Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fighting Colds with Vitamin C and Niacin

My family fights off colds with vitamin C and niacin (straight release or time release niacin, not inositol hexaniacinate). When we get a cold, we take as much vitamin C as we can tolerate (between 10,000 and 100,000 mg/day) until we are healthy again. When we know for sure we are getting a cold, we add 250 mg/day of time-release niacin in the morning (I take straight release niacin in two divided doses of 125 mg each because I don’t mind flushing). Adding the niacin to the vitamin C when we have a cold provides predictable benefits. Under these specific circumstances the niacin acts as a stimulant and a decongestant. We still feel bad, but bad with energy instead of fatigued. Once we’ve taken the niacin, we feel like we’ve turned a corner and that we’re getting better. This predictable effect of niacin lasts only until we’re obviously better – typically only two or three days. We also take 100 to 250 mg of niacin intermittently when we are healthy. On these occasions, the niacin either has no perceptible effect or causes unpleasant side effects.

I’m gaining confidence that taking vitamin C and niacin together to fight colds is really a new idea. I continue to ask around the vitamin user community, and after more than 6 months I’m still waiting for someone to dispute the novelty of the proposal. Equally important, I have already received several reports from others outside my family that the treatment works as described. You can read one of these reports yourself here:

You need to scroll down to the blog entry for Tuesday, July 3rd.

These reports are highly significant. Not many people have tried this treatment. Most of the people who try will not report their results to me. Based on the several reports I’ve received already, the probability is very high that a substantial fraction (>10%) of people who try this treatment will experience the same kind of results that I have reported on behalf of my family.

Around the world, millions take more than 2,000 mg/day of vitamin C for one or more days to fight off colds. My family did this for years because we were convinced by the scientific data that shows that vitamin C in this dose range reduces the duration and severity of colds. In the early days we believed we could feel the vitamin C working. As time passed, and we adjusted to regular supplementation with vitamin C (and more than 10,000 mg/day when we got colds), our ability to feel the vitamin C working faded away. We continued to suffer significantly from colds and to look for more effective treatment. We stumbled across the combination of niacin and vitamin C several years ago, and continue to find that it provides a reliable feeling of effectiveness.

I believe that the difficulty perceiving the benefits of extra vitamin C (and other vitamins) is one of the reasons why it is taking such a long time for society to optimize intakes, especially for children. Parents want to feel the benefits of treating colds with vitamins before they use vitamins to treat their children. When they treat their children with vitamins for colds, they want the children to feel the benefits and welcome the treatment.

A large majority of parents have good immunity against colds and only suffer occasionally. Many of these parents have such good immunity to colds that they really don’t understand how painful a bad cold can be. Almost all pre-school children require several years to gain immunity and suffer considerably. Pre-school children (and their parents) have the most to gain from a highly effective treatment for colds. Niacin and vitamin C are among the safest substances sold as supplements to improve health. The upper intake levels assigned to vitamin C (2,000 mg/day) and niacin (35 mg/day) are not relevant. Trying doses above the upper intake levels for several days to test whether or not the vitamins are effective for fighting a cold is safe. The only risk is a low probability of some temporary discomfort. Readers have everything to gain and almost nothing to lose by giving this treatment a try.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Making Vitamins Useful – Optimizing the Growth and Development of Children with Vitamin C, B-complex, and Niacin

Inexpensive vitamin C, B-complex, and niacin supplements have been readily available to consumers for only the past 30 to 40 years. I don’t believe that my generation (I’m in my forties) is doing a good job teaching the next generation about how to make the best use of vitamin supplements. I’m going to try to do better.

Vitamins are essential for life. Deficiency causes death. In addition to maintaining health, vitamins are frequently used tools during the process that constructs an adult from an egg and sperm. This means vitamin supplements are more useful to children to children than to adults.

Even the healthiest children can be challenged by the environment during critical phases of growth and development. Good examples include elevated levels of heavy metals in blood and tissues, and cold and flu viruses that have evolved novel mechanisms to elude an ordinary robust human immune response. To me, this means that all children should take vitamin C, B-complex, niacin, and multivitamin supplements as a precaution. During difficult moments, food is not enough.

What doses of vitamin supplements should children take? The Food and Nutrition Board has been studying vitamins since its inception in 1949. The toxicity of vitamins is remarkably well understood. Vitamins can cause a wide variety of discomforts. Even when users ignore the discomforts caused by vitamins supplements (whether by mistake, in order to achieve a benefit, or in a deliberate attempt to sicken themselves), a full recovery is almost always achieved when the supplements are discontinued. Cases of lasting harm are genuine oddities, akin to being struck by lightening. That’s why B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, and niacin are all classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS), the gold standard for over-the-counter supplements sold to maintain or improve health.

I believe the question for parents is, “How much risk of temporary discomfort should I take in return for the potential (and unknowable) benefits of improving the growth and development of my children?” All parents will rightfully arrive at a different answer. As time passes, fewer and fewer parents will choose none.

The work of the Food and Nutrition Board is helpful. The Board has identified the maximum daily doses of Vitamin C, B-complex, and niacin supplements that can be taken with no known risk of toxicity (discomfort). These levels are known as UL’s. The UL for vitamin C is 2000 mg/day. The UL for vitamin B3 (niacin plus niacinamide) is 35 mg/day. The UL for vitamin B6 is 100 mg/day. The UL for folic acid is 1000 ug. There is insufficient data (meaning not enough reliable reports of discomfort from long term use of supplements) to set UL’s for the rest of the B-complex vitamins (B1, B2, B12, biotin, and pantothenic acid).

The UL’s provide a good starting point for a supplement program for children. For my kids, I chose daily doses of 2,000 to 4,000 mg/day of vitamin C, one-tenth of a B-100 B-complex vitamin supplement, 30 mg of niacin, and two complete multivitamin/mineral supplements containing 1 RDA of most of the vitamins and minerals. When the kids were old enough to swallow pills, I switched to 100 mg time-release niacin supplements two times per week to maintain an average dose of almost 30 mg/day.

The vitamin C dose is only slightly above the 2,000 mg UL, so it is unsurprising that my kids did not experience any discomfort. Between the multivitamin, the B-complex, and the niacin supplements, my kids averaged 130 mg/day of vitamin B3. This is almost four times higher than the UL. The UL for vitamin B3 supplements is based on the experiences of adults, not children. I believe the UL for vitamin B3 will prove to be higher for children, but will end up close to 100 mg/day because one of my two children experienced one day of discomfort on several occasions at the 130 mg/day dosage.

My children got 12 mg/day of vitamin B6, well below the Board’s UL of 100 mg/day. Vitamin B6 can cause a neuropathy which can take months to completely disappear so I was happy to keep my children well below it.

The other B vitamins are so safe at the doses in available supplements that they have no UL yet. I would have liked to give my children more, and I would like to take more myself. Currently, however, it is not a practical option. I have not identified a B-complex vitamin formulated with a higher ratio of vitamins B1, B2, biotin, and pantothenic acid to vitamins B3 and B6. I take too many supplements already and am not going to try to manage extra bottles of vitamins B1, B2, biotin, and pantothenic acid.

Adults who want to improve their health can safely explore vitamin supplements at doses far above the UL’s once they have carefully read and understood the side effects. Go ahead and take 10,000 mg/day of vitamin C, 250 mg/day of time-release niacin, and a B-50 B-complex tablet for several weeks. I you have benefits and no side effects, keep on going for several months. Then fall back to the UL’s. If the extra vitamins have enabled your body to heal, the problems that resolved won’t reappear. If you have benefits that depend upon maintaining these doses, then the underlying health problem is unlikely to heal quickly and may be permanent. If you have no benefits and no side effects, then vitamins are highly unlikely to provide any benefits and likely to cause discomfort. Falling back to the UL’s before side effects emerge is sensible. If you have side effects and no benefits, falling back to the UL’s is the only sensible option.

If you are seriously ill, 100 g/day doses of vitamin C combined with the best modern medicine has to offer should be considered. Situations where IV vitamin C causes dangerous interactions with modern medicine are rare. If current reports of the ability of vitamin C to make mainstream medical treatments more effective continue to be reproduced, IV vitamin C and vitamin C injections will become mainstream medicine.

Vitamin supplements are difficult to master because growth and development and healing processes are often slow, difficult to perceive, and irreversible (nothing bad happens when vitamin supplements are stopped). Vitamin side effects are often immediate and easy to perceive (irritating and/or painful). So, it’s not surprising that vitamin supplements are still underutilized. I hope this essay has clarified the opportunities and challenges, and proves useful to readers.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Vitamin C, Niacin, Antibiotics, Cold Viruses, Babies, and Children

A link to a detailed report of rapidly healing a very sick baby with 20,000 mg/day doses of vitamin C can be found here

The 11-month-old baby had been sick almost from birth and had completed 12 rounds of antibiotics at the direction of the family pediatrician. When started on vitamin C, the baby had been very sick for over a week. No one in the family had been getting enough sleep. They were up night after night with this child, who had a high fever, glazed watery eyes, tons of thick watery mucus, labored breathing, would not sleep, and did little else but cry. The parents fed the baby 1000 or 2000 mg of vitamin C every one or two hours to reach a total dose of 20,000 mg/day for two days. The baby was noticeably improved in under twelve hours, and slept through the first night. The baby was completely well in 48 hours.

The author of the report claims that the dosage was a new record high for a young child, proving that babies and toddlers sick with chronic respiratory viruses have rarely been treated with more than 10,000 mg/day of vitamin C.
In this column I am going to provide a second case report.

By January of 1995, the health of a 22-month-old toddler had been steadily eroded by multiple viral respiratory infections that resulted from contact with playmates at daycare. The baby was healthy for the first nine months of life before daycare started. This toddler had completed five or six rounds of antibiotics at the direction of the family pediatrician with minimal benefit. No one in the family had been getting enough sleep. They were up regularly with this child, treating wheezy lungs with asthma medication, treating coughing with cough syrup, and wiping away tons of thick watery mucus. The toddler’s health was steadily worsening, and outdoor play was becoming a serious problem because of the wheezy lungs. The father started the toddler on 2000 mg of orange-flavored chewable vitamin C tablets. The first dose had a noticeable decongestive effect. The toddler declared, “My nosey is cleared! I can breath!” The father told the toddler that the orange vitamin C was responsible. After several hours, the toddler asked for more vitamin C to clear her nose. The father allowed the toddler to take as many chewable vitamin C tablets as she wanted. Since the toddler chose between four and eight 500 mg tablets every few hours, the father did not intervene. The toddler was noticeably improved in under twelve hours, and slept through the first night after consuming about 20,000 mg of vitamin C throughout the course of the day. The toddler ate about 10,000 mg of vitamin C on the second day, and was well after 48 hours. The father maintained the toddler on 2,000 to 4,000 mg/day of vitamin C.

Only a very small percentage of babies and toddlers get this sick from respiratory infections. However, almost every baby and toddler suffers from colds as part of the process of gaining immunity. These extraordinary case histories should open the minds of parents and pediatricians to the benefits of 2,000 to 4,000 mg/day of vitamin C for the children in their care.
This story should not be dismissed as anecdotal. The babies in question had colds. Vitamin C has been proven by double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials to reduce the duration and severity of colds. The size of the response was proportional to dose out to the highest doses of 2,000 to 8,000 mg/day. Children responded more positively to vitamin C treatment than adults. See:

These two cases build confidence in the known, extraordinary safety of vitamin C. Feeding babies 20,000 mg/day of vitamin C involves the risk of stepping outside the ordinary standard of care. This risk needs to be weighed against the risks of the ordinary standard of care. Antibiotics, aspirin and related drugs, cough medicines, asthma medicines, and other medications in the ordinary standard of care all carry much higher risk than ordinary doses of vitamin C. The Food and Nutrition Board considers vitamin C supplements of up to 2,000 mg/day to be ordinary doses. These cases suggest that two days at elevated doses followed by a maintenance dose of 2,000 mg/day has the potential to nearly eliminate the need to use pharmaceuticals to treat childhood respiratory infections.

I have already written two columns suggesting that combining high doses of vitamin C with 100 to 250 mg/day of niacin (time-release is recommended to minimize side effects) is a far more potent treatment for colds than vitamin C alone. I continue to get positive reports about the effectiveness of this novel combination. Using this combination, many older children and adults achieve the dramatic, obvious response felt by the two infants discussed in detail in this column.

There is no need for more studies. Vitamin C has achieved the gold-standard safety rating of “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) and is sold without childproof caps. All parents and pediatricians of babies, toddlers, and children with poor immunity towards colds should carefully consider as much as 20,000 mg/day of vitamin C as a treatment. All parents should consider extra vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, niacin, and multi-vitamins to further improve the immunity of their children towards colds, and also to optimize overall health and intelligence.