Episode 39: Vitamin B1

Out of all the B vitamins that are essential to our health, Thiamine or Vitamin B1 could best be thought of as a vitamin under siege. This is due to all of the foods and drugs we take that induce a deficiency in Thiamine. Some of these substances include alcohol, refined carbohydrates, diuretics (like ‘water pills’) oral contraceptives and raw fermented fish. In addition, when our body’s magnesium status is low, B1 cannot be absorbed. Those with illnesses such as colitis, HIV infection, diabetes and thyroid diseases, as well as the elderly are generally deficient in Thiamine as well. Although foods like un-husked grains, nuts, meats and legumes are sources of B1, high temperature cooking and chlorinated tap water tends to destroy it, leaving very little to absorb.

Mild B1 deficiency symptoms such as fatigue, poor memory, insomnia, headaches and loss of appetite are often misinterpreted as signs of aging or neurosis. In cases of major deficiencies, peripheral neuropathy, congestive heart failure and neuro-psychiatric conditions such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which is common in heavy alcoholics, can occur.

That brings us to the interventions. For normal supplementing purposes, a B-complex vitamin is usually sufficient. However, when neuropathy symptoms are present, extra Vitamin B1 in the amount of 100mg/day along with 200mg of Magnesium in addition to the B-complex are also given.

Join us next week when we’ll talk about melatonin.

Be Well and Be Zen



Gaby., Thiamine., Nutritional Medicine (2011)., ps.62-66., Ch. 13., ISBN13: 978-0-9828850-0-0. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, Concord, NH.

Smidt L.J., Cremin F.M., Grivetti L.E., Clifford A.J., Influence of Thiamin supplementation on the health and general well-being of an elderly Irish population with marginal thiamin deficiency. J Gerontol 1991;46:M16-M22.

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