The vitamin B family is a useful group that targets some of the most common health issues of modern society, including fatigue, stress, depression, high cholesterol and brain and heart health. B complex vitamins are a collection of the B vitamin family recommended for a variety of reasons. Fortunately there are tips to make choosing a B complex vitamin a little easier to digest.

B-1 (thiamine) is good for the heart. B-2 (riboflavin) is good for digestion and the brain. B-3 (niacin) comes in various forms but can be very helpful for cholesterol and joint issues and possibly help protect the brain from dementia. B-5 (pantothenic acid) is needed to help with energy and the adrenal glands. B-6 (pyridoxine) is needed for nerve health, and along with B-12 and B-9 (folic acid) is important for the health of the blood vessels, brain, heart and our DNA. B-7 (biotin) is used in sugar metabolism and used clinically to improve the health of hair. Doctors might recommend a B complex to help boost energy, help with depression and even help with sugar cravings. It is not a far stretch to assume B vitamins could help us feel better since they are needed for so many functions in the body. At times, one member of the B family may be more important than others. B-3 for cholesterol is one example. For general health issues, however, the B vitamin family is valued as a team.

There are several simple things to keep in mind when choosing a B complex vitamin. First, eliminate any brand that has any kind of artificial coloring or dyes. There is absolutely no need for them. For over-the-counter vitamins, I generally prefer capsules over tablets, as many tablets are hard to digest. Patients with a history of bloating, heartburn, indigestion or irritable bowels often find certain vitamins are not easily absorbed. This is not true of all tablets, and some are digested just as well as physician-grade vitamins.

Another determining factor is the B-12 found in the vitamin. B-12 can be found in several forms, including cyanocobalamin, hydroxycobalamin, adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin. All of these will work, but many companies focused on quality will pride themselves on using what are considered to be the more useable forms: methlycobalimin, hydroxycobalamin or adenocobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is not necessarily a bad option, but many integrative physicians feel that the others are better utilized by the body.

Dosage is a complicated issue with B complex vitamins. This type of vitamin will contain at least eight ingredients, all of which will vary in dosage from brand to brand. There is no specific dosage required for each, but they should all be at least 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). The RDA required to prevent nutritional deficiency for the B vitamins is very small and is not necessarily the best level to achieve optimal health. B complex vitamins are water-soluble. Though the body can store some of the B vitamins, they are absorbed, used and then excreeted. Expect urine to be yellow when taking a B complex vitamin. If urine does not turn at least slightly more yellow than normal, the dosage might be too low.