Feeling a bit blue lately? You might want to think about adding an inexpensive supplement to your daily diet. Niacin (also known as vitamin B3) is a readily available over-the-counter supplement that has been found to improve mood in some people.
In fact, one of the first signs of vitamin B3 deficiency is anxiety and depression. Why would that be? When we aren’t getting enough B3, our bodies may become deficient in an important neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin helps relieve stress and anxiety, so when there are lower circulating levels in the brain, emotional distress can result.
Niacin May Also Help Improve Heart Health
Supplementing with B3 has also become popular because it has a lipid-lowering effect and has been shown to be effective in helping to increase HDL, a good cholesterol that helps decrease the chances of developing heart disease.
B3 deficiency has been noted in people who suffer from alcoholism and in cultures that rely heavily on a corn-based diet (niacin in corn is not easily digested if the corn is boiled, but is absorbed by the body if the corn has been soaked in lime or roasted). Extreme deficiency of niacin causes a medical condition known as pellagra. Pellagra is characterized by dermatitis, diarrhea, scaling of the skin, swelling of the tongue, emotionally erratic behavior, and mental confusion.
Finding the Right B3 Supplement for You
B3 can be purchased in 100 mg tablets. However, if taking this much B3 causes you to have side effects, such as hot flushes, you may try 250 mg to 500 mg slow-niacin or no-flush niacin tablets currently on the market. Though these tablets have larger doses, the niacin is specially treated to avoid skin flushes.
Another option and one that I often prescribe for my patients is to simply take a B-Complex that includes niacin. B-complexes will also include other important B vitamins, such as vitamin B12 and folic acid, which have also been found to have positive effects in improving mood balance. My favorite B Complex is produced by Thorne Research. Thorne Research is a professional line of vitamins that is prescribed often by naturopathic doctors due to their high standards.
But supplements are not the only way to get B3. Foods naturally high in B3 include lean meats, as well as legumes such as peanuts and lentils. Niacin is also found in small quantities of grains, vegetables, and fruit. Simple changes in our daily diets can often have an amazing impact on improving emotional balance and overall well-being.
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I look forward to helping you on your journey to health.