From the capsule in the morning to the amount that is in our food, we should be thinking about vitamins all the time. Most people don’t consume the daily dose of vitamins that are recommended. Actually, most people don’t even take a multivitamin. We do this without even considering the consequences and feel that if something does happen, then we’ll be able to fix it before it gets too severe. But how are we going to recognize a deficiency if we don’t know the signs, symptoms, or anything about them?
There are so many conditions that are due to vitamin deficiency. One that not many people know about is pellagra. Pellagra is caused by niacin or vitamin B3 deficiency. Again, how will you know if you suffer from pellagra if you don’t know what it is or how to combat it? Are you taking niacin or vitamin B3? Do you know why it is necessary? Let’s find out.
What is Niacin/Vitamin B3?
Niacin/Vitamin B3 is an organic compound. It is also known as nicotinic acid. It is one of the 20 to 80 essential nutrients, depending on which definition is used. Your body uses the compound to turn food into energy. It is also necessary to keep your digestive and nervous system healthy, as well as your skin, hair, and eyes.
Some doctors use niacin to increase HDL cholesterol. HDL or high-density lipoprotein is considered the “good cholesterol”. HDL cholesterol removes excess “bad cholesterol” and transports it to the liver for disposal. Niacin can raise the HDL by more than 30 percent. Another benefit of niacin is its ability to help you relax and fall asleep more quickly at night. Also, it can help with anxiety and depression issues.
How much Niacin should I take?
The recommended daily intake varies depending on gender and age. It is suggested that children get anywhere from 2-12mg of niacin a day. Women should get about 14mg a day, unless they are pregnant or breastfeeding, then the intake should be about 18mg a day. Men are recommended to take about 16mg a day. These dietary requirements can be met either through a vitamin supplement of by the foods you eat. The following foods are among the top 10 in the highest niacin content.
- Fish (specifically Yellowfin Tuna) contains 18.8mg per 3oz.
- Chicken (cooked chicken breast) contains 12.6mg per 3oz.
- Lamb Liver contains 14.2mg per 3oz.
- Pork Chops contain 9.2mg per 3oz.
- Peanuts contain 19.9mg per cup
- Lean Rib Beef contains 9.0mg per 3oz
- Portobello Mushrooms contain 7.6mg per cup
- Green Peas contain 3.0mg per cup
- Sunflower Seeds contain 11.7 mg per cup
- Avocados contain 2.6mg per cup
Be aware that there is such a thing as too much niacin. The symptoms caused by an overdose of niacin include dizziness, nausea, flushing of the skin, and itchiness. A niacin overdose can have terrible effects on the liver. While there are suggested doses of niacin intake it is important to consult your doctor regarding the right amount for you. Different people have different thresholds when it comes to niacin.
What is Pellagra?
Pellagra is a vitamin deficiency disease; in this case it is a deficiency of niacin or vitamin B3. The most common cause of pellagra or primary pellagra is not consuming enough niacin. This can be caused from alcoholism and lack of vegetables, meat, eggs, and seafood in the diet. The other, less common, cause of pellagra or secondary pellagra is digestive disorders that alter the absorption of niacin. In this case, the individual does consume enough niacin, but an underlying cause, such as gastrointestinal diseases, prevents the body from absorbing the niacin.
There are various different signs and symptoms of pellagra. It is commonly described used the 3 Ds: dermatitis, diarrhea, and dementia. First is dermatitis or skin signs. If you have a niacin deficiency, you will begin to notice lesions on both sides of your body. The lesions typically appear symmetrically. The next symptom is diarrhea or different sorts of gastrointestinal symptoms. These can include abdominal discomfort, constipation or diarrhea, distention, nausea, and vomiting. The last symptom listed is dementia. This can also relate to other central nervous problems such as confusion, delirium, dementia, depression, disorientation, and paranoia. Other symptoms that are not listed among the 3 Ds are mucous membrane symptoms. These symptoms include swelling of the tongue, increased salivation, and pain in the mouth. Ulcerations can also appear in the mouth. They typically appear on the inside of the cheek, under the tongue, and on the mucous membrane of the lower lip.
Not all niacin deficiencies end in pellagra, but it is critical to know that there is a potential for that. It is important to take a multivitamin and talk to your doctor about checking your niacin levels. If you have any niacin supplements that you have found beneficial, we’d love to hear about them!