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Pellagra is a disease caused by a severe deficiency of vitamin B3 (niacin). It can be due to a diet high in maize (Indian corn), alcoholism, severe diarrhea, parasites, cirrhosis of the liver, post-surgical nutrient deficiencies, stress, genetic predisposition, and consumption of junk foods, which are very low in B vitamins and high in refined sugars that deplete B vitamins.

Symptoms of pellagra include diarrhea, dementia, and dermatitis; redness and swelling of tongue and lips; burning of the mouth, pharynx, and esophagus; abdominal distention and pain or discomfort in the abdominal area; poor digestion; vomiting; weakness; weight loss; stress and irritability; poor tolerance to cold; and impaired memory, confusion, and paranoia. In some cases, the skin can also turn dark, becoming thicker, rougher, and very dry.

What To Consider

Before a diagnosis of pellagra can be made, you must first rule out tongue and lip redness and swelling due to other vitamin deficiencies or diseases, diarrhea, and skin and central nervous system disorders due to other diseases. In addition, since multiple deficiencies of all the B vitamins and protein often occur together, a dietary and nutritional supplementation program needs to be balanced together and should be created under the guidance of a health practitioner trained in diet and nutrition.

Self-Care Tips

Eat organic foods that are high in niacin and other B vitamins, protein, and the amino acid tryptophan. Such foods include organic whole grains, bananas, raw seeds and nuts, peanuts, liver, avocados, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, legumes, collard greens, enriched breads and cereals, salmon, halibut, tuna, swordfish, skinless breast of chicken, and turkey. Eliminate all sugars and alcohol, and minimize your intake of maize.

Nutritional Supplementation
Supplement with vitamin B 3, which is available in two forms, niacin and niacinamide. Since niacin in doses of 100 mg or more can sometimes cause flushing and chills, many people prefer niacinamide instead, which does not produce such symptoms. However, the symptoms are harmless and niacin is the preferred form of vitamin B3 for pellagra. Also supplement with vitamin B complex and free form amino acids.


If your symptoms persist despite the above measures, seek the help of a qualified health professional.

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