How to Take Niacin (Vitamin B3) for Depression and Anxiety
ANDREW SAUL, AS FEATURED IN 'FOOD MATTERS'
Niacin is vitamin B-3, one of the water soluble B-complex vitamins. One of niacin's unique properties is its ability to help you naturally relax and get to sleep more rapidly at night. And it is well established that niacin helps reduce harmful cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D. explains: *********"Niacin is one of the best substances for elevating high density lipoprotein cholesterol (the "good cholesterol) and so decreases the ratio of the total cholesterol over high density cholesterol." **********************************
Another niacin feature is its ability to greatly reduce anxiety and depression. Yet another feature of niacin is that it dilates blood vessels and creates a sensation of warmth, called a "niacin flush." This is often accompanied with a blushing of the skin. It is this "flush" or sensation of heat that indicates a temporary saturation of niacin.
Dr. Hoffer writes: "With larger initial doses, the flush is more pronounced and lasts longer," says Dr. Hoffer. "But with each additional dose, the intensity of the flush decreases and in most patients becomes a minor nuisance rather than an irritant. Niacin should always be taken immediately after finishing ones meal."
Start with very small amounts of niacin and gradually increase until the first flush is noticed. One method is to start with a mere 25 milligrams (25 mg) three times a day, say with each meal. The next day, try 50 mg at breakfast, 25 mg at lunch and 25 mg at supper. The following day, one might try 50 mg at breakfast, 50 mg at lunch, and 25 mg at supper. And, the next day, 50 mg at each of the three meals. The next day, 75 mg, 50 mg and 50 mg. Then, 75. 75 and 50, and so on. In this way you have increased at the easy rate of only 25 mg per day. One would continue to increase the dosage by 25 mg per day until the flush occurs.
As a general rule, the more you hold, the more you need. If you flush early, you don't need much niacin. If flushing doesn't happen until a high level, then your body is obviously using the higher amount of the vitamin.
Now that you've had your first flush, what next? Since a flush indicates saturation of niacin, it is desirable to continue to repeat the flushing, just very slightly, to continue the saturation. This could be done three or more times a day. To get to sleep sooner at night, niacin can be taken to saturation at bedtime, too. You might be asleep before you even notice the flush.
An important point here is that niacin is a vitamin, not a drug. It is not habit forming. Niacin does not require a prescription because it is that safe. It is a nutrient that everyone needs each day. Different people in different circumstances require different amounts of niacin.
The usual dose range is 3,000 to 9,000 milligrams daily divided into three doses, but occasionally some patients may need more.
Inevitable physician skepticism and questions about niacin's proven safety and effectiveness are best answered in Orthomolecular Psychiatry, edited by David Hawkins, M.D. and Linus Pauling, Ph.D. This nearly 700 page textbook is the standard reference for details on niacin therapy. Persons with a history of heavy alcohol use, liver disorders, diabetes, or pregnancy will especially want to have their physician monitor their use of niacin in quantity. Monitoring long-term use of niacin is a good idea for anyone. It consists of having your doctor check your liver function with a simple blood test.
Plain and simple niacin may be purchased in tablets at any pharmacy or health food store. Tablets typically are available in 50 mg, 100 mg, or 250 mg dosages. The tablets are usually scored down the middle so you can break them in half easily. You can break the halves in half, too, to get the exact amount you want.
If a niacin tablet is taken on an empty stomach, a flush will occur (if it is going to occur at all) within about 20 minutes. If niacin is taken right after a meal, a flush may be delayed. In fact, the flush may occur long enough afterwards that you forgot that you took the niacin! Don't let the flush surprise you. Remember that niacin does that, and you can monitor it easily.
If you want a flush right away, you can powder the niacin tablet. This is easily done by crushing it between two spoons. Powdered niacin on an empty stomach can result in a flush within minutes. Sustained release niacin is often advertised as not causing a flush at all. This claim may not be completely true; sometimes the flush is just postponed. It would probably be difficult to determine your saturation level with a sustained- or time-released product. They are also more costly.
It is a good idea to take all the other B-complex vitamins in a separate supplement in addition to the niacin. The B-vitamins, the body seems to need proportionally more niacin than the other B vitamins.
TO FLUSH OR NOT TO FLUSH?
The niacin flush is normal with many people and will diminish or go away as the patient continues to use niacin at his recommended level of 3,000 milligrams per day.
Generally people who need it the most flush the least. That includes arthritics, schizophrenics, and elderly people with cardiovascular problems. Some schizophrenics do not flush until they get well and then they do. But the presence of the flush or its intensity can not be uniquely used measure the need as there are too many variables such as food in the stomach, whether the drink with it is hot or cold, the kind of food, other medication.”