In the neuropathy clinic, mild deficiencies of niacin are probably relatively common.
Vitamin B3, or niacin, is a nutrient that, like all vitamins, is essential to health and life. Vitamin B3 helps our bodies convert food into energy, burn fat properly, and is largely responsible for helping us feel energized!
Did you know that vitamin B3 is a common ingredient in energy drinks? The reason for this is simple. Without vitamin B3, or niacin, our body is unable to function. For many patients, it is lacking due to poor diet. Consuming a diet high in processed foods is likely to be low in niacin. Consuming alcohol can also lower vitamin B3 levels too.
In the neuropathy clinic, mild deficiencies of niacin are probably relatively common. Mild deficiencies probably show up in the neuropathy clinic as slowed metabolism.
Also very common are low levels of niacin, causing a decrease in tolerance to cold. This occurs in neuropathy and chronic pain patients too!
Niacin deficiency can cause the disease called pellagra. Pellagra is disease characterized by the three D’s: diarrhea, dermatitis, and dementia.
In very severe niacin deficiencies, significant changes occur to the nervous system. These changes can show up as psychiatric symptoms and, as we mentioned earlier, dementia or brain disease.
More commonly, especially in modern society, are lower levels of niacin then are optimal, making worse some very common neuropathy treatment conditions, including high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome.
Good food sources of niacin include chicken, beef, and fish including tuna, salmon, and halibut. Many nuts are also high in niacin. Avocado and shiitake mushrooms are also high in niacin. Vitamin B3 as niacinamide is also a common ingredient in many multivitamins and other dietary supplements.
Since niacin is available in two different common forms (niacin and niacinamide), we recommend patients consume both forms in the same supplement.
The reason for this is they will tend to act somewhat differently, both having beneficial effects.
Measuring vitamin B3 levels requires a little more work than a simple blood test. Blood tests for niacin are often unreliable, so special urine tests need to be performed.
Like so many nutrients, it is important to remember that diet must be the number one method of obtaining proper nutrition. It is also critical to understand that each nutrient is just like a key instrument in a symphony.
And just like a symphony does not work when one instrument does not play properly, the same is true in nutrition–especially with neuropathy!
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