Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid is an essential water-soluble B vitamin that is involved in many different biological functions within your body. Due to this, pantothenic acid deficiency symptoms can be difficult to diagnose.
Vitamin B5 is necessary for the proper breakdown and assimilation of fats, carbohydrates and proteins in your foods. It is particularly important the creation of co-enzyme A, a substance which plays a vital role in many of the metabolic processes that sustain your body and keep you alive.
Like all B vitamins, pantothenic acid is water-soluble, meaning it cannot be stored in your body and you need to get good amounts in your diet each day for optimal function.
Fortunately, vitamin B5 is found in a wide variety of foods and a true chronic deficiency in pantothenic acid is quite rare, usually observed in cases of malnutrition, ongoing digestive problems and alcoholism.
Coming up ahead is a list of the best vitamin B5 foods and the recommended daily intake. First let’s look at some of the symptoms of a lack of pantothenic acid and how even being just a little short on B5 and other B vitamins can affect your stress levels and ability to sleep.
The Symptoms of Vitamin B5 Deficiency
A serious case of being deficient in pantothenic acid will usually manifest with symptoms that include numbness in the hands and feet, or occasionally a tingling, prickling or burning sensation in these extremities. Fatigue, headaches, hypertension, insomnia and body aches can also be associated with chronically low vitamin B5.
This is a serious condition and if you are experiencing symptoms like these then it would be important to consult a knowledgeable health care professional. There are many other health conditions that could be behind these kind of symptoms so it’s necessary to get to the root cause before treating it.
More commonly, a low level deficiency in vitamin B5 and other B vitamins can be behind increased difficulty in coping with stress, inability to relax and problems sleeping.
Pantothenic Acid, Stress and Sleep
Since vitamin B5 is needed to properly utilize healthy fatty acids for the creation of essential hormones, poor intake can negatively affect your adrenal glands.
Your adrenals are small glands that sit on top of your kidneys and secrete hormones like testosterone, estrogen, DHEA and, especially related to your stress levels, epinephrine and cortisol.
When lack of pantothenic acid contributes to poor adrenal gland function, some of the symptoms include constant tiredness and fatigue, irritability, low immunity, irregular blood pressure, occasional dizziness, weight gain, low tolerance to stress and difficulty getting to sleep.
High stress levels and insomnia in particular are usually related to excessive cortisol in your body due to overburdened adrenals.
For mild or occasional elevated cortisol, increasing your pantothenic acid intake with certain foods or supplemental B vitamins can often help.
Food Sources of Vitamin B5
Avocados are one of the best food sources of pantothenic acid and very good for you all around. Shiitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, liver, salmon, egg yolks, bananas and dark leafy greens are all great sources.
For snacks, sunflower seeds are another good source of pantothenic acid and other essential B vitamins like niacin. Real yogurt (preferably Greek, not the ‘fruit’ sugar laden brands) is another way to get your B5.
Some sources list grains as a high pantothenic acid food source, but with processing estimated to remove around 75% of it, grain foods aren’t what the used to be in terms of B5 and other nutrition.
While most people should get enough vitamin B5 through their food, if you are under a lot of stress and having trouble relaxing during the day or sleeping at night then a good B complex supplement can often help.
Pantethine, the form of vitamin B5 often used in supplements, has been shown to improve adrenal gland function when you’re under pressure and prevent excessive stress hormones like cortisol being released.
That said, other B vitamins like niacin are so important that unless you have special requirements it’s worth looking for a high quality, food based B vitamin complex like this.
Pantothenic Acid Recommended Daily Intake
You can see the full US Food and Nutrition Board’s RDI for pantothenic acid for all age groups here (these agencies can get very specific for young children).
For adults and children over 14, the recommended daily allowance for vitamin B5 is 5 mg per day. Though high stress levels and the use of oral contraceptives may increase your pantothenic acid needs.
Interestingly, there is no established upper tolerable limit for vitamin B5, meaning it is generally considered very safe. Though heartburn, nausea and diarrhea have been observed with very large intakes, well above what you’d get from food or a regular strength vitamin B supplement.
Have you tried using B vitamins for stress and sleeplessness? While few people eating a varied diet would be at risk of a full-blown pantothenic acid deficiency, extra B vitamins are often reported to help with these kind of conditions.