You're probably wondering why I'm bothering to write about this topic. Well, I experienced a Niacin flushing five times over this past summer before I finally figured out what was causing this uncomfortable experience.
Bee sting allergy?
My doctor had started me on a new Vitamin B-Complex supplement in May that included high doses of B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and Folic Acid. In June, on my birthday, I went outside after breakfast to water the garden. All of sudden, I started to get extremely hot and my WHOLE body, head to toe, turned beet red. I had seen a bee buzzing around me while I was watering, so I assumed that I must have got stung and suffered a bee sting allergy! I took some Benadryl and called my doctor. He called in a prescription for an EpiPen, and I was told to carry the pen with me everywhere so I'd be ready for my next attack.
Flushing for 30 minutes
I experienced four more red "flushing" events in the next couple of months. Each time it happened after breakfast, but I was inside the house with no buzzing bees around. Go figure? The flushing feeling was very annoying, worse than any hot flash you could ever imagine, and it would last up to 30 minutes each time. Twice they happened while I was in the company of other people. They really caused a lot of concern and unwanted attention, too.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
I started doing some research online and began reading the labels on all my supplements. That's when I discovered the cause. On the label of my Vitamin B-complex it stated: "This product contains B3 (Niacin), which may cause a 'Niacin flush.' Symptoms are transient, typically lasting for approximately one-half hour and may include burning, tingling, itching along with reddening of the skin." The amount of B3 in my daily supplement is 25 mg. This is almost twice the daily allowance for women my age. Below are the recommended daily doses from the WebMD website:
Everyone needs a certain amount of niacin—from food or supplements—for the body to function normally. This amount is called the dietary reference intake (DRI), a term that is replacing the older and more familiar RDA (recommended daily allowance). For niacin, the DRIs vary with age and other factors.
However, the ideal dosage of niacin depends on how you're using it. For instance, much higher doses—2 to 3 grams or more—are used to treat high cholesterol.
- Children: between 2-16 milligrams daily, depending on age
- Men: 16 milligrams daily
- Women: 14 milligrams daily
- Women (pregnant): 18 milligrams daily
- Women (breastfeeding): 17 milligrams daily
- Maximum daily intake for adults of all ages: 35 milligrams daily
Niacin occurs naturally in many foods, including greens, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, though in a fraction of the dose shown to achieve changes in cholesterol. Many products are also fortified with niacin during manufacture.
A word to the wise, read your labels before you start taking your vitamin supplements. It will save you the expense of buying an EpiPen kit when you don't actually have a bee sting allergy!