Has this scenario ever happened to you? Your body feels tingly and itchy all over, your skin may become reddened starting at your face and moving to your midsection. You might also feel a rapid heartbeat, chills, dizziness, and shortness of breath or fainting. Do these symptoms describe flashing or flushing? Maybe it’s both? Are your hormones to blame, or could it be vitamin B-3?
Flashing or Flushing
Niacin flushing and hot flashing are both the result of your blood vessels expanding just underneath your skin, increasing blood flow. A niacin flush isn’t dangerous, but it can be very uncomfortable and even frightening if you’re not expecting it. If you are a woman over 40, you may mistake a niacin flush, from supplemental or food-based niacin consumption, for a hormonal hot flash.
Niacin is known as vitamin B-3
B-3 is a vitamin required for the proper utilization of fats and sugars by the body to change carbohydrates from your daily diet into energy. The vitamin also is responsible for maintaining nervous system function, healthy cells, and it helps produce hormones. Niacin might help people with heart disease because of its beneficial effects on clotting.
If you take a B complex or multi vitamin you will find at least one of the forms of B-3 in that formula. Many times the forms used in multi-nutrient supplements are the “flush-free” forms, nicotinimide (niacinimide) and inositol hexaniacinate. These are used to prevent the discomfort or alarm caused by the flushing from consuming straight niacin or nicotinic acid. While these modified forms will give you some health benefits, the real benefits come from consuming straight nicotinic acid (niacin), especially in association with improved lipid profiles (cholesterol), circulation, and mental health. If you want to focus on those added benefits, then supplementing with low doses of nician to start with and working up tolerance will be your most comfortable approach. Of course, always work with your qualified healthcare practitioner.
Niacin from food
The first and best way to get niacin into your body is from food. Keep in mind if you are sensitive to niacin you may feel the flush from the following foods rich in niacin: chicken/eggs, tuna, mushrooms, broccoli, turkey, asparagus, peanuts, kidney beans, tahini, bell peppers, spirulina, potatoes, artichokes, peaches, nectarines, oranges, and grapefruit. If these are not foods you eat on a daily basis, then regular supplementation may be appropriate.
So, next time you are flashing or flushing, don’t panic. Sit down, grab a cold drink and a cold compress, take some focused deep breaths. Most likely your circulation just needed a reboot of some kind. If you are still uncertain of the cause of any of the symptoms described above, seek a qualified health care practitioner immediately!