Infomation about Pellagra


What Is Pellagra

Pellagra is a very rare condition due to a niacin (B-complex bitamin) deficiency.  The person also has to be deficient in tryptophan, as this can be converted into niacin in the body, for Pellagra to develop.  It is commonly known as the "D" disease because it is characterized by diarrhea, Dermatitis, Dementia, and death, if it goes untreated.  Niacin is necessary for almost all celular processes and it is relatively easy to get as a supplement or in food.  There can be two types of Pellagra:

  • Primary Pellagra: a very low intake of niacin over a long time, due to a low intake in the diet. 
  • Secondary Pellagra: when the intake of niacin isn't absorbed by the body, which can be a resul from drug use or other diseases.  
Signs Of Pellagra

Pellagra can have topical, gastrointestinal, and neurological symptoms.  The skin can become reddened and turn into a rash, which is sensitive to sunlight.  In time the skin may become thick or scaly.  Diarrhea occurs in about 50% of cases and it may be difficult for patients to eat or drink.  Neurological symptoms can range from mild headaches, to Depression, to developing Dementia.  The most common symptoms of Pellagra include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dermatitis
  • Dementia
  • Reddish skin lesions
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
What Causes Pellagra

Pellagra is a deficiency disease, where the person is deficient in niacin and/or tryptophan.  The two types of the condition, Primary and Secondary, have different causes for the deficiency.  Primary Pellagra is caused by a lack of niacin and/or tryptophan in the diet.  That is the only cause and this is usually common in developing countries.  Secondary Pellagra means that there is enough niacin in the diet, but there is something in the body that prevents its absorbtion.  Common causes of Secondary Pellagra include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Cirrhosis of the Liver
  • Prolonged Diarrhea
  • Carcinoid Tumors
  • Drugs (such as isoniazid or azathioprine)
  • Gastrointestinal diseases

Dherbs Approach...adjusting your diet is always key!

Natural Remedies
  • Avoid eating processed food, meat, dairy products, salt, sugar, and genetically modified foods and switch to more of a plant-based diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.  There are many fruits and vegetables that can have high amounts of niacin and lysine, which people with Pellagra can be deficent in.  People also can eat raw protein powder, sea vegetabels that are high in protein, as well as nuts and seeds that can provide you with protein. 
  • It is ideal for Pellagra patients to get a lot of rest.  The body needs a lot of sleep to help with the healing process, so ensuring that patients get at least eight hours of sleep every night is crucial.  While sleep doesn't prevent Pellagra, it can help to stop itching, aggravation, or or dry scaly skin. 
  • Hydration is very important when it comes to people with Pellagra.  Water can help alkalize the body, promote healthy circulation, as well as flush toxins out of the body.  Drinking eight 8oz glasses of water a day is recommended.  You can also drink half your body weight in ounces of water.  If you weigh 150lbs, then you should drink 75oz of water every day. 
  • Try to avoid direct sunlight, as this can worsen Dermatitis, which is a common symptom associated with Pellagra.  Exposure to sunlight can worsen red or scaly skin and make rashes itch more. 
  • For people who experience diarrhea, it may be beneficial to eat a high fiber diet to help solidify stools.  Fruits and vegetables that are fibrous include berries, apples, bananas, dark leafy greens, potatoes, mangos, guavas, and persimmons.  
  • To help aid gastrointestinal troubles, it can be soothing to drink ginger and mint tea.  Ginger is a natural digestive aid and can help calm nausea, allowing the patient to have an increased appetite it he/she did not have one before. 
  • Since coconut oil is an incredible moisturizer and has antimicrobial properties, it can help reduce the symptoms of Pellagra if applied to the affected area(s).  For best results, gently apply warm coconut oil nightly before bed, as this softens the skin.  Symptoms may take a few days to reduce. 
  • An oatmeal bath can help reduce skin irritation because it helps moisturize the skin.  Mix one cup of blended oats in a luke warm bath and soak in it for 15-20 minutes every day until symptoms decrease.
Things you should eat
  • Bell Peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Sweet Potato
  • Green Peas
  • Crimini Mushrooms
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Collard Greens
  • Spirulina
  • Ginger
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Squash
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Mustard & Turnip Greens
  • Fennel
  • Parsley
  • Cauliflower
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