Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Thiamine is a cofactor in many functions, so any deficiency develops a wide range of effects on general health, including numbness or “pins and needles” (paraesthesias) in the extremities, calf muscle tenderness, cramps or difficulty rising from squatting position, burning feet, poor balance, muscle weakness and atrophy, shortness of breath, digestive disturbances or vomiting, anorexia, sensory sensitivity, nervousness, irritability, depression, fatigue, lethargy, confusion, poor memory, difficulty in orderly thinking, ideas of persecution, catatonic stupor, catalepsy, and even epileptic seizures. Deficiency is particularly high among institutionalised elderly and is a relatively common cause of post-operative mental confusion and delirium in the elderly.
Chronic deficiency is associated with several modern disease states like glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes, lactic acidosis, pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency, cataracts and heart failure (cardiomyopathy), as well as classical Beriberi.
Beriberi results in neuropathy, diminished sensation and weakness and abnormal reflexes, vasodilation, peripheral oedema, shortness of breath, increased heart rate (tachycardia), swelling of the lower legs, lactic acidosis, congestive heart failure, coma and death. Cerebral beriberi may result in Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis or Korsakoff’s dementia; both are associated with alcohol abuse. Gastrointestinal beriberi primarily results from the thiamine deficiency related failure to detoxify lactate and is associated with nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
About Vitamin B1
Vitamin B1 deficiency is becoming more common owing to modern diets plus lifestyle factors which directly deplete the vitamin including alcoholism, overconsumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, caffeine, nicotine as well as chronic mercury toxicity from dental amalgam fillings and thimerosal-based vaccinations.
It is also caused by bowel disorders which impede the absorption of vitamin B1 such as chronic diarrhoea, food allergies and intolerances, fungal and bacterial overgrowth of the intestine, causes and syndromes of malabsorption like gastric bypass surgery, gastritis, coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or owing to chronic stress, overconsumption of sugar and alcohol, excessive use of antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antacids, proton pump inhibitors, cytotoxic drugs, steroids and oral contraceptives; all of which can result in an inflamed gut wall.
Other thiamine-depleting factors include acetaldehyde from alcohol breakdown, cigarette smoking, car exhausts, fungal overgrowth of the intestine, sulphites (preservatives in the food chain), excess copper in the body, and thiamine-destroying substances found in raw fish, raw shellfish, ferns, yeast infections, tea, coffee, betel nuts, quercetin and rutin. Additional factors affecting availability of vitamin B1 include certain prescription pharmaceutical drugs which interfere with its absorption, anorexia nervosa, vegetarianism, and prolonged dependence on total parenteral nutrition (TPN).
Deficiency symptoms include numbness or “pins and needles” (paraesthesias) in the arms, legs or feet, calf muscle tenderness, cramps or difficulty rising from squatting position, burning feet, poor balance when eyes are closed or when walking in the dark, muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, shortness of breath, digestive disturbances, pain sensitivity, noise sensitivity, nervousness, irritability, depression, fatigue, confusion, poor memory, difficulty in orderly thinking, ideas of persecution and even epileptic seizures. Alcohol induced thiamine deficiency may even progress to Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome.
Chronic deficiency is also associated with several modern disease states like glucose intolerance, type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes, lactic acidosis, pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency, cataracts, heart failure (cardiomyopathy), anxiety neuroses, panic attacks, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression, insomnia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and progressive sub-nuclear palsy.
These conditions often get misdiagnosed as illnesses in their own right by doctors and psychiatrists unfamiliar with this simple biochemical imbalance and they may resort to prescribing pharmaceutical drugs to manage symptoms without addressing the underlying cause. Vitamin B1 deficiency responds well to the introduction of activated coenzyme forms of vitamin B1.
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