Our bodies need to be supplied with small amounts of vitamins for it to function normally. There are all kinds of vitamin deficiencies that may strike if you fail to obtain enough amounts of these nutrients via your everyday diet. In this article, we will discuss pellagra, which is a deficiency in vitamin B3.

Make sure that you share this article on your various social media sites afterwards to get your family and friends know the importance of getting enough vitamin B3 daily.

What is Vitamin B3

Also sometimes referred to as niacin, vitamin B3 is obviously a member of the B vitamins. And just like the rest of the B vitamins, vitamin B3 is important for converting the food you eat into energy.

However, there are many other roles that vitamin B3 plays. For instance, it is important in repairing the DNA, the long molecule that consists of genetic material. Scientists say that is it also a major component of a couple of coenzymes that are involved in the metabolism of cells.

It is said that vitamin B3 also serves as an antioxidant. This only means that it helps save your healthy cells from being damaged by free radicals.

Causes of Vitamin B3 Deficiency

Needless to say, you can become deficient in vitamin B3 if you are not getting enough vitamin B3 or niacin via the diet. However, it’s also possible for you to wind up with this nutritional deficiency if your body is incapable of properly absorbing vitamin B3. So in other words, it’s still possible for you to wake up one day with pellagra even if you love eating foods that are rich in vitamin B3.

Here are the 2 types of pellagra:

Primary pellagra

This is caused by a diet that’s low in vitamin B3. This is commonly seen in developing countries where the staple food is corn. While corn contains vitamin B3, it’s the kind of vitamin B3 that the human body cannot absorb unless corn is prepared in the right manner.

Secondary pellagra

This happens when the body cannot absorb vitamin B3 present in food. There are a handful of things that can be blamed for secondary pellagra. They include ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver, and the intake of certain medications like immunosuppressive drugs and anti-convulsants.

Signs and Symptoms

Health authorities refer to the main signs and symptoms of vitamin B3 deficiency as the 3 Ds. That’s because all of them start with the letter D: dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia.

Earlier, it was mentioned that vitamin D is important for the metabolism of cells. It’s exactly for this reason why some of the signs and symptoms of pellagra can be observed in areas of the body where the cells are constantly replicating, such as the skin and gastrointestinal tract.

Dermatitis as a result of pellagra commonly affects the face, feet or hands. Some people who suffer from vitamin B3 deficiency also have dermatitis around the neck, which is referred to by the experts as Casal necklace. It’s not unlikely for affected skin to become crusty, scaly or cracked. Some people with pellagra report of burning sensation or itching.

Other than diarrhea, some other gastrointestinal signs and symptoms of pellagra are decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty eating and drinking due to sores on the tongue, gums or lips.

Aside from dementia, other neurological signs of pellagra include depression, anxiety, irritability, mood changes, apathy, disorientation and delusion.

Treatment for Pellagra

In dealing with primary pellagra, the individual is encouraged to include more vitamin B3-rich foods in the diet on a regular basis. Sometimes the intake of niacin supplement is warranted, which at times may be administered intravenously.

On the other hand, treating secondary pellagra entails dealing with the underlying cause.

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