Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vitamin B5: The Miracle Pill?

If you read my Oh My Omnivore post I hinted towards a post to come about what I've been doing for my skin.  Well, here it is!  I'm sharing this in the hope of helping someone else, or obtaining some advice from someone who has been through the same thing.  I've stuffed my brain with a lot of information over the last few months, so I'll try to keep this short. 

After discovering that my monthly cycle was being rebellious, I did some research (my acupuncturist at the time was disappointingly unhelpful) on things I could do besides/in addition to acupuncture to help get things regulated.  I came across a lot of information on Vitex (Chasteberry) and how it can help regulate cycles.  Some women take it when trying to conceive or having difficulties trying to conceive; neither of which describe my current situation, but my longer-than-normal and anovulatory cycles (along with other symptoms) suggest I may have a progesterone deficiency.  After a lot of reading and, I admit, completely self-diagnosing myself, I went to Super Supplements to self-medicate myself as well. 

While a salesgirl was giving me some great advice on Vitex and some other supplements to help with my irregular cycle situation, I asked if there was anything she could recommend to address the issues I was also having with my skin.  She replied "Oh, you have to talk to Jane; she is our skin expert here!"  So I spent 20-30 minutes talking to Jane.  She told me that she became an esthetician in part because of the issues she was having with her skin, and she also wanted to help other people.  She found that no matter what she tried (topical, oral, diet changes, etc) she was still having issues with her breakouts.  She then led me to the Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) and told me how she SWEARS by it personally and recommends it to everyone.  BTW, her skin was as smooth as glass!

Dr Lit-Hung Leung is the doctor who discovered and published his findings on the use of B5 to cure acne.  Read THIS to find out more about Dr Leung's study, read THIS to read more about how B5 helps with the synthesis of Coenzyme-A (CoA). 

Nutshell:  When there is insufficient CoA in the body to efficiently carry out its function of fatty acid metabolism and hormone synthesis, it will tend to be used to synthesize hormones at the expense of fatty acid metabolism causing fatty acids to accumulate in the sebaceous glands, contributing to acne. Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) is proposed to be the limiting compound in CoA synthesis, and supplementation with B5 has been shown to support and complete this process. 

Since B5 is water-soluble, any amount not used by the body is eliminated when you "go pee-pee".  This also means a continuous supply is needed throughout the day.  Dr Leung suggests taking 10 grams/day for the treatment of acne...straight up, that's a lot of pill popping.  I'm taking 10, 1000mg pills a day (1g = 1000mg):  3 at breakfast, 2 at lunch, 3 at dinner and 2 before bed is more or less the order I take mine in and Country Life is the brand I use.  I've also read that taking B5 in this large of a dose can lead to a deficiency in other essential B vitamins causing issues such as hair loss with some people, so I supplement with a B-complex women's multivitamin (which I was already taking) and have actually seen less "shedding".  I used to pull out a handful of hair (maybe not literally) out of the drain after a shower, and now it's just a few strands.

Besides acne, other B5 deficiency symptoms include:
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal discomfort
All of which I've had issues with.  I used to feel stressed, busy, rushed, anxious and would get easily irritated.  I can honestly say, I feel so calm now!  It's difficult to explain, but the smallest things would make me feel so stressed out, and that has not been an issue since taking B5. 

Vitamin B5 is also essential to support proper function of the adrenal glands, which are responsible for the stress-hormones and the "fight or flight" responses.  MANY problems can arise if hormones are out of balance and the adrenal glands are not functioning properly including acne, forgetfulness, high cholesterol, sugar craving, insomnia, and lower back problems. 

I'm no doctor, but I've spent many hours over the last four months reading about this...much more than I'm willing to keep typing about right now.  Our bodies are amazingly made to work a very specific way, and our crazy lifestyles knock our system off balance and everything snowballs into all sorts of problems. 

Anyway, do the research yourself, don't just take my word for it, but I have seen some amazing results.  I've been taking pictures to document the improvement in my skin and, if I'm brave enough, I'll share them.  I stopped taking the B5 for two weeks, without changing anything else about my skin care routine or diet, just to see what would happen.  Well...my skin broke out like crazy!  Within two days of starting up with the B5 again, my skin began to significantly clear up. 

Let me know if you have any questions, and please share any success stories you have with me!