Niacin is found in 2 forms: nicotinic acid or niacinamide. In the body, niacin gets converted into the active forms NAD and NADP.
Some of the first symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency include photosensitivity, decreased energy production, and problems maintaining the healthy function of the skin and intestines.
A niacin deficiency affects every cell, especially cells with rapid turnover such as the skin, Gi tract, and nervous system.
Additional symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency include:
- General fatigue
- Skin eruptions, red skin or rough, dry skin
- Sore red tongue
- Canker sores
- Tender gums
Neurological symptoms associated with vitamin B3 deficiency can start with irritability, insomnia, headaches followed by tremors, anxiety, depression, and full-blown psychosis.
Pellagra is a disease caused by niacin deficiency. Pellagra can be a serious, and fatal problem that is characterized by 3D’s.
One of the first signs of deficiency is sensitivity of the skin to sunlight resulting in extreme redness of skin in areas exposed to sunlight. The skin can also become rough, thick, and dry. Eventually, the skin becomes pigmented in areas exposed to the sun.
The RDA of niacin for adult males is 16 mg, and for adult women is 14 mg.
Symptoms of niacin deficiency are seen when diets are below 7.5 mg of niacin per day. For optimal health, you will want to make sure that you are getting at least the RDA of niacin.
As niacin deficiency worsens, so will diarrhea, inflammation of the mouth, and Gi tract. Stomach acid decreases, resulting in achlorhydria.
Up to 50% of niacin, is derived from tryptophan with the help of vitamin B6.
Supplementing with niacin should be done with caution as high dose niacin can raise homocysteine levels, which is not beneficial for anyone at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Excess niacin in the body can deplete the crucial methyl donor SAMe as SAMe helps breaks down niacin. Decreased function in the methylation pathway can lead to liver damage.
Niacin taken in the form of nicotinic acid can cause redness, warmth, and itching of the skin. This reaction is known as the niacin flush, which is not harmful and only lasts for 20-30 minutes.
The niacin flush is the result of histamine being released. Histamine then causes vasodilation.
Niacin is used to:
- Lower cholesterol
- Improve energy
- Improve circulation
- Reduce blood pressure
- Repair and build DNA
- Reduce anxiety and provide a greater ability to handle stress
- Support stomach acid production
- Reduce migraines and headaches
- Used for digestive disorders (diarrhea and indigestion)
- Used in treatments of mental disorders such as depression, mood disorders, and schizophrenia
Niacin has a wide variety of benefits throughout the body. But as with anything, it is all about the perfect balance. Too little niacin can lead to extreme deficiency symptoms of vitamin B3, such as pellagra.
Too much niacin can cause liver damage and deplete the body of SAMe. SAMe is needed for 200 plus enzymes, such as the PEMT gene. Depleted SAMe is a big deal.
Eating foods high in niacin is the best way to ensure adequate dietary intake of niacin.
Vitamin B3 rich foods include:
- Yeast extract
- Shitake mushrooms
- Sundried tomatoes
- Red and green peppers
- Sunflower seeds
- Tuna, mackerel, salmon, swordfish, halibut (all fish)
- Chicken breast
- Brown rice
Niacin Lozenges by Seeking Health is a niacin supplement to start with as dosing can be easily adjusted as needed. Niacin may help to support healthy circulation, healthy skin, energy production, mood regulation, and metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.
Nicotinic acid is the form of niacin that is rapidly absorbed. The vasodilation effect of niacin is beneficial for increased blood flow into fatty tissues. Healthy blood flow into fatty tissues allows toxins to be removed from the fatty tissues for processing and detoxification out of the body.
Taking 30 – 50 mg of nicotinic acid or more typically causes flushing on the face, arms, and chest that can be accompanied by tingling itching sensations.
These symptoms usually occur within 30 minutes. While these symptoms are not harmful, you can suck on a niacin lozenge at a lower dose to prevent the symptoms of a niacin flush.