Niacin is the name of the Vitamin known as B3 (nicotinic acid). Niacin is a water-soluble nutrient found naturally in plants and animals. It is needed by the body in order to prevent the disease pellagra. Pellagra is caused when the body lacks enough niacin. The body also uses niacin to lower cholesterol and prevent coronary artery disease. When the body does not make enough niacin on its own it may become necessary to take niacin in supplemental form.
Most people are able to get enough niacin by eating a variety of foods. Some of the healthiest foods containing niacin are peanuts, whole grains, mushrooms, brewer’s yeast, avocados, dates, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, asparagus, carrots, sweet potatoes, legumes and cereals. Since niacin is also found in living things it means that niacin can be found in animal products such as chicken, fish and beef. Although meat is high in niacin it can also be linked to heart disease if not consumed in a healthy way. Another way of getting niacin is through diary products and eggs. Since niacin is also found in so many fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains it is usually easy for most vegetarians and vegans to get enough of the vitamin as well.
For those people who do not get enough niacin due to medical reasons or poor nutritional habits niacin may be supplemented into the diet through a doctor’s prescription. It is not a good idea to take niacin without the supervision of a medical professional. Although niacin can be found over-the-counter, it can have side effects when taken in excess. Some side effects of overdosing on niacin could include dizziness, vomiting, stomach upset, nausea, itching and flushing of the skin. If you think you may have overdosed on niacin then you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If you are given a prescription for niacin you doctor will probably suggest that you take the medication with a cold glass of water and a light snack. To avoid having side effects you should not take the medication with hot beverages or drink alcohol while taking niacin. Both of these can increase the risk of side effects. The main side effect of taking niacin is flushing of the skin. Flushing can involve feeling warm, tingly, or looking red. Other side effects may include feeling faint, light headed or dizzy when getting up from a sitting or lying down position. When you first start taking the medication it is common for a few side effects to occur until your body adjusts to the dosage. If you notice that the side effects worsen or do not fade over a few days you should contact your physician. For those that are given a time released capsule it is important to take the medication at the same time daily. Also be sure to take the entire capsule as instructed so it can release its dosage properly.
Niacin can interact with other medications, herbs and vitamins, as well as other medical conditions, so be sure to discuss any previous conditions with your doctor. If you are already taking a multi-vitamin that contains niacin, taking more niacin could cause an overdose. Also medications such as blood thinners, blood pressure medications or heart medications can interact with niacin. Niacin can also interfere with medical testing such as urine tests. Therefore, before undergoing any medical tests you should disclose that you are taking niacin.
Although we need niacin to survive, it can also be bad for us when taken in doses that are too high. If you feel that you may be lacking in the B3 vitamin, known as niacin, be sure to see your doctor and get tested.
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