I have now poisoned myself three times with OTC supplements, and this last time was a doozy. That’s what I get for not heeding my own suspicions about my liver health.
After coming across interesting info about niacin, it occurred to me that I stopped going out in the sun several years ago because a dark red circle would appear around my neck, a classic niacin deficiency sign. Deficiency is also associated with sugar cravings and insomnia, and that was enough to convince me to try it.
I built up to 2,000 mg/day of niacinamide (which doesn’t cause flushing) and things went fine for about two weeks. My abdominal discomfort disappeared and my ruddy skin lightened. I didn’t notice any change in sleep or cravings. The most interesting change was psychological: some internal concept of myself I hadn’t even known existed, much less that it was lacking, was now more fleshed out and solid. In CGI terms, you could say it went from being a wire-frame model to a rendered animation.
That sensation only lasted about a day before I had to quit the experiment. My hands and feet swelled up, turned yellow and began itching so horribly that before I realized what I was doing I had scratched bloody gouges in them. Tiny, hard bumps could be felt under the skin between the digits. The skin became so thin that my feet were rubbed raw where they rested on the mattress at night. My urine also turned dark brown — aren’t you glad you started reading this?
“Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “Let’s call that liver damage once and for all.”
The only way to stop the itching was to hold my hands/feet under very cold running water for several minutes. 30 minutes later I’d have to do it again. Finally I dug out the milk thistle, that ancient liver tonic. That stopped the itching in 20 minutes and kept it at bay for several hours. The non-itching periods got longer and longer and finally after three days the symptoms disappeared.
My doctor saw me a few days later and said it was an allergic reaction. She did agree to order every type of liver test insurance would pay for — a blood panel and an imaging test. The results were normal, as they always are, even that time when I completely stopped sleeping after two months on flucanazole. I suppose I should research these tests to see if there are differing opinions on what “normal” is, but I don’t know where to begin.
In investigating ways to heal the liver I discovered that one of the recommended supplements, methionine, is depleted by niacin. Sure enough, 1500 mg a day helped very quickly. In fact, two days later, my hands and facial skin were looking about five years younger. Eventually I had to cut back to 1000 mg due to sleep issues. I had to stop the milk thistle after a week or so, because of its tendency to lower my iron levels and turn me into a zombie.
Illustration by MRhea.