B vitamin stops cancer drug pain in its tracks
As if going through chemo for your cancer weren’t bad enough, you then find your hands and feet are tingling… burning… and crackling with “electrical” sparks.
It’s not your imagination. It’s a very real condition called “chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy” (CIPN), which can sometimes feel like tiny firecrackers going off inside your hands and feet.
Your doc may have tried to give you powerful pain meds for it… but that can be a one-way ticket to even MORE side effects.
According to a new study, though, you may be able to beat chemo-induced nerve pain just by changing your diet.
The study, published in the journal PAIN, found that vitamin B3 (a.k.a. niacin) could prevent neuropathy pain from the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel, used most commonly in breast and ovarian cancer patients.
Researchers gave some lab rats daily doses of vitamin B3 for a week before attempting to induce pain with paclitaxel (in the same way it affects humans).
But what actually happened was that vitamin B3 stopped CIPN before it started! The rats showed no signs of heightened pain responses, compared to those that were given paclitaxel without B3 supplements.
Without B3, the rats’ heightened sensitivity to pain lasted for five weeks AFTER their chemo treatments ended!
The reason B3 may work is that it boosts levels of an important cell component called nicotinamide acenine dinucleotide — a.k.a. NAD+. Previous studies have shown that increasing NAD+ levels can defend against many types of nerve damage.
In the current study, B3 increased NAD+ levels by 50 percent!
What’s more, this effect lasted for two weeks AFTER the vitamin B3 supplement was stopped.
Now, I know you’re not a rat, but the truth is that animal responses like these tell us a lot about how humans would respond in such cases.
Now, an oncologist may have told you not to take vitamins during chemotherapy, since some believe that certain vitamins like A, E, and C can lessen the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs.
If you ask me, the jury is still out on that one. But there’s one thing we’re sure of: Don’t skip the B3!
You can get more B3 in your diet by eating foods like beets; organ meats like beef liver and kidneys; fish like salmon, tuna, and swordfish; sunflower seeds; and peanuts.
Also, your body converts the amino acid tryptophan into B3, so you can bolster your B3 levels by enjoying tryptophan-rich (and Paleo-friendly) foods like turkey and other poultry, red meat, eggs, and dairy.
You can also get B3 as part of a B complex vitamin supplement. If you choose to take B3 on its own, beware of the “flush” that often occurs with niacin. It’s generally harmless, but it can be a little uncomfortable for some people.