What Is It?
Also known as vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is essential for a number of basic bodily functions–from growth to reproduction. It participates in the continual breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins from food, converting them into compounds the body can use. This vitamin also produces numerous enzymes and helps maintain precise communication between the central nervous system and the brain.
A deficiency of pantothenic acid is quite rare in humans because a large number of foods contain this vitamin (in fact, the name is derived from the Greek pantos, meaning “everywhere.” Even so, a supplement may be needed to get the higher doses of pantothenic acid recommended for the treatment of specific ailments.
Pantothenic acid comes in two forms: calcium pantothenate and pantethine. The former is widely used for treating ailments from stress to heartburn, while pantethine is mainly recommended for lowering blood cholesterol levels in those who don’t respond to other natural treatments. Many multivitamin and vitamin B complex supplements contain pantothenic acid.
Specifically, pantothenic acid may help to:
Manage stress from psychological strain, migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, and smoking and alcohol cessation. The body relies on pantothenic acid to help the adrenal glands produce stress hormones during times of both psychological and physical strain. This property makes it potentially useful for dealing with emotional upset, depression, anxiety, migraines, chronic fatigue, and withdrawal from alcohol or tobacco. It is commonly taken as part of a vitamin B complex supplement for these purposes. In addition, pantothenic acid may reduce the occurrence of migraines by participating in the production of the brain chemical serotonin; some research indicates that serotonin is present at abnormally low levels in migraine sufferers.
Combat heartburn. The discomforts of heartburn may be soothed by pantothenic acid, particularly when it’s combined with two other B vitamins–choline and thiamin.
Reduce certain allergy symptoms and asthmatic reactions. Allergy sufferers may find pantothenic acid beneficial for controlling the nasal congestion that can develop during an allergic reaction. The vitamin is a smart choice during allergy season, when it can be safely taken along with more conventional remedies. An asthmatic response initiated by seasonal allergies may similarly improve with pantothenic acid.
Control cholesterol levels. The body converts pantothenic acid into a chemical called pantethine. When taken as a supplement, pantethine appears to lower the amount of lipids in the blood. A person with high cholesterol may see their level of total of cholesterol–including LDL (“bad”) cholesterol–while at the same time increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.
Note: Pantothenic acid has also been found to be useful for a number of other disorders. For information on these additional ailments, see our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Pantothenic Acid.
There’s no formal RDA for pantothenic acid, but experts recommend getting 4 to 7 mg a day to maintain normal body function. The amount present in a multivitamin or vitamin B-complex supplement is more than adequate in most cases.
If You Get Too Little
A deficiency of pantothenic acid in adults is virtually nonexistent, largely because it is present in so many foods.
If You Get Too Much
Doses of 10 grams (10,000 mg) or more a day can result in diarrhea. No other adverse reactions to high doses have been reported.
General Dosage Information
Special tip: Many multivitamin and B-complex vitamin products contain pantothenic acid; check the label for the dose.
For psychological or physical stress: Take a daily vitamin B complex supplement that includes 100 mg of pantothenic acid. Many so-called adrenal support combinations designed to help the body cope with stress contain approximately this amount of pantothenic acid.
For chronic heartburn: Take 1,000 mg of pantothenic acid twice a day along with 500 mg thiamin once a day and 500 mg choline three times a day. If this regimen fails to improve your heartburn after a month, discontinue it.
For allergies: Take 500 mg of pantothenic acid three times a day.
For high cholesterol: Take 300 mg of pantethine three times a day.
Be sure to check out our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Pantothenic Acid, which lists therapeutic dosages for specific ailments at a glance.
Guidelines for Use
Take pantothenic acid with meals.
There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with pantothenic acid.
Read supplement labels carefully to avoid mistakenly purchasing a pantethine product, which is almost solely used for treating high cholesterol. It’s not interchangeable with pantothenic acid products.
Allergies 500 mg 3 times a day
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 500 mg twice a day
Heartburn 1,000 mg twice a day
High Cholesterol 300 mg 3 times a day
Stress 100 mg a day.
David Edelberg, M.D.
Pantothenic acid helps in the manufacture of red blood cells, various hormones, and certain brain chemicals. It is widely used by nutritionally oriented physicians to help the adrenal glands produce stress hormones during times of both psychological and physical strain.
HOW IT HELPS ALLERGIES
Although the use of pantothenic acid for allergies has never really been tested, nutritionally oriented physicians believe the adrenal support that this B vitamin provides may be helpful. The logic here is that the adrenal glands produce cortisol and other anti-inflammatory agents, and by supporting adrenal function, you may help to minimize an allergic response.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Pantothenic acid, which is also known as vitamin B5, is widely available in foods. As a supplement you’ll find it in two forms: Calcium pantothenate: For treating stress-associated ailments, such as migraine and allergies. Pantethine: Mainly recommended for lowering blood cholesterol levels in those who don’t respond to other natural treatments. Don’t buy this one for allergy relief.
Many multivitamin and vitamin B-complex supplements contain pantothenic acid, and the amount is more than adequate in most cases. However, when using pantothenic acid clinically for the adrenal support needed for allergies, you’ll need a higher dose–probably in the range of 500 mg three times a day.
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