This is part two of our look at B vitamins. For people in recovery all eight B vitamins are critical because they are necessary for the breakdown of sugar in the blood and conversion of sugar to energy.
In part one we laid out the consequences of inadequate B vitamins in the diet so we won’t revisit those here. The good news is you can obtain all the B vitamins you need just by eating right. By making even minor changes to your daily diet you can see substantial improvement in how you look and feel and in your energy levels.
A Little History of B Vitamins, Bill W. and Recovery
Almost from the beginning, the founders of AA recognized that certain foods helped reduce cravings and provide energy. They did not understand exactly why but they knew that certain foods seemed to help. Those foods included: baking soda, hot dogs, sauerkraut, certain juices, ketchup and honey.
Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, became very interested in the biochemical basis of alcoholism and the inter-relationship between food and supplements and how they could enhance recovery and relapse prevention. He researched this area extensively, especially in the last few years before his death in 1971. Throughout his life, Bill W. suffered from hypoglycemia and chronic, sometimes, clinical depression. In his book The Soul of Sponsorship, Robert Fitzgerald, wrote that from 1944 to almost 1955, Bill W. experienced debilitating depression that at times made him suicidal. Bill W. never stopped searching for a cure to his depression.
Bill W., wrote: “It was Dr. [William} Silkworth who introduced the idea to me that alcoholism had a physical component—something he called an ‘allergy.’ He knew this was a misnomer; he used it to express his intuition that something was physically wrong with most of us, a factor perhaps causative and certainly an aggravation of the alcoholic’s condition.”
Bill W. later learned of the work of Dr. Abram Hoffer and Dr. Humphry Osmond. These doctors introduced Bill W. to their work as pioneers in what was then known as “megavitamin therapy”. Bill W. was known to consume a lot of caffeine and sugar and was a chain smoker until the time of his death. He agreed to modify his diet and went on a megadose of niacin. Dr. Hoffer later wrote, “I met Bill in New York in 1960…[he] was very curious about it and began to take niacin 3,000 mg daily. Within a few weeks, fatigue and depression that had plagued him for years, were gone. He gave [niacin] to 30 of his close friends in AA. Of the thirty, 10 were free of anxiety, tension and depression in one month. Another ten were well in two months.”
These experiences led Bill W. to author multiple pamphlets on “Vitamin B3 Therapy” and to personally distribute them to AA-affiliated physicians. Bill W. self-published two pamphlets, First and Second Communication to Alcoholics Anonymous Physicians (1965) and (1968.)After Bill’s death in 1971, Lois, his wife and founder of Alanon, published a pamphlet, The Vitamin B-3 Therapy: A 3rd Communication to AA’s Physicians, which stated that her husband, Bill, had become convinced that there was a biochemical connection with alcoholism and addiction.
This is a nutshell history of Bill W.’s pioneering work. The point is, he was onto something a long time before most others accepted that proposition that vitamin deficiency and diet could exacerbate underlying medical conditions, more specifically addiction and related illnesses. Fast-forward fifty years, and there is substantial scientific evidence to confirm the work of early pioneers such as Dr.’s Hoffer and Osmond and advocates like Bill W.
So the question is, why don’t we hear more about this in recovery circles? I won’t speculate, but I thought it was so important that I created Spiritual Adrenaline as a mechanism to carry this message to as many people as possible.
Here is our look at the last four B vitamins.
B7 also known as Biotin
Biotin helps enhance metabolic function. Deficiencies manifest in skin inflammation. Foods that are rich in Biotin include: organ meats (liver, kidney), swiss chard, carrots, almonds, walnuts, strawberries, raspberries, onions and cucumbers.
B3 also known as Niacin
Niacin assists with carbohydrate breakdown as part of our metabolic function and with oxidation of the blood. Deficiencies include irritated skin, diarrhea and improper function of the central nervous system. Foods that are rich in Niacin include: meats, milk, whole grain products, passion fruit, peanuts, avocado, potatoes and mushrooms.
There is no credible scientific research that I am aware of that confirms that niacin taken in isolation, even in large doses, can in-and-of-itself cure depression or any other condition. Moreover, mega doses of any supplement can cause substantial stress to organs, which may have already been subjected to years of stress and abuse. I do not recommend that folks self-prescribe mega doses of anything without first speaking to their physician and having the appropriate blood work done.
There is substantial credible and scientific evidence that sufficient intake of B vitamins and other nutrients can impact the aforementioned conditions.
B9 also known as Folic Acid
Folic Acid is needed for the maturation of red blood cells and for critical body function on the cellular level, which are too complex to explain in a short blog post. Deficiencies manifest in the following ways: anemia, red blood cell imbalance, and can result in birth defects in babies born to mothers who are deficient in Folic Acid. Studies have shown a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke for men who have sufficient folic acid intake. Foods that are rich in Folic Acid include: oranges, beans, whole grain rice, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, asparagus, broccoli and meats (organ meat such as liver and kidney).
B5 also known as Pantothenic Acid
B5 is necessary for the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates. Deficiencies manifest in: Anemia, depression and other psychological disorders and convulsions. Foods rich in B5 include: sunflower seeds, salmon, avocado, corn, broccoli, mushrooms, meat, dairy, and dairy products.
Bill W. was right. For people in recovery, the B Vitamins are a critically important component in the quest for what he called “emotional sobriety.” Emotional sobriety is defined as a sense of happiness and fulfillment in sobriety, beyond simply abstaining from alcohol and other substances.
Recommended reading: Food for Recovery, Dr. Joseph Beasley and Susan Knightly, Crown Trade Publishing, 1993; Nutritional Supplements, Joe Canon, MS, Infinity Publishing, 2008; The Vitamin Cure for Alcoholism, Dr. Abram Hoffer and Dr. Andrew W. Saul, Basic Health Publications, 2008.
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