Deficiency Symptoms

There are many symptoms associated with deficiencies of niacin. Among the first to appear are skin eruptions (such as canker sores in the mouth), trench mouth, fissures in the tongue, swelling or tenderness of the tongue, splotches on the skin, bad breath, gum problems, continual headaches, skin lesions, diarrhea, forgetfulness and irritability.

Besides skin lesions, sores or tumorlike pustules, there can be a change in pigmentation, particularly in exposed areas of the skin. Darkening of the skin can indicate adrenal exhaustion: a white person may become dark brown within a matter of weeks because j of deficiencies of niacin, folic acid and pantothenic acid. Undernourished women who are pregnant often have a pigmentation change, usually on the forehead: it's called a "pregnancy cap." Pantothenic acid normally clears up this phenomenon.

Moderate deficiencies of niacin can bring on a flurry of nervous disorders known as subclinical pellagra. They include depression, mental dullness, confusion, forgetfulness, disorientation, hallucination, insomnia, nausea and vomiting. Fear and anxiety can make a person think that he or she is "going crazy," and if the deficiency is severe enough mental breakdown can occur.

In fact, people have been committed to mental institutions and diagnosed as schizophrenic because of a deficiency of niacin. Dr. Glen Green, M.D., in a 1970 publication of Schizophrenia outlines six basic questions that a physician should ask a patient to distinguish the difference between the symptoms of pellagra and schizophrenia:

1. Does your face seem to change when you look in a mirror?

2. Do words move when you try to read?

3. Does the ground move when you walk?

4. Do you feel you walk on the ground or off the ground?

5. Do pictures move when you look at them? :

6. Do you hear someone calling your name when you're alone?

A person who has experienced some or all of these symptoms is probably suffering from a moderate deficiency of niacin and should seek help from a doctor of medicine instead of a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Finally, severe deficiencies of niacin can cause pellagra, a disease that affects the skin, gastrointestinal system and nervous system. It is characterized by the "three Ds"—dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia. And the disease can be fatal if the niacin deficiency, usually caused by a poor diet consisting mainly of corn or maize, is allowed to continue.

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