Tag Archives: riboflavin

Riboflavin supplements and eye floaters

Updated 10/11/16   

In my earlier post about my experience with eye floaters, I mentioned that hyaluronic acid (HA) deficiency seemed to be a promising theory as to the cause. I had found a CureZone thread discussing one of their members’ success with four months of HA supplements. Vitamin C, which unmistakably makes my eye floaters worse, can degrade HA, so the idea seemed worthwhile. I put off the experiment for the future, however, as I had enough to deal with. Although the floaters can be very annoying, I haven’t gotten horribly panicky about them because they’ve waxed and waned over the years, which led me to believe that in theory it is possible to get rid of them, if only I can figure out how.

Recently my floaters got worse again. I narrowed it down to riboflavin (vitamin B2) supplements. I found a discussion of this unfortunate tendency in an online floater forum called Floatertalk, where several members had experienced an increase in floaters after taking a multivitamin.

My first experiment was with the formulation mentioned in the CureZone thread, Injuv, which seems to be marketed for the treatment of stiff joints and dry, aging skin. Apparently the Injuv form, which is made by several brands, is more absorbable. I have no idea how much more effective it is than regular hyaluronic acid. I can’t remember what happened when I took it — I think I tried it for a few days, found it worsened my insomnia, and postponed the experiment again.

Since then I have tried at least two other brands of hyaluronic acid several times, including Country Life, I think, following the label dosage. I noticed a difference in the eye floaters and my vision in general in about two days, and after several days my neck and back were noticeably less stiff. And then it stopped me sleeping. Which is what happens with 80% of what I try.

The few food sources of hyaluronic acid I was able to find are items that few Americans eat much of, which might be one reason riboflavin has this side effect. I found a list of hyaluronic acid food sources on Sandy Simmons’ site, which also refers to an ABC News report on a group of Japanese villagers whose hyaluronic acid-rich diet keeps them looking fabulous into their 80s and 90s. The list is very short: animal bones, tendons, skin, ligaments; some Japanese starchy vegetables; and miso, which does not have hyaluronic acid itself but genistein, which enhances its production.

One of hyaluronic acid’s jobs is to increase water absorption, so it’s important to get enough water if you take these supplements. I found several accounts of people who attributed their eye floaters to periods of dehydration, and several people who found that hyaluronic acid made their floaters worse. I’m guessing that some imbalance of the two substances was involved.

Another thing that made my eye floaters worse was vitamin A supplements, possibly because it lowered my already-low levels of vitamin E, which plays a role in hydration, or so say all sorts of beauty product ads.

If you too suffer from these accursed things, I’d be interested in hearing what you’ve discovered makes them worse.

The needle and the damage done: three weeks on intravenous thiamine

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyAfter discovering that thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency might be a factor in my insomnia, fatigue, brain fog, and chocolate/sugar cravings, I began experimenting with different formulations of it. Starting with the usual drugstore stuff, I moved on to two Japanese concoctions and then for a grand finale I tried a series of IV treatments to the tune of $1,700, almost none of it covered by insurance, with promising if not miraculous results.

Why thiamine? I initially tried thiamine after discovering it is involved in GABA production, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that’s a big factor in sleep. Thiamine is also involved in carbohydrate metabolism — converting food to energy — and I figured out a long time ago that my infuriating chocolate/sugar cravings must be caused by my brain’s inability to process glucose, which is what the brain runs on.

Thiamine deficiency is most commonly associated with alcoholics and diabetics. If you are neither one of those, your doctor won’t consider deficiency as a possibility. Extreme deficiency has recently been implicated in autism (but then, what hasn’t?), dysautonomia, or dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, and multiple chemical sensitivities, among other things.

Thiamine hydrochloride (HCl), benfotiamine, and tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide (TTFD). A post at C for Yourself alerted me to the different types of formulations and their wide variations in quality. (It’s disturbing to think that a lot of nutrient deficiency research is based on crappily manufactured, minimally effective supplements.) Thiamine HCl made me nauseous. Benfotiamine, at 900 mg a day, tripled my energy in about four days, reduced my sugar cravings, made me able to sense my muscles again for the first time in years, improved my brain fog, and rendered my insomnia total.

The TTFD was harder to locate. At first I could only find a topical cream formulated for autistic kids who can’t take pills. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, a lot of people with longstanding unresolved health problems find themselves on autism websites and forums, because parents and doctors of autistic children have been forced to go far beyond conventional medicine in their search for help for their kids.

Holy cow, it was awful. Did I mention that thiamine is derived from garlic? It took three showers to get the smell off. I did feel safe from vampires for the first time in a long time, though.

Eventually I found 50 mg TTFD tablets online, but couldn’t find any info about dosage ranges except for the bottle’s instructions, and I haven’t paid any attention to that in years.

Doctor’s appointment. When I realized that one of the biggest thiamine researchers, Derrick Lonsdale, was 20 minutes away, I made an appointment with him to see if 1) he thought thiamine deficiency could indeed be a major factor in my symptoms and 2) what the heck dosage I should use.

He said I presented an interesting case, that he uses up to eight tablets a day of the TTFD with his patients, and that IV application is a good way to get your levels up fast. (Here’s a list of the lab tests he ordered and a total rundown of my expenses.)

Advantages of IV administration. As I understand it, the IV dose (he uses 25 mg) is used almost entirely by the body and gets the thiamine where it needs to go faster and in a more uniform application than tablets, which are at the mercy of the vagaries of your digestive system. The TTFD is thus more likely to find its way to your brain faster. I picture a sort of basting of the tissues, but I also don’t really know what I’m talking about and sometimes I doubt the experts do, either.

After the IV sessions I went back to the 50 mg tablets. Dr. Lonsdale said he doesn’t know how much of each is absorbed by the body, and that I’d have to experiment with the dose.

IV treatments. The IV treatments require at least a day in between each. They take either 30 minutes or three hours apiece, depending on which accompanying nutrient therapy drip you get. I signed up for a three-hour “bag” for the first treatment, but couldn’t sit still that long and left after 2.5 hours. For the remaining treatments I used the smaller “Myer’s cocktail” drip. Here’s a list of what’s in the two preparations (minus the 25 mg TTFD).

The flophouse clinic is pleasant and quiet and has lots of light. Rows of blue recliners fill two rooms and white chains (for the IV bags) hang from the ceiling on either side of each chair, like a very relaxed slave ship.

The TTFD is shot into the IV from a syringe . It is an odd sensation. For about three minutes my head fills with the smell and taste of garlic-infused melting plastic. One of the nurses told me that other patients describe it as burning rubber.

Observations a week after treatment:

  • small increase in energy, but not back to what the benfotiamine was doing
  • lowered magnesium, as Dr. Lonsdale warns about. Symptoms for me are lowered mood and dry, peeling skin. He advises soaking the feet for 30 minutes in epsom salts, but I just take 400-600 mg of magnesium citrate.
  • a little light-headed after each treatment, but not so that I can’t drive
  • lowered riboflavin (vitamin B2) levels. B1 and B2 seem to work together and if you’re low in one, you’re often low in the other. My eyes get tired and feel like sandpaper and my lips crack.
  • sleep was not adversely affected. After the fifth treatment I slept better, but it only lasted a few days. I had to start taking iron again, which always stops me sleeping, as it was getting so low I couldn’t function. I found a reference in a Science Daily article indicating that thiamine binds to iron, which would be a big problem, but couldn’t find any other citations to back it up.
  • chocolate/sugar jonesing was a bit reduced, but not as dramatically as with benfotiamine. The effect wore off within three days after an IV session.
  • the abdominal pain I complained about in this post disappeared. I didn’t notice until Dr. Lonsdale asked about it.

I did have two strange experiences in the hours just after the first treatment. At the grocery store I suddenly felt that all the food smells were a lot stronger and more intense. It lasted a few seconds and then was gone. At home it happened again. I’m guessing that it was due to something in the nutritional IV, rather than the TTFD.

I’ll follow up in a later post.

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Illustration: Remix by MRhea of 1959 pulp novel cover found here.

A list of supplements that don’t work very well in the versions sold in the US

This past year I’ve learned that some of the nutrient supplements on the shelves in the US don’t work very well, either because a significant part of the population can’t process them, or because the version used is poorly absorbed by the body, or because they are so cheaply formulated that the filler would make you sick before you could get enough of the active ingredient to resolve your deficiency.

Here’s everything I know so far. Needless to say, the better versions are more expensive and harder to find.

Folic acid: Processing this synthetic vitamin into its active form requires methyl groups and those of us who are methyl-challenged (low methylators) need to use the methylfolate version. Some sources say that the folic acid formulation is pointlessly inefficient for anyone. Using methylfolate instead certainly can’t hurt.

Calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate requires stomach acid to work, and is hard on the stomach for some people. Calcium citrate absorption doesn’t require stomach acid. (This issue isn’t as big a concern as the others listed here.)

Magnesium oxide: This is not as bioavailable as other options, such as magnesium citrate. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, magnesium lactate and magnesium chloride are even better options, but they are harder to find in pill form. You can also absorb magnesium through the skin in the form of epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and magnesium chloride, which can be found in a spray oil.

Vitamin B1 – thiamine hydrochloride. This is poorly absorbed by the body. If you are only mildly deficient, it might be all you need, but I needed a fairly large dose and couldn’t stomach it at all. When I switched to the more efficient benfotiamine, I had no trouble and noticed results much faster. Another version is thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide (TTFD), which is what I use.

Vitamin B2 – riboflavin. This is also poorly absorbed. Riboflavin phosphate AKA riboflavin-5′-phosphate AKA flavin mononucleotide (FMN) is a better formulation.

Vitamin B6 – pyridoxine. Some people have trouble converting pyridoxine to its active form, pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P). You can buy the active version in supplement form, usually referred to as P5P. Some experts say you just have to use a part of your dose in that form; the rest can be pyridoxine.

Vitamin B12 – cobalamin or cyanocobalamin or hydroxocobalamin (used in injections).
Like folic acid, it requires a methyl group to convert to its active form. I’ve followed a discussion group on B12 whose members are adamant that these types are pathetically inefficient and that methylcobalamin should be used. (There is also adenosylcobalamin AKA dibencozide AKA coenzyme B12, but I was never clear what the difference is.) If you are having injections, you might have to search a bit to find a compounding pharmacy that can prepare the methylcobalamin shots, which is less stable than the other versions and has to be carefully shipped and stored.

The reason B12 tablets come in doses with such large numbers — 1,000 mcg., 5,000 mcg. — is because the body can only absorb about 1% of it at a time.

Vitamin D2 – ergocalciferol. Depending on what you read, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is either three or five times more bioavailable than vitamin D2.

Vitamin K1 – phylloquinone. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is the preferred version, but I don’t know a lot about it. Vitamin K3 (menadione) has been banned so you shouldn’t have to worry about that one.