Searching for Depression's Holy Grail. After seventeen years of therapy and medication, I'm done. Therapy was fine but after so long it becomes redundant. Medication, I've decided, is like putting on a band-aid when you look down and realize that your intestines are spilling out. Here are my experiences with meditation, mindfulness, yoga, 5-MTHF (a Folic Acid supplement) and other B vitamin supplements, and the basic re-training of my mind to beat depression. It's not always pretty but in the end, I am who I am .

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Niacin-another big B

I've promised to write about Niacin for depression, so I'm going to buck up and share my experiences so far. Nothing is conclusive but I've promised a journey, so you'll get one.

For those of you who are new(ish) to this blog:

When I first began my journey to get my ass OFF of anti-depressants and ON to the sunny side of life, I found the two following blogs: 1. The Pursuit of Happiness (http://happinesspursuing.blogspot.com/) and 2. Methodical Musings of an Unbalanced Woman (http://melaniesmethodicalmusings.blogspot.com/p/mthfr.html). These are very different blogs-one written by an atheist, male,  living in the Midwest (#1) and the other, living in Washington state, a mother of four boys, and a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (#2). What do they have in common? Depression. What else? Well, they've both become considerable friends of mine-the closest possible kind of friend one can have, having never met face to face- and they are both pretty fabulous people.

But something else that linked them-and then me- is this thing called methylated Folic Acid- or 5-MTHFR. It intrigued me. It gave me hope. I found a website and ordered a bottle (manufactured by Thorne Research). I started with 2 mg a day. Combined with my antidepressants at the time, I felt SO GOOD. In fact, that's when I committed myself to coming off of the antidepressants and just onto the 5-MTHFR. It took a really long time, coming off of Cymbalta (you can read this in the archives). The method that finally worked for me (and I had tried many before) was taking 7 beads out of the cymbalta pill EACH. DAY. It took forever and the withdrawal was still pretty horrible but not unmanageable. As I decreased my Cymbalta, I (eventually, slowly) increased my 5-MTHFR dosage to 10 mg a day. And that's where I've stayed. I definitely notice a difference in my mood if I haven't taken it for a few days (ie waited too long to re-order and now I'm screwed).

Here's the skinny on the methylated folic acid and why I take it:

According to the Human Genome Project, (and a certain doctor, Dr. Rawlins, who studies this extensively), a certain percentage of humans cannot properly break down folic acid-which is, in my gathering, a pretty essential amino acid. It is also a B vitamin, B-9. In an article from Psychology Today called "Busy B's," it is mentioned that "Folic acid helps maintain normal levels of serotonin. Deficiencies contribute to depression, dementia, and schizophrenia. In a study of depressed patients taking lithium, those also given folic acid supplements for a year showed dramatic relief of depression, compared to those given no supplements." (article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200407/vitamins-busy-bsIt is about 8% of the population that cannot properly break down the folic acid- and it is difficult to prove if you are one of them. Basically, you have to get gene testing done. I've heard that many doctors will do blood tests for folic acid, but in doing so, the tests can show that, yes, it's in your system, but not necessarily if it is being broken down or used properly by your body. The result? Those of us with depression and anxiety. 

It must be working, somehow, for me, because I am about a million times less anxious (disclaimer: I also have taken up meditation, mindfulness & the occasional yoga. Plus I drink less alcohol and considerably less coffee than before). But I was a hot mess so I attribute anything and everything that I'm functioning so well today.

So, as I continued to do whatever "hobby" research I can on Folic acid and depression, I came across Niacin. I've mentioned it before. Well, hot-damn. Niacin is yet another B vitamin (oops. I should also mention that I've been taking B-12, which I stumbled upon when I started with the methylated folic acid. It was "suggested" on one of the websites I where I get the 5-MTHFR and I figured "why not?" My energy is fabulous on the days I remember to take it.)

So now I'm on the Niacin.

I have been reading some great things about it, but I have one snafu: over and over again, I read that 2000-3000 mg A DAY are suggested to take Niacin for depression.

Oh. My. God.

The recommended daily dose is much, much lower...about 14-25 mg a day (though see this article for other specific recommendations: ps please see a doctor because it's Web MD, for heaven's sakes, and you know I'm certainly no doctor. Not that I altogether trust them anyway. http://answers.webmd.com/answers/1187931/what-is-the-recommended-dosage-for) So at any rate, 3000 is a hell of a lot- and hard to get in there.

I have a bottle of 100mg tablets. I have gradually worked up to taking 2 1/2 pills a time after each meal (and snacks) but even then I am only up to about 500 mg a day. I flush super, super easily, which means that I have saturated myself with the niacin to such a point that my body is done: I get hot, splotchy and itchy as all get-out. Plus I get a bit light headed. I don't care what anyone says, if I don't feel right, I don't proceed.

So I stopped for a bit.

But the encouraging literature I read (um, thanks Google? Probably not my best, most legitimate resource.) keeps leading me to niacin.

I have a girlfriend who has recently gone off of her meds and is now taking B-12 and niacin (should I give myself any credit for this? of course, she's the one who deserves the props. And I hope she's doing as well as she seems to be doing). She is taking no-flush niacin and seems to do well on it. So that's my next stop.

At any rate, it's been about 3 weeks being back on the niacin, and I've had my ups and downs but all in all I'm holding pretty steady. I've also had some personal blows in addition to not meditating as much as I should be so that accounts for some of the down points....but...my HEAD feels good. And when I do feel good, I feel really, really good. Not manic, where I didn't really feel so great but acted as though I did, but good. If this makes any sense, my brain feels all sparkly and clean. It feels good.

Plus, my husband has started asking why I look like I'm glowing...and asks if I'm pregnant. And this happens on days when I have zero makeup and my hair has most likely not been brushed. If that's the beauty bonus, then I am in!

That's where I am with the niacin. I really would like to get to the 3000 mg a day of the niacin but from the way I seem to react to things so quickly, I doubt I'll ever get there (it's the same with all meds. At 5'8 and 120 lbs, I seem to metabolize things really quickly. So I can't tolerate high dosages of anything. Cheap date.)

But I will pursue. For you. For me. And I'll keep you posted.

If you're trying it, please let me know all about your experience, so I can share. THANK YOU!!!

ps. I guess I need to say something about proper nutrition and how you can get all of these lovely vitamins if you eat a wonderful balanced meal of just spinach. Well, I'm beginning to think that there is something very significant about the absorption an breaking down of ALL B vitamins that might have something to do with depression (not just folic acid) which means that the meal plan might not work. Disclaimer: I eat very, very well. My favorite foods include raw tuna, spinach and sunflower seeds, and I rarely, if ever, eat sweets or processed food. Just thought I'd put that out there.


  1. First of all, if you eat a lot of tuna, beware heavy metals.

    Second of all, too much niacin will mop up your methyl groups and counteract the effects of 5-MTHF somewhat.

  2. Research tuna and mercury. Unfortunately, tuna is not healthy anymore. Mercury is the most poisonous non-radioactive substance on earth.

  3. I started out with 3000mg first dose. Oh my goodness I thought I would die. Google let me know I wasn't dying. I now take 1000mg 3X per day and don't get much of a flush anymore at all - About 3 weeks into it.

    1. Of Niacin B3 to be specific.