Vitamin B1 Deficiency Symptoms Dosage & Side Effects

Have you ever wondered how do our hands and feet move? How does our heart perfectly time its beats without skipping? How does the mechanism work perfectly? For nerves, muscles, and heart to function work properly we need vitamin B1, and it helps your brain to think, your heart to feel and your body to move.

What is Vitamin B1?

Vitamin B1 are water-soluble and convert carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. They help in the smooth functioning of the liver, skin, hair, and eyes. They also protect the nervous system and are needed for the good functioning of the brain. Vitamin Bs are also known as anti-stress vitamins due to their ability to boost the immune system during stressful times.

Vitamin B1 or thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin that converts carbohydrates into energy. Its main function is to enhance glucose absorption and proper functioning of the heart, muscle and nervous system. Vitamin B1 protects the body and prevents diseases like beriberi, which includes nerve disorders, brain diseases, muscle ailments, heart problems, and stomach and intestine illnesses. It helps regulate the inflow and outflow of electrolytes into the muscles and cells. 

Food Items containing Vitamin B1

Being a water-soluble vitamin it cannot be produced by the body, hence it must be consumed and the best sources of thiamine are meat, nuts and whole grains. Apart from that, fortified breakfast cereal, asparagus, cooked pork loin, cooked edamame, lentils, black beans, beef liver and products made with white flour or white rice are rich in vitamin B1. 

Vitamin B1 is present in fruits and vegetables like cauliflower, kale, eggs, potatoes and oranges, some foods rich in vitamin B1 are brewer’s yeast and blackstrap molasses. Mostly half of the world’s vitamin B1 is taken naturally through natural food items and the rest is consumed from foods that include vitamin B1. It is important to know that heating, cooking, processing, and boiling foods in water destroys thiamine and due to its water-soluble nature vitamin B1, it liquefies into the cooking water. Non-enriched white rice will comprise of only one-tenth of the vitamin B1 that is offered in brown rice.

One thing to note is tea and coffee consists of a chemical known as tannin which if mixed with thiamine result in the difficult absorption of vitamin B1. Also, raw shellfish and fish contain some chemicals which result in the destruction of thiamine in the body and subsequent deficiency is consumed heavily. Cooking although helps destroy these chemicals, and also causes thiamine to be destroyed in the process.

Dosage of Vitamin B1

According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, a single helping of fortified breakfast cereal offers 1.5 milligrams of vitamin B1, and it is 100 per cent more than the daily recommended amount. The recommended daily intake for men is 1.2 mg and 1.1 mg for women above 18 years. It is essential for pregnant ladies and breastfeeding women of any age should consume 1.4 mg each day. To give you a proper insight on which foods contain the vitamin and the amount of vitamin B1 they contain then you must know that 0.1 mg or 7% of the daily requirement of vitamin B1 is equal to one portion of whole wheat bread. 

Chicken, apples and dairy products like cheese comprise of no vitamin B1. Also, since vitamin B1 is not stored in the body our body needs its constant supply, hence it should be part of the daily diet. Vitamin B1 can also be consumed through supplementation and it is viable for people who can’t have certain foods that contain vitamin B1. In many countries, cereals, bread and grains are often stimulated with thiamine.

Vitamin B1 Deficiency

The most common condition that can result from thiamine is beriberi which causes peripheral nerves disorders. It can also lead to severe weight reduction and anorexia, mental illnesses like unclear thoughts and short-term memory loss, weak muscles and cardiac symptoms like enlargement of the heart. 

People who can develop vitamin B1 deficiency are cancer patients, individuals having poor dietary habits, alcoholics, and pregnant ladies, especially the ones who have frequent morning sicknesses. Alcohol doesn’t allow the body to absorb vitamin B1 from the food which can lead to conditions like Wernicke-Korsakoff, it not treated on time it can prove to be fatal. Illnesses such as HIV/AIDS also decrease nutrient absorption which leads to vitamin B1 deficiency. 

Some of the most common signs and symptoms which one must look out for to keep vitamin B1 deficiency at a safe distance are:

1. Fatigue

Fatigue is although a very common insufficiency suffered by our body that can be caused by many factors since vitamin B1 converts carbohydrates into energy, its deficiency in the body can result in fatigue and exhaustion.

2. Loss of Appetite

Vitamin B1 helps in the regulation of satiety which is located in the hypothalamus of the brain. When vitamin B1 deficiency hits it alters the satiety centre in the brain causing us to feel full or satiated even if when a person hasn’t had enough food, resulting in loss of appetite. If anyone is feeling the loss of appetite they might not initially connect it with thiamine deficiency but if it persists then checking for the deficiency should be considered. 

3. Slow Reflexes 

Since vitamin B1 helps protect the nervous system, its deficiency can affect motor nerves and if not treated at the right time then it can lead to a change in reflexes in our body. Weak reflexes of the knees, ankles and triceps can become frequent as the deficiency advances and eventually leads to problems in the ability to walk and coordination.

4. Muscle Weakness 

Muscle weakness is not a simple and fleeting health problem like the flu, although not uncommon but it can take time to get detected. Short-term, brief muscle weakness is experienced by everyone at some point in their life and it not a worrisome situation but if it continues for a long time because of a vague reason then it can be due to vitamin B1 deficiency. Many cases of thiamine deficiency have experienced muscle weakness but their condition has improved after taking thiamine supplements.

5. Tingling Sensation

Have you ever experienced irregular tickling or prickling sensation in the upper or lower limbs, all these are symptoms of paraesthesia. To transmit messages from the brain to the body peripheral nerves require vitamin B1 and in case it is scarce then conditions like peripheral nerve damage and paraesthesia can arise. It usually develops during the initial phases of vitamin B1 deficiency.

6. Irritability

Irritability can be caused by various physical, psychological and medical conditions. It is a feeling of distress and frustration where a person becomes upset instantly. One can think that it has been caused by psychological tension, but you should know that irritability is one of the initial signs of vitamin B1 deficiency and can surface during the initial phase. 

7. Delirium

Delirium is a severe condition that affects a person’s ability to think clearly and causes confusion and reduced awareness. Vitamin B1 deficiency and delirium have often been related. Additionally, vitamin B1 deficiency also causes Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome whose symptoms are delirium, memory loss, confusion and hallucinations. Vitamin B1 deficiency is also prominent in the elderly which can lead to delirium among them.

8. Breathlessness

Since vitamin B1 deficiency can disturb the functioning of the heart it can give rise to problems like shortness of breath caused by exertion. If the heart is not pumping blood efficiently it can lead to heart failure and also an accumulation of fluid in the lungs which making breathing difficult.

9. Fluctuating Heart Rate

Heart rate isn’t the epitome of showing how much you love a person, but their actual function is to measure the inflow and outflow of blood from the heart. Heart rate can fluctuate if thiamine levels are low in the body making the heartbeat slower than usual. If the heart rate is severely low due to thiamine deficiency then it will cause excess fatigue, light-headedness and even fainting.

10. Vomiting and Nausea

It is a very rare symptom of thiamine deficiency and it is not exactly determined how the deficiency and the illness are connected but many gastrointestinal cases have been treated after being induced with vitamin B1. Vomiting has been listed as the top symptom seen especially in infants. This happens when infants consume soy-based formula which lacks vitamin B1.

11. Hazy Vision

Vitamin B1 is one of the common causes of hazy or blurred vision, thiamine deficiency causes swelling of the optic nerve resulting in optic neuropathy. This condition causes blurry vision or in severe cases blindness. Patient’s condition is said to improve drastically once they have been given supplements of vitamin B1.

Benefits of Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 is very beneficial for our nervous system, heart and brain. It is responsible for the inflow and outflow of electrolytes from our muscles and nerve cells and prevents diseases like beriberi to surface in our body. Vitamin B1 has been successful in helping people treat major health issues like Crohn’s disease, stubborn diarrhea, and also people with weak appetite must also include thiamine in their diet. Coma patients are also given thiamine injections. 

Thiamine is also used by some athletes in the U.S to help improve their performance as it is not a prohibited substance for athletes in the U.S. Patients who suffer from peripheral neuritis, which results from the inflammation of nerves outside the brain, often known as pellagra, are treated by giving them vitamin B1. 

Some other major conditions which can be treated with thiamine supplements include HIV/AIDS, canker sores, sight problems like cataracts, and glaucoma, cerebellar syndrome, brain disorders, cervical cancer, pain caused due to diabetes, anxiety, cardiovascular diseases, and renal disease in patients with type 2 diabetes, travel sickness and a deteriorated immune system.

Side Effects of Vitamin B1

Although there are no confirmed side effects of vitamin B1 but is it always better to not intake excess of any substance. Especially if they are in the form of supplements. Before taking vitamin B1 supplements or any supplements for that matter it is always best to consult a physician first to avoid any serious health risk.

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