from vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) toxicity as a stocking-glove phenomenon. The numb sensation you described was a red flag. People are usually advised to keep their vitamin B6 intake under 100 mg daily.

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  1. Tammy G
    Nebraska
    Reply

    About 5 weeks ago, I came in from outside and went to my kitchen sink. I felt an odd sensation on my right foot, enough for me to look down to see if something was on my foot. It was a crawling tingly sensation that quickly moved up my right leg, and then was coming up my left leg. I realized that my legs were going numb and I was going down. I sunk to the floor and opened my eyes to find myself flat on my back wondering what the heck just happened. After 5 minutes, I got up and was struck with a blinding headache, an ache in my left shoulder area and a small pain on the right side of my chest.

    The headache lasted for 4 days at some intensity and then just became a nuisance of a small headache for the next 2 weeks (I am not kidding). Saw my Dr. at the insistence of my family and he made contacts for me to see a neurologist and ordered lots of blood tests. Saw the neurologist who poked around my head and extremities, asked me tons of questions, ordered an MRI and more extensive blood work and a sleep study to test me for sleep apnea.

    I developed restless feet and legs about a year ago. A few weeks before the kitchen incident I had noticed a constant feeling of vertigo. I manage a restaurant so contributed the dizziness to high stress and not enough sleep.

    My Dr. had hinted at MS. Scared me to death. MRI came back with no abnormalities. That was good but I know I am not imagining all this stuff happening to me. Neurologists office called me today. Said that my B6 levels were highly elevated, which will cause neuropathy… the dizziness, tingling and numbing sensations, etc. and told me to quit taking any vitamins or supplements. I told her I don’t take anything. I have blood pressure medicine and take gabapentin for fibromyalgia and it also helps with RLS. I supplement with ibuprofen. I answered negative to energy drinks and being a vegetarian. She told me that a normal level of B6 in the body is 35 (that’s the high end) and my level was 53. She thought that was very strange that I wasn’t taking anything else and said she would have to talk to the neurologist and get back to me.

    I am so tired of being constantly dizzy. Headaches come and go. The kitchen episode is the 2nd time that has happened, albeit the first time was about a year ago and we blew it off.
    If too much B6 is my diagnosis, how did this happen and how do I fix it? They never called me back today but my googling led me here. Has anyone found answers?

  2. Nathan G.
    Oviedo, FL
    Reply

    I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy on 3 Sept. 2014. I was also confirmed by my primary care doctor later that week. It was very severe, I could barely walk and keep balance. I didn’t have any pain in feet, though. Just seemed like severe swelling in bottom of feet, without the pain. It was like I had a pair of water-balloons strapped to the soles of my feet. No way to feel the ground to keep balance! Later the ‘water-balloons’ seemed to go away and it was more like a layer of gel or jello but it was still the same balancing problem when walking.

    According to doc, my blood tests from the lab revealed a very low B6 level, and the doctor immediately prescribed Pyridoxine(B6) after over a month or two, my peripheral neuropathy has essentially disappeared. I also picked up some B-complex. Take all of them religiously now. Also plan to get the P-5-P or a coenzymated B6 / metabolically active form of vitamin B-6. I would much rather OD on B vitamins than ever go through that nightmare again. Take it from me, you don’t want to have neuropathy in your feet!

    PS. after the neuropathy started to go away, I saw a fairly top-notch neurologist and he didn’t think I ever had neuropathy at all. Maybe myelopathy or lateral sclerosis. ER doc suggested spinal cord injury.

    My supervisors were so freaked out by all of this of they forced me out on FMLA and unpaid leave for 2 months until I could get the doc to sign me back into the workforce. Not a pretty trip for me but it’s mostly over now.

  3. Jean
    Wilton, NY
    Reply

    I am struggling with neuropathy which has been labeled idiopathic. The only thing we can find is that my vitamin b6 is high, and when I was taking a multivitamin it was much higher. It all started when I went to a Functional Medicine Doctor. I have noticed that b6 in many supplements is way higher than the normal amount one should have. People think it is ok because b vitamins are supposed to be water soluble.

    • The People's Pharmacy
      Reply

      It is important to pay attention to vitamin B6. Taking too much (100 mg daily, possibly as little as 50 mg/day) can lead to nerve damage.

      • Jean
        Reply

        Doctors, especially functional medicine doctors, are crazy about b vitamins but they forget or are unaware that b6 can be toxic.

  4. KM
    Reply

    I had progressing neuropathy in my feet, and after genetic testing, I found that I have an inherited condition called MTHFR. This mutated gene was “discovered” in 2001 and the medical community has yet to embrace it. B vitamins are seriously involved, and if one has MTHFR, they have to take the active form of B vitamins. I had really high levels of B12 on a blood serum test, but my B12 was like an ATM without a debit card. My body wasn’t able to convert the B12. Neuropathy is very common with this condition and it gets better or worse depending on the MTHFR treatment protocol. Google MTHFR and neuropathy and you will probably learn more than you want to know. I am constantly learning more and more about why I have neuropathy. Last night I read about Epsom salt foot soaks and tried it and my neuropathy after soaking for 20-30 minutes was much improved.

    • Jean
      New York
      Reply

      I have one Mthfr mutation. Do you have one or both? Some doctors are familiar now but they say you have to have both mutations.

  5. Lola W.
    Reply

    I also have numbness in my feet sometimes I get rls at night so I keep a pair of socks handy and when I get rls I wear them and go right to sleep but I’ve started taking b6 I heard it helps so I’ll let you know after I talk to my dr.

  6. zqicvs
    Reply

    To Mary H,
    I’m suffering from idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. took a teaspoon of bitter Brewer’s yeast for many, many years but only noticed the neuropathy 10 years ago after foot surgery for a Morton neuroma and a bunion on the left foot. Years later when I suffered excruciating pain from a Morton on the right foot and had surgery I developed neuropathy on that foot as well. So now both feet feel totally numb, some days more so than others and some nights the numbness which is more like a tight band around my toes, soles and ankle (so far only the left one) makes it difficult to sleep but when I do fall asleep I sleep through the night.
    I also developed what I understand is called “trigger finger” on the ring finger of the right hand. I don’t know if there’s any relationship there with the neuropathy. I’m planning to see a hand specialist about that. About 10 days ago, I started taking 30 mgs of active Q10 (uniqinol) 80 mgs of benfotiamine and 50 mg of r-liopoic acid, no side effects or positive results as yet. I know I should increase the benfotiamine dose and will do so.
    4 years ago lab tests showed I had a high level of vitamin B6 though I wasn’t taking any extra vitamins. Recently blood test showed vitamin B6 is down to normal levels and vitamin B12 is very high. The doctor didn’t seem concerned. I do eat a small banana every day at breakfast. Only 2 days ago I started to add once again after a 3 year break, a coffee spoon of brewer’s yeast with folic acid to my breakfast porridge. I eat healthy, no junk food and exercise 3x a week
    I hear how painful neuropathic pain can be and thankful that so far I’m relatively pain free. If only I could get rid of this terrible numbness. I’ll try anything except the medication, anti depressants and anti epileptic drugs that my neurologist is pushing on me and which I refuse to take. There are neuropathic support formulas on sale on the internet, by 2 different makers, I wonder if anyone out there has tried either of them and if so what is / was the result.

  7. Mary H.
    Reply

    Both B6 and B12 were excessively high on my last lab test after I complained to the doc about numbness and tingling in both hands. Have neuropathy in both feet and ringing in both ears. The doc just said to stop taking any extra of the B vitamins. I was not taking either on a regular basis.
    When I went back I asked why this had happen and he had no answer. How can anyone have high B6 and B12 when both are water soluble and are constantly leaving in the urine? Something is not right. I do take medications for pain. could some of these be the reason?

  8. CASZQI
    Reply

    Any treatment for idiopathic neuropathy? (I have severe foot numbness but little pain) Blood tests show everything is in normal range.

  9. J.H.
    Reply

    Dear People’s Pharmacy,
    what do you recommend for IDIOPATHIC neuropathy? I presently take Gabapentin but have read that it can increase eye pressure. I have Glaucoma so need an alternative to Gabapentin.
    Thank you,
    J.H.

  10. Kate
    Reply

    Same exact thing happened to me with brewer’s yeast. I felt great when I was taking it until the peripheral neuropathy developed about four months later. Terribly uncomfortable tingling and pain in my feet and hands. That was about seven years ago. Now I can’t even eat bananas without it aggravating my peripheral neuropathy. It never goes away.

  11. mege
    Reply

    I also had B6 levels at over 7 times the limit. I stopped taking all vitamins – trying to find a vitamin with no B6 is impossible. After 6 months had my levels re checked and they were within normal limits. Note that lot of grains can fortified with B6 – especially cereals. So if your vitamin is high and you eats foods high in them – might be an issue. I still have some neuropathy but nothing like it was.

  12. lfp
    Reply

    I too have taken metformin for over 5 years. Metformin caused a depletion of my vitamin B12 levels, which in turn caused me to have decreased sensation in my 2 big toes for over a year. Just taking a B12 supplement for the last few weeks has made such a difference. I, once again, have normal toe sensations.

  13. GA
    Reply

    I’ve heard 1-5 grams/day vitamin B5 (pantothenic Acid) clears up acne, which may explain why the yeast helped. It doesn’t seem to be toxic at that dose either.

  14. max2tucker
    Reply

    I am diabetic and managed by metformin. I considered that the gradual neuropathy I was experiencing in my feet was a consequences of the progression of the disease. I do take vitamin supplements and other neutraceuticals to prevent gout. I’m wondering if these supplements may be a contributing factor. I have showed my doctor the list of things I am taking and he has not expressed concern. Is the condition noticeably reversible if I drop down on my B vitamin supplements?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: YOU’LL NEED YOUR DOCTOR’S HELP TO SORT OUT IF YOU ARE TAKING TOO MUCH B6 OR NOT ENOUGH B12. METFORMIN CAN CONTRIBUTE TO A B12 DEFICIENCY, WHICH ITSELF CAN CONTRIBUTE TO NEUROPATHY. DIABETES ALONE CAN ALSO CAUSE NEUROPATHY, SO THE PROBLEM IS COMPLEX. GET HELP!

  15. JB
    Reply

    What do you recommend for numbness caused by diabetes in feet/leg area? Thank you
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID, A SUPPLEMENT, CAN SOMETIMES HELPS.

  16. Leah O.
    Reply

    I have used brewers yeast for years for myself… sprinkle a small amount on my breakfast cereal and it is delicious in small amounts on popcorn!
    But a vet once told me that sprinkling a small amount on my Cats food helps keep cats strong… thus they are never infected with fleas… I use no chemicals. Brewers Yeast is a Natural source of B-12.

  17. dc
    Reply

    RE: B6 nerve damage.
    Could excessive B6 (pyridoxine) consumption aggravate existing tinnitus?

  18. Willy
    Reply

    I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy (some caused by type 2 diabetes). My neurologists prescribed Cerefolin Generic Name: L-Methylfolate/B12/B6/B2 because my blood test came back showing my B6 level was on the low end.
    After a few months my new blood test came back with my B6 was well over the high mark. I asked my neurologists if I should stop taking the Cerefolin and he said no that it will not hurt me. Does anyone know if this be dangerous? I would appreciate comments from a medical professional .

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