We have all been through some tough times in life. Some a little more than others. It varies from one person to next how much the problems affect us. Eventually, some of us fall into the deep pit of emotional darkness – depression. But as they say, hope is never over, what if I told you – You can win over your depression without breaking your bank and spending mighty dollars at the therapist? That’s right. I am talking about a vitamin that can make you feel relaxed, calm and help you sleep better. I am talking about using Vitamin B-3, or Niacin for depression.
What is Niacin?
Niacin, also widely known as Vitamin B-3, is one among the 8 B Vitamins. Vitamin B-3 was discovered to be the anti-pellagra vitamin. Originally, niacin was known as nicotinic acid and its amide. They later changed the name to remove the similarity to a poison – nicotine. And today, it is medically and widely known as niacin and its amide. Niacin has been around in the medical community since the mid 20th Century.
In nature, Vitamin B-3 exists in the amide form as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). Pure nicotinamide and niacin are synthetics. For about 100 years, Niacin existed as just another chemical before the scientists recognized it to be Vitamin B-3. Niacin comes from nicotine, a poison produced by the tobacco plant to protect itself against its predators.
You must be wondering, if it comes from nicotine how can it be beneficial? The answer is – Nature does not waste anything. When one of the rings of nicotine is cracked open for simplification, it turns into the priceless vitamin B-3.
On the other hand, our bodies make their own Vitamin B-3 from the amino acid tryptophan. Your next question would probably be, “If my body makes its own Vitamin B-3, why do I need supplements of niacin for depression?” The thing is, our bodies don’t synthesize enough Vitamin B-3 for it to be of any good use for curing illnesses like depression.
Additionally, all of the 8 B-Vitamins are water-soluble and the body does not store them. So you need a continuous supply.
Benefits of Niacin, What Exactly Does Niacin Do?
Like all B-Vitamins, Vitamin B-3 or niacin helps the body convert carbohydrates (food) into glucose, which the body uses to produce energy.
Also, niacin helps the body use fats and protein. It is also essential for a healthy liver, healthy skin, hair, and eyes, and proper function of the nervous system.
Moreover, niacin helps the body produce various sex and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands and other parts of the body. Niacin helps to improve circulation. Proven, it suppresses inflammation as well.
Additionally, niacin effectively treats health problems such as High Cholesterol, Atherosclerosis, Heart Diseases, Diabetes, Osteoarthritis among many others.
Do I Have a Niacin Deficiency?
Deficiency of niacin is shown in the form of the following symptoms:
- Canker sores
- Poor circulation
In a case of severe deficiency, individuals develop a condition known as pellagra. Pellagra is characterized by the 4 Ds – dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death. An endemic epidemic in southern U.S.A., it is generally treated with a nutritionally balanced diet and niacin supplements. Niacin deficiency also causes burning in the mouth and a swollen, bright red tongue.
Do keep in mind that in the developed and modern world, getting a Vitamin B-3 deficiency is very rare.
Using Niacin for Depression
You now know what niacin is. Let’s get to the main point of the whole article. Should you use niacin for depression? The body makes its own Vitamin B-3 and you are not suffering from any deficiency. So, is it safe for you to consume niacin supplements to cure your depression?
To be honest, I learned about niacin when I was scouring the internet for depression remedies. Then I came to know about a documentary film named “Food Matters”. I definitely recommend you watch it as well.
The use of niacin for depression treatment has been around for quite some time. It isn’t a new fad in the market if that’s what you’re worried about. If you want credible sources, here is a journal article by Dr. Abram Hoffer. You may take your time to read the journal article.
Okay. So now you know that using niacin for depression isn’t just some grandmother’s remedy. Apart from the experience of Bill Wilson (co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous or AA), doctors and scientists have accumulated tons of data on the efficacy of niacin for a myriad of health problems.
A quick search of “niacin for depression” through Google will land you tons of websites. You’ll find testimonials, reviews, and experiences of people who actually tried consuming niacin to treat the symptoms of their depression. I did that precisely.
The stories strongly support that using niacin for depression has helped them overcome their symptoms. One website forum even has a confession saying, “I began taking niacin (vitamin B3) 2 months ago. I am finding that it is as effective as any of the anti-depressants that I have used in the past but without the awful and debilitating side-effects.”
However, you should remember that niacin should not be the first step in treating depression. If you follow a poor diet and are under a lot of stress, it can actually enhance your depression and anxiety. You may find that making simple improvements to your diet, exercising, and taking some time to relax helps improve problems with depression and anxiety.
How to Take Niacin?
Still, if changes to your lifestyle don’t help, it’s probably time to take the niacin supplements.
The first dilemma is choosing the type of niacin to use. Basically, you get two kinds of niacin –
- Nicotinic Acid aka the flushing niacin or simply niacin. It induces the “niacin flush”. It dilates your blood vessels and creates a warming sensation on the surface of your skin.
- Nicotinamide aka Niacinamide aka the flush free niacin. You’d best avoid this one. It is less effective in inducing relaxation and calming effects. It also does not significantly lower serum cholesterol.
Reportedly, through a majority of the testimonials online, I learned that the flushing niacin is what works better. Many users were able to find results only with niacin, not niacinamide. Research is still going on to find out whether the difference is significant. But we humans trust word-of-mouth.
And trying something that doesn’t seem to give results isn’t something we like to do.
Therefore, I recommend you stick with the flushing version when choosing to use niacin for depression.
Getting the Correct Dose of Niacin for Depression
In Food Matters, Andrew Saul, Ph.D., tells a story of a woman who was so depressed that she just sat in a corner and didn’t talk to anybody. Her family talked to Dr. Saul about nutrition and he suggested that they try niacin. Soon, the woman was out of her corner and talking to her family as if nothing had ever happened. But she needed up to 11,000 mg a day of niacin before it worked for her. Most others don’t require such a high dose. Even 100mg works well for many people.
So, I suggest you play safe and start with small doses. When your body is saturated with niacin, you get a niacin flush – you get a tingling sensation and your skin becomes reddish for some time. If you don’t get the flush, increase your dosage.
Similarly, it would seemingly be a good choice if you stuck to the Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin B-3 when you’re just starting out. The RDAs for healthy individuals are:
- 1 to 3 years: 6 mg
- 4 to 8 years: 8 mg
- 9 to 13 years: 12 mg
- Boys, 14 to 18 years: 16 mg
- Girls, 14 to 18 years: 14 mg
- Men, 19 years and older: 16 mg
- Women, 19 years and older: 14 mg
- Pregnant women: 18 mg
- Breastfeeding women: 17 mg
Since the Recommended Daily Allowances seem to be just too low to be able to treat something like depression, you’ll definitely need to take a higher dose.
Alternatively, you can also consult a doctor who practices natural medicine to monitor your niacin intake. Taking niacin for depression is not really dangerous in any way as no man has yet died of a niacin overdose.
Which One to Choose?
Now that you have an idea of dosage, you must be wondering… “There are so many brands, so many options. Which one do I choose?”
Yes? I thought so.
If you asked me, I’d recommend this particular one by Swanson.
They are 100 mg per tablet and you can control the dose of niacin depending on whether you get the “flush”. It’s better than getting the ones that are 500 mg each or higher. You should always start small. Plus, it also has some great customer reviews.
Moreover, Dr. John Marks concluded, “In isolated cases, transient liver disorders, rashes, dry skin and excessive pigmentation have been seen. The tolerance to glucose has been reduced in diabetics and patients with peptic ulcers have experienced increased pain. No serious reaction have been reported however even in these high doses. The available evidence suggests that 10 times the RDA is safe (about 100 mg).”
Therefore, you can consume 100 mg of niacin per day without any fear of safety.
Did that catch your attention? Whenever we come to know about a new remedy, we feel cautious. Is it safe? Is it worth my time and money?
Using niacin for depression is definitely worth your time and money. But just like everything else, we need to exercise a bit of caution on this too.
Additionally, prepare yourself for the flush. As your blood vessels dilate and skin warms up, you may feel uncomfortable during the first dose of niacin like a hot, tingling sensation. Few users have explained this sensation as difficult to bear and too troubling. Not everyone experiences the flush very badly, but it’s best to be prepared for the worst.
Therefore, please don’t go on to watch Food Matters and take 11,000 mg of niacin in a day. Because I don’t know what is going to happen. Niacin is a vitamin, so it is supposedly safe. I still recommend you to consult your doctor. If you’re taking any other medications, make sure niacin won’t pick a fight with them inside your body.
Prescription anti-depressants come with awful side-effects such as weight gain, nausea, increased appetite and weight gain, loss of sexual desire and other sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction and decreased orgasm, fatigue and drowsiness, insomnia, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, dizziness, agitation, irritability, anxiety, and the list continues. So, you’re probably far better off taking niacin for depression instead of the anti-depressants.
However, I still recommend you to consult your doctor. If you’re taking any other medications, make sure niacin won’t pick a fight with them inside your body. If no conflict is in the scene, you may go ahead to try this amazing remedy.
If you took niacin for depression and it did actually work for you, what’s next? Would it not be great to take the supplements every day and let it work its magic? Not really. Niacin does work. But like with all other remedies, don’t use it as the primary form of treating your depression.
Taking healthy supplements is good for your health. But there’s something equally as important, if not more. Taking care of your health. Eat a healthy diet that is free from junk, packaged and processed foods. Make it a way of life. Make sure you exercise regularly. Yoga is a great exercise option to reduce stress and increase mindfulness.
Try not to continue using niacin for depression for longer periods of time. If you do, I’ve been repeating this all through the article, please consult your doctor. Although niacin doesn’t have debilitating side effects, very high doses have been known to produce toxic effects in the liver.
Practice techniques of stress reduction such as meditation and deep breathing, massage, meditation, Tai chi, music and art therapy. Even though these need dedication, time and patience, research proves that they can help you win over your depression.
You can win over that black dog and you will!