Niacin-Part 2

Niacin – Part 2
By: Dorine Lam, RD, MS, MPH
Niacin as a detoxifying agent
There are several more methods that can be used for detoxifying yourself from the buildup of toxins in the body, ranging from enemas to fasting and saunas. Within any method that you choose, the use of niacin can accelerate the detoxification process by rupturing the fat cells (lipolysis) that store the toxins, and thereby releasing them for elimination.
Generally, one would start with a low dose of niacin (the plain niacin that causes flushing), 50 milligrams or so depending on the individual’s level of tolerance, and gradually building to a maximum of 500 milligrams. Higher doses have been used for those who are gravely ill from drug use or chemical toxins. The level of tolerance is determined by how intensely (that is, the duration) the flushing persists in the individual.
The toxins that are released from the fat cells by the niacin need to be quickly eliminated from the body, or it may cause serious damage to the liver, kidneys and other organs, including the brain. The elimination step cannot be overstated, as when the toxins are not efficiently and speedily eliminated, the toxins can then enter the brain cells where they become very difficult to remove.
There are two main methods for elimination, either through the skin, which is the body’s largest organ, or through the gastrointestinal tract with the assistance of charcoal for absorption. After ingesting the niacin, the healthy person should begin an exercise regimen that causes sweating, and then enter a sauna to literally sweat it out for 30 to 45 minutes.
It does not matter what type of exercise one engages in, in so far as there is sufficient perspiration. Those who are weak should NOT embark on this without supervision, as will be discussed later, as this may cause more harm than good.
Consuming activated charcoal to assist with the elimination of the toxins through the gastrointestinal tract will further assist with the speedy removal of the toxins. The charcoal works by absorbing the toxins (that is, hitching to electrons of toxins) and removing them through bowel movements or via urine.
Niacin as a sleeping aid
Insomnia can affect your overall health and well-being and can negatively impact your ability to function on a daily basis. A good night’s sleep where you wake feeling fully rested is something approximately 30 million Americans find elusive. People who suffer from insomnia can suffer from fatigue, difficulty paying attention, and difficulty with focusing, mood swings, and irritability. Those who opt for pharmacologic sleeping aids may become dependent on them as they believe they cannot fall asleep without their continual use – in these situations non-pharmacologic interventions are preferred.
There are four stages to a typical sleep cycle, with stages one and two occurring as you begin to fall asleep and progress into a light sleep when your breathing and heart rate slow down. The following two stages are known as deep sleep, and this is the stage where the most restorative sleep occurs, when the brain is active and dreaming and the body is immobilized.
In general, 90 minutes is required from the time of falling asleep to the time of entering into the deep or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Every 90 minutes the body will cycle through these stages and enter in and out of REM. REM sleep is necessary as this is where the body enters into deep slumber and is energized, helping one stay focused and active during the waking hours.
There is evidence to suggest that vitamin B3 can assist with sleepingwhich means that another unique property of niacin is its ability to be a wonderful and natural sleeping aid via its interaction with tryptophanNiacin also works with the adrenal gland to make stress-reducing hormones, thereby helping the body relax by reducing anxiety and depression.
L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid that helps to improve sleep and reduce stress. It is directly involved in the production of both serotonin (which is known to improve mood and mental health) and melatonin (which is known to improve sleep), as it acts as a precursor to these neurotransmitters by providing the building blocks. L-tryptophan has even been shown to improve the recollection of dreams. Naturally-occurring sources of tryptophan include most high protein foods (such as red meat, fish, and chicken) and high carbohydrate foods (such as grains, bread and pasta). For those on a low carbohydrate and/or gluten free diet, supplementation with tryptophan maybe needed.
What is the relationship with tryptophan and niacin? Essentially, tryptophan converts to niacin in the body. However, the exact mechanism by which niacin improves sleep is unclear. It has been suggested that low niacin levels disrupt the firing of brain neurons, which affects the sleep-wake cycle.
Approximately 30 minutes prior to going to bed, taking a small amount of niacin (dosage can vary widely between 25 milligrams to 250 milligrams, depending on your individual circumstances) can significantly reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Ideally, the amount required would be the minimal dosage to induce sleep in the individual. As always, consulting your physician and taking niacin under medical supervision is advised.
When niacin is used in conjunction with proper sleep hygiene, this will increase the probability of falling asleep and staying asleep without the use of pharmaceuticals. Sleep hygiene entails avoiding the use of computer or television screens prior to sleeping, and also avoiding excessive exercise two or more hours before bedtime.
Individuals who are sensitive to caffeine should also avoid the consumption of coffee or caffeinated teas after midday. Tobacco use and alcohol consumption can also affect your ability to sleep. The environment and atmosphere in which one sleeps is also an important consideration. Comfortable bedding, the right temperature, noise control, and lighting also play a role in assisting you in falling and staying asleep.
Individuals who suffer from chronic insomnia should also consider seeking medical attention to rule out other possible underlying health issues such as sleep apnea.
The difference between niacin, niacinamide and inositol hexaniacinate
There are a number of different forms of niacin which may be taken: niacin, niacinamide, and inositol hexaniacinate, which we will discuss in turn.
Plain niacin quickly dissolves, and will almost always cause a flush in everyone who takes it in large enough quantities, especially in the earlier stages of taking this vitamin. Flushing refers to a visible skin reaction (redness, that is much like blushing) that typically begins in the face and travels through the upper body and sometimes reaches the legs. One may also feel heat, itching, and tingling as the small vessels near the surface of the skin are undergoing dilation; known as vasodilation.
Niacinamide, on the other hand, does not cause a flush in people, and is preferred by those who find great discomfort in experiencing a flush. Niacinamide is the type of niacin that manufacturers typically use in a multivitamin or supplement preparation to avoid the flushing sensation.
However, the drawback with this form of niacin is that in very high doses (for example, 5000 mg), it is more likely to cause nausea. Another disadvantage is that niacinamide does not help with correcting levels of cholesterol as a ‘side-effect,’ unlike the other two forms of niacin. The correcting of cholesterol or lipid benefit refers to the lowering of the bad cholesterol, and simultaneously raising HDL and lowering triglycerides.
Inositol hexaniacinate is probably the most popular no-flush niacin (there are always rare exceptions where a flush does occur), and it works almost as well as niacin or niacinamide. It is slightly more expensive than niacin or niacinamide, and it will also help with correcting cholesterol levels as a side benefit. Inositol hexaniacinate is considered the best of both worlds – no flush and yet still retaining the lipid benefits.
Recommended dosage
Niacin is best when taken in combination with a balanced B vitamin complex (50 milligrams is recommended, if purchasing 100 milligram-sized tablets, the tablet can be broken in half). The amount of niacin will vary from person to person, based on their height, weight, lifestyle, and gender. The recommended dosage is between 200 to 500 milligrams three times a day, working up from smaller dosages at first. Further considerations are required based on whether the person is sick or well and their current stress levels.
Precautionary measures when taking niacin
The other concern that people are anxious over when considering niacin therapy, besides the physical discomfort of flushing, is the liver function tests and the results thereof. High doses of niacin can increase readings in liver function tests.
However, it should be noted that elevated liver function tests are a sign of increased liver activity, and not necessarily a sign of liver pathology.
Many doctors who do not have experience with niacin therapy are unaware of this vital distinction. Therefore, it is imperative that the tests need to be properly interpreted by a doctor who is familiar with the workings of niacin, and does not cause undue alarm to the patient, who in all likelihood is already very concerned and anxious about their health status. The stress of this misinterpretation of test results can have the potential to cause an adrenal crash for the adrenal fatigue sufferer, who is highly sensitive to news pertaining to doom and gloom in relation to their health.
More often than not, those who take the proprietary types of niacin that a doctor would prescribe are the people who are having elevated readings. Also, people who have a history of alcohol use should also expect high readings, as the liver is the detox gland when the alcohol is detoxified from the body.
Niacin and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
The use of niacin in a setting of AFS largely falls under two categories, as a sleep aid and as a detoxification agent. Its use as a lipid support agent is limited due to the large dose required, which can have unpleasant side effects.
As a sleep aid, niacin and its derivatives do have some supporting functions. The dosage varies greatly from person to person. It is usually best used in conjunction with other sleep aids and mood stabilizing agents including GABA, melatonin, 5-HTP, etc. and not as a single therapeutic agent. The liquid sublingual form is usually preferred as it is easier to titrate, and absorption into the bloodstream is fast.
As a lipotropic, it encourages the export of fat from the liver, and is therefore a detoxifying agent. However, its use should be closely supervised to avoid retoxification reaction. This is especially true in advanced stages of AFS where the liver is sluggish and clearance is compromised.
Excessive niacin, along with heat and exercise, can in fact trigger adrenal crashes. The liquid form is best for easy absorption. It is also best used in conjunction with other liver clearance aids including milk thistle in both fermented and unfermented forms, such as glutathione, lipoic acid, etc.
Niacin has numerous benefits, and we have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg in discussing correcting your cholesterol levels, use as a detoxification agent, and also as a natural sleeping aid. Drug companies cannot patent niacin, and it is therefore of little interest to them, but it is certainly a vitamin to consider. It is important to bear in mind that all of the B vitamins work synergistically with one another, which means you will obtain better results when niacin is taken in conjunction with a B-complex multivitamin.
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