Riboflavin (Oral)

Riboflavin is a key micronutrient which the body requires to absorb a number of other nutrients within the system and to maintain a healthy metabolism and bodily systems. It supports growth, provides energy and helps break down foods.

Overview

Riboflavin is another name for Vitamin B2, one of a group of nutrients required by the body which acts as an important antioxidant within the body. It has a number of important roles within the human body and minimum levels are required in order to keep blood cells healthy and functioning well, that your metabolism works effectively, and to help you keep and sustain good energy levels. Riboflavin has other key health benefits, including actions which prevent cell damage during the breakdown of products in the body, supporting normal growth processes and functions of the skin and eyes.

The human body does not require huge amounts of this vitamin and as it is water-soluble it can often be found in many common foods which you eat every day. However, for those that suffer from the consequences of a Vitamin B deficiency then Riboflavin is available as a supplement to be taken orally. In particular, Riboflavin is important to ensure the body is able to break down nutrients in your food, such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and to help your cells generate the oxygen your system needs to operate.

There are a number of other B vitamins, all of which have a role in digestion and energy production – in particular, providing the base unit of energy in the body, known as ATP. This is the building block for every action you take. The vitamin also acts as an enabler for a number of other nutrients in the same family, such as Vitamin B6 and folic acid, to fulfill their necessary functions. Broadly, this range of vitamins is responsible for vital functions such as nerve health, the health of the heart and blood, actions to reduce inflammation, the ability of hormones to operate, and keeping a healthy metabolism and digestive system.

This means that if you have a Riboflavin deficiency there are a number of serious side effects which will quickly become obvious. These can include the following signs and symptoms:

  • Low iron levels, or anemia
  • Regular and ongoing periods of fatigue or tiredness
  • Regularly having a sore throat
  • Inflammation around your mouth or tongue
  • Nerve damage which may present as tingling or a lack of sensation
  • Changes in your metabolism, particularly where its function becomes more sluggish
  • Cracking lips and/or sores around the mouth
  • Inflammation or disorders of the skin, particularly often around the nose or face
  • Swelling around the mucus membranes which line the cavities of the body or surround internal organs
  • Increased anxiety and signs of depression

Conditions Treated

If you feel you have a deficiency in this important vitamin then you can purchase a supply of oral supplements without a prescription however it may be useful to check with your healthcare professional to ensure you are treating the correct condition. There are, however, a number of medical situations where you may have an increased need for riboflavin. These include:

  • Having a large intake of alcohol, or diagnosed alcoholism
  • Significant burns across parts of your body
  • Some instances of cancer
  • Ongoing and regular diarrhea
  • Continuing periods of fever
  • Sustained infection
  • Some forms of intestinal diseases which affect your ability to absorb nutrients
  • Types of liver disease
  • Having a diagnosis of an overactive thyroid
  • If you have had surgery to remove some or all of your stomach
  • Infants that have poor liver function (and so high blood levels of bilirubin) may be prescribed small doses of this vitamin in order to improve their condition.

Type of Medicine

  • Vitamin

Side Effects

As a non-prescription drug, available over the counter, Riboflavin is generally considered to be safe for most people to take when required. The most commonly reported side effect is that this supplement may change the color of the person’s urine, usually to a yellow-orange color. It is also reported that excess and high doses of this vitamin can cause diarrhea or other unpleasant side effects such as an increase in passing urine. Persons with hepatitis, cirrhosis or other kinds of biliary obstruction will find their ability to absorb Riboflavin is significantly decreased.

Dosage

The effective dosage of Riboflavin will depend on the age of the person that needs to take the supplement and the form that you plan to take them in. Capsules are available in either

50mg or 400mg doses, while tablets can usually be purchased in doses of 25mg, 50mg or 100mg. It is useful to consult a health professional to discover the most suitable therapeutic dose for your symptoms or concerns.

There are existing recommendations for a healthy person’s daily allowance (RDA) of Riboflavin in order to maintain healthy bodily function. Scientific research suggests that in men this is around 1.3 mg/day, while women need at least 1.1 mg/day. Pregnant women need slightly more at 1.4 mg/day and women currently breastfeeding are suggested to have a minimum intake of 1.6 mg/day. Where it is deemed necessary for adults to supplement their Riboflavin intake then the suggested level is 6-30 mg/day in divided doses, taken orally.

For children, the doses required are slightly lower but the provision of medication remains fairly similar. Paediatric capsules are available in 50mg or 400mg and tablets are provided in

25mg, 50mg or 100mg. The recommended intake for this group is 0.3 mg/day for infants aged up to six months, 0.4 mg/day for five to twelve month old infants, 0.5 mg/day at one to three years, 0.6 mg/day at three to eight years, 0.9 mg/day for eight to thirteen years. Finally, young adults of thirteen to eighteen years require 1.3 mg/day (for young men) and 1 mg/day (for young women).

Interactions

If you are on an existing drug regime then you may find that some of your existing medications could clash with a Vitamin B supplement. As such you should always consult with your healthcare provider before choosing to add Riboflavin to your daily intake. The following drugs and prescriptions would be of particular concern:

Anticholinergics

These are used to block the action of the neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) acetylcholine and are prescribed to manage a wide variety medical issues including incontinence of the bladder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and certain types of poisoning.

Tetracycline

This type of antibiotic is prescribed in situations where there is a need to fight a bacterial infection. It is given for a variety of these types of infections, including those on the skin, intestines, or internal sites such as the respiratory tract, urinary tract, or lymph nodes. It may also be given to persons suffering from acne, or syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. If you do need to take this medication while on Riboflavin then your vitamin should be taken at a different time in order to ensure it is absorbed effectively.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

These types of drugs may be prescribed to persons suffering from a range of depressive disorders or other mental health conditions and their action is known to reduce the amount of riboflavin in the body’s systems. This means it is important to introduce a supplement if you are already aware you have low levels of riboflavin, particularly as it may improve the effectiveness of this medication.

Doxorubicin

This chemotherapy drug works to slow the growth of cancer cells by blocking the action of an enzyme. However, this same action can also reduce the body’s ability to absorb and use riboflavin. Your doctor will be aware of this possible interaction and should advise you if you need to take an additional supplement.

Methotrexate

This wide-acting drug is usually prescribed to manage inflammatory bone and joint conditions such as types of arthritis and vasculitis and reduce the damage these would cause to your bones. It has been shown that while useful for these conditions, it will also inhibit the body from using riboflavin and this should be carefully managed to avoid unpleasant side effects.

Phenytoin

This anti-convulsant drug is used to control seizures – particularly those that may begin during or after surgery - in order to protect the brain or nervous system. It is known to affect levels of riboflavin in the body so a supplement may be required.

Probenecid

This is another medication aimed at managing arthritic conditions, in particular, gouty arthritis and serves as a preventative from this painful condition. It forms part of a class of drugs known as uricosurics which help your kidneys to manage uric acid in the system. Its action inhibits the body’s ability to absorb riboflavin from the digestive tract.

Warnings

There are no significant health warnings around taking this vitamin and it is considered likely that it is safe to be taken by women who are pregnant or nursing as long as the suggested doses are respected.

Storage

Oral doses of Riboflavin, whether in syrup, tablet or capsule form, should be stored below

40°C in a dark cupboard or another vessel that protects it from sunlight and moisture. As with all supplements and medications, these products should be kept away from children in a tightly sealed container. It is also important that you check the expiry date on the package before taking doses of this supplement.

Summary

Riboflavin plays a number of important roles within the human body, including energy generation, growth, absorption of foods and the general health of a variety of bodily symptoms. Persons with a deficit of this micronutrient can suffer from a range of symptoms, such as anemia, changes in the metabolism, nerve damage and inflammation. This can be treated with regular doses of oral riboflavin, both in adults and in children, and this treatment is generally considered to be safe (providing the appropriate doses are taken.) The key reported side effect is that it may turn the patient’s urine a yellow-orange color but this has no long-lasting ill-effect. This supplement is available in either tablets, capsules or syrup and should be carefully stored away from heat and light to maintain its integrity.

Resources
Last Reviewed:
January 30, 2018
Last Updated:
January 27, 2018