05 November 2007

Burn, Baby, Burn

Yesterday morning, after my very restful three hours of sleep, I got ready to go strike the set for Taking Leave. Our call was for 10:00, so I got up around 9:00, dressed, made myself some tea and some yummy gluten-free toaster waffles, which I made even yummier by generously sprinkling them with freshly ground nutmeg. Figuring that that day of all days I could use it, I took one of the "energy" vitamin supplements that Mom gave me* and headed out.

About half way to the theater, my arms started to feel very hot. Not hot like I was wearing too heavy a sweater, but hot like a chemical burn. Within a few minutes the skin on my arms had developed an odd, pebbly texture and a noticably cerise hue. And itched just slightly. (This is a truly interesting experience to have when one is driving, by the way, and not distracting at all.)

I tried to figure out what was happening to me and immediately ruled out some freakish new Celiac Disease symptom because while it is possible (CD presents in all kinds of weird ways, being a system-wide autoimmune disease) it's not very likely seeing as that's never happened to me before.

Could it be some kind of response to being exceedingly tired? Also, unlikely.

After another second or two - and considering that I was working on three hours of sleep, I am pretty impressed with myself for having realized this so quickly - I concluded that I was probably experiencing my first ever Niacin Flush. I could just bet that the pills Mom gave me contained some heapin' helpin' of Niacin. I'd not reacted badly to the pills before but I was also willing to bet that nutmeg - a warming spice - is also Niacin-enabled, and was probably enough to push my overtired bod into the red zone.

If you've never had Niacin Flush before, please don't rush out and load up on the stuff just for the experience because while it's not painful, it's definitely rather uncomfortable, rather like having a sunburn from the inside of the skin out. I think I now know how food feels while it's being microwaved.

Fortunately, Niacin Flush isn't permanent or especially destructive. Basically, Naicin is a vasodilator, so once my capillaries returned to their regular size, the redness and swelling abated. I'm still a tiny bit itchy, but at least the flush never got to my face because I can't imagine a way in which that would have been attractive.

When I got home, I checked the label on the "Energy Boost" and sure enough:

Thiamin 38 mg (2533%)

Niacin 60 mg (300%)

Vitamin B12 1 mg (16,667%)

Biotin 1 mg (333%)

Chromium (as chealate) 100 mcg (83%)

I looked up nutmeg, too:
Niacin: 1.400 mg per 100 gm.

The DRV is 20 mg, but the numbers above aren't too scary when you consider that the pro-Niacin crowd suggest taking around 200 mg/day. Or more. A lot more. (Those people are, clearly, wackos.)

I think that the next time that I want to experiment with vitamin poisoning, I'll just stick with huge amounts of vitamin C or something. At least that's water soluble.

*Mom loves vitamins and back before the MS took away walking as her primary mode of transportation you knew when she was coming by the faint rattling sound of all those pills working their way through her system. The only vitamins that I buy are Centrums. The other eight that I take are gifts from Mom. Every day I take a Centrum and every other day I take either Vitimin C, Calcium, and Vitimin E or Bee Propilus (I dunno, ask Mom), Evening Primrose, and Fish Oil (for the Omega-3s). Recently Mom gave some "stress relief vitamins," some "energy" vitamins, and some green tea extract capsules,** the first two of which I take maybe once a month, that last of which is pretty much just a nice little reminder that my Mommy loves me.

**I love Mom and I really appreicate her concern for me, but I gotta say that I am probably one of the least likely candidates for green tea extract capsules of anyone I know. Especially as I would probably wash them down with some tea.


Anonymous said...

gee, I usually associate hypervitamosis* with vitamins A or D. It's why polar bear liver is poisionous. -simon

*great word that.

Bill said...

Hmmm... I now find myself with images of Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews dancing around singing:

Supercalifragilistic hypervitamosis

stuck in my head.


Rob said...

Niacin is certainly a phenom...and I happen to be one of those people taking a significant dosage--about 500mg/day. Why you ask?

Well, niacin is one of the few things that has been proven to raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). It is so effective that it is often prescribed by Drs for those with less-than-optimal blood lipid ratios (and Merck, the large pharmaceutical company, actually produces a version of niacin call niaspan that helps reduce flush even at 1000mg-2000mg).

Personally, I am on a mission to naturally improve my cholesterol levels (that's right, I do not want to take statins or other cholesterol lowering meds for the rest of my life.). Beyond niacin, there are a set of other products ---plant sterols, viscous soluble fibers (from oats, beans, barley, psyllium), monounsaturated fats that work to drive the LDL cholesterol down. Again, this is not the stuff made of weak science. It is endorsed by the National Institute of Health (go to NIH National Cholesterol Education Program).

So, certainly be careful with niacin...but recognize that it has merits---and, over time, you can work to miminize the flush.

Also, interesting insights on nutmeg. I will explore further.