Category Archives: side effects

Watch out for registered trademarks (®) in supplement ingredients

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyFor the past four years more and more supplements and foods have started suppressing my breathing, which needless to say has caused me some anxiety. It’s not like you can power through a suffocation side effect. I did manage last year to narrow down the culprits when I finally figured out that I was reacting to calcium fillers but that still left B6 and methylfolate.

Several readers had suggested that the MTHFR mutation might be behind health issues I’ve posted about, so if I couldn’t use methylfolate, did that mean that MTHFR was not the issue, or that it could be the issue but my liver was dying, or what?

Eventually someone reminded me of an important self-experimenting rule I have flaunted for years — try several brands of a supplement before giving up on it. The only brand of folate I’d ever used is Solgar, which contains Metafolin, a trademarked ingredient. From the murky depths of my magnesium-stearate-addled mind, a memory struggled to the surface — don’t companies trademark ingredients so they don’t have to list them? I googled Metafolin and sure enough, I found a description of it as being about one-quarter “calcium salt and water.”

I switched to a non-trademarked, no-calcium brand of methylfolate and VOILA, my breathing actually improved. A LOT. (Which led me to believe that the other things I react to are futzing with my folate levels.)

How you go about finding ingredients of registered trademarked substances is beyond me. I lucked out with the Metafolin. I couldn’t find any info on another trademarked ingredient that came to mind, ChromeMate.

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Illustration by MRhea.

Can’t tolerate a supplement? Try an alternate formulation

Updated August 19, 2013

If a trashed liver, freaked-out nervous system, or fried digestion makes you super-sensitive to various supplements, you might try another delivery method or formulation. These are the ones I know about, although I do not have experience with all of them. Let me know if there are others. See also the post on badly-designed supplements.

  • iron –> lactoferrin. This doesn’t seem to require as much processing by the liver.
  • magnesium –> magnesium spray or epsom salt baths. Absorb it through the skin and bypass those pesky organs.
  • vitamin B6 –> P5P. You’ll read all over the place that 1 mg of P5P equals 50 mg of vitamin B6, but that never helped me at all in figuring out dosage. Nor did taking a small amount of P5P make the rest of the (regular) vitamin B6 dose work better. Just try all of it in P5P form and be done with it.
  • vitamin D –> a vitamin D lamp. Or just go outside, duh. Do not use tanning beds for this.
  • arginine –> citrulline. Low-oxalate dieters will be familiar with this one. Some people who react badly to arginine do better on citrulline.
  • niacin –> niacinamide. If you can’t stand the flush, or have had too many embarrassing moments caused by misjudging the timing of the flush, use niacinamide. However, I think this form does not have the cholesterol-lowering effects that plain old niacin does.
  • thiamine –> Authia cream. This topical application reeks of garlic, but if you’re desperate, you’re desperate. Some users say that taking 10 mg (10,000 mcg) of biotin solves the odor problem.

Injections are also available, vitamin B12 being the most common. I’ve also heard of vitamin B6 injections. Traditional doctors will in dire cases give iron injections to patients not responding to iron supplements, but you might end up with a little gray dot on your arse for the rest of your life. The B12 injections are very easy to do yourself — you don’t need to find a vein, just a well-padded area. I found it very difficult to find an alternative practitioner who would give me the high dose I wanted, though.

Intravenous (IV) treatments are pretty much the arena of alternative medicine clinics. Usually a whole mess of other nutrients are also included in the drip. Vitamin C is very popular with this application. I had several IV treatments of thiamine, but it turned out not to be any more effective than the tablets for me.

DMSO is a chemical available at health food stores that will carry anything it’s mixed with through the skin. So far I’ve heard of it being used to deliver vitamin C and B12 transdermally, but there might be others. I believe you have to be careful with preparation to avoid absorbing any random insect parts or dirt. And that is the sum total of my knowledge on DMSO.

Geisha holding Rx pill by Kris Barnes

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Image of geisha by Kris Barnes.

And then there was the time vitamin B-complex drove me insane…

One of the first things you discover when you start investigating nutritional therapy is that vitamin B-complex formulations are badly designed. Never mind the dubious value of having most of the B vitamins in the same milligram amounts when no one can really say just what ratio they should ideally exist in. (Here’s a chart by Ronald Roth at Acu-cell.com illustrating the unbalancing effect that causes.) And never mind the fact that the majority of the complexes use forms of the vitamins that really don’t work well in people with stressed or overworked livers — cobalamin instead of methylcobalamin, folic acid instead of methylfolate, and pyridoxine instead of P5P (two types of vitamin B6). And what livers among us these days are not stressed and overworked?

The biggest problem with B-complex preparations is that to save on costs manufacturers seriously shortchange you on the more expensive biotin, vitamin B12, and folate. Typically only the US RDA amount is provided, which is pointless. 400 mcg of vitamin B12, only 3% of which is absorbed, will not do much for anyone.

If you rely on vitamin B-complex for a long period of time without taking additional B12, folate, and biotin supplements, you’ll eventually induce a deficiency of them. The extra, larger amounts of the other B vitamins, all of which work together and need each other to be processed, now have increased the need for that vitamin and you’re drawing on more of it than you were before you were taking the supplement. If you’re given a ton of one but too little of another, eventually those bigger doses will require too much of the lower doses.

I experienced this effect in a dramatic fashion when in an attempt to combat fatigue I decided to try 300 mg of vitamin B-complex a day, which is advocated in some circles as a fast way to get B vitamin levels up in situations where they are presumably very low — newly diagnosed celiacs for example, or recovering schizophrenics.

At the time, I was reading what someone had recommended as one of the best American detective novels ever, The Death of the Detective by Mark Smith. As it turned out, the book made the post-apocalyptic Children of Men look uplifting by comparison, and it didn’t even involve an apocalypse. As I read it, each menacing, creepy scene created stronger feelings of dread and anxiety. Paranoia carried over into my other activities — driving a car, walking around a store, etc. When I started shaking while reading one scene, it occurred to me that this probably wasn’t a normal reaction.

I figured the best culprit was the recent megadose experiment. I had taken extra vitamin B12 and biotin for a long time so I thought folic acid was probably the problem. I took 2 or 3 800 mcg methylfolate supplements and in about an hour was noticeably more relaxed.

I tossed the book without finishing it. Luckily for the author I couldn’t track him down. I was denied the satisfaction of sending him hate mail or hate tweets or some other social media hatefulness about his soul-sucking piece of crap.

fb_branded_insane

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Illustration: Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd., Paramount Pictures 1950. Remix by MRhea.

Melatonin madness, continued

Soon after I wrote this post about my melatonin megadose experiment, I experienced one of those wacky sleep phenomena that seem to happen when you futz with the pineal gland, as SSRIs are famous for and melatonin does as well. I had a short, vivid dream that ended with someone shooting me in the head with a shotgun. Weird, but very common in these situations, as are dreams/experiences of alien abduction, sleep paralysis, and a buzzing or exploding head.

Other effects that continued for months after stopping the melatonin were not as dramatic but a lot more entertaining. Dozing off while reading a book at night, in those 30 or so seconds when I was half asleep, I’d have a dream in which some factor of human existence of which I’d been hitherto ignorant was made suddenly clear to me with the force of revelation. I would then snap back awake.

Usually I could not remember the details. The ones I do remember explained such burning existential questions as why men in Louis XIV’s court at Versailles wore high heels (to protect their feet from sewage in the halls), why five years seems to be the limit for a good TV show (the writer buys a too-expensive new house and anxiety about the mortgage ruins his mental state), and why the Maya disappeared (they got bored and wandered off). As revelations go, it’s not exactly start-your-own-religious-following caliber, but I appreciated the distraction.

Is this a type of lucid dreaming? I’m a bit vague on the definition. (It’s referred to as hypnagogia. Now I know.) Go to erowid.org if you want more info on how to make common OTC supplements work for you in mind-altering ways.

ANT - Louis XIV

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Illustration: detail from painting of Louix XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701. {{PD-art}}

Sorbitol: evil? Discuss.

I should’ve learned this long ago — just because you’re okay with a tiny amount of something every once in a while doesn’t mean you’ll be okay with larger doses every day for a year. That was my thinking with sublingual supplements containing mannitol and sorbitol. It didn’t even occur to me to worry about it because I’d never taken them more than once every few weeks. (Aspartame is another story — that is scary #$@!.)

The miserable mouth symptoms, which I’d assumed was just another stop on my path to decrepitude, got so bad it woke me up at night. It matched descriptions of a candida infection gone ballistic, and everything I’ve ever seen about candida says it is close to impossible to get rid of. This grossed me out so much that I threw out all my toothbrushes, lipsticks, and lip balms, and started soaking the new toothbrushes in hydrogen peroxide between uses. I scrubbed all the sinks and poured boiling water down the drains, followed (after a decent lag) with a hydrogen peroxide chaser. I started brushing my entire mouth so thoroughly with an electric toothbrush — much better for this sort of thing — that I’m pretty sure I now qualify for a union card for the San Fernando Valley film industry.

After a few days it dawned on me that the discomfort got worse after taking the GABA and vitamin B12 sublinguals I’d been taking daily for a year. Both contain mannitol, and the GABA Calm, which was definitely a bigger problem, contains sorbitol. I quit ’em both and two days later was much better.

Never again will you hear me sing the praises of GABA Calm, which until it started with the putrefying-tongue business worked quite well to slow my brain down at night. I now curse it. I will not dignify rumors about the company’s monthly sacrifices of virgin employees in the processing vats, but I do have it on good authority that the CEO eats kittens for breakfast.

Solution to 5-HTP- and vitamin D3-induced headaches

After five years of trying to figure this out, I finally discovered that 400 mg of vitamin B6 in the form of P5P prevents the debilitating headaches that both vitamin D3 and 5-HTP supplements cause me. I took this amount for a few weeks, until it started to make me queasy. Then I lowered the dose. I’ve been taking about 100 mg of P5P a day for several weeks now.

Some sources say that only a portion of your B6 supplement intake needs to be in the form of P5P in order to take advantage of P5P’s bioactive superpowers, but this doesn’t seem to work for me. It has to be 100% P5P.

Regular old boring vitamin B6 unmistakably worked for me years ago, when I used rather modest amounts of it to get rid of carpal tunnel pain, but eventually it started giving me headaches and I began avoiding it. I’m guessing my recent need for such large doses of P5P was due to a major deficiency of it built up over the years by, among other things, taking very big doses of the amino acid l-glutamine (and later D3) without it. But that’s a story for another time.

I’ve run across the figure that 1 mg of P5P is equal in effectiveness to 50 mg of vitamin B6 (I’ve also seen 3 mg and 30 mg), but I don’t think this is helpful or appropriate. For me it seems to be like comparing apples and bullet trains.

As I’ve mentioned here before several times, you’ll see warnings everywhere that too much vitamin B6  causes nerve damage, when in fact these symptoms are often induced vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms — you’re rarely deficient in only one vitamin B, and they all interconnect. Apparently P5P doesn’t mess with B12 quite so badly.

FYI I find a lot of info about P5P on autism sites and forums.