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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. CASZQI
    Reply

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. dc
    Reply

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

  15. 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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