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Thiamine Deficiency Symptoms

Thiamine Deficiency: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment Measures

Thiamine or vitamin B1 belongs to the group of water-soluble vitamins, and is required to carry out several vital processes within the body. Find out more information about the effects of thiamine deficiency, through this article.
Chandramita Bora
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2018
Don't Be Dour on Odor
Belief speaks that, thiamine, also regarded as vitamin B1, if ingested in high doses for a long time, produces a chemical reaction on your skin that elicits a typical body odor. Well, this precisely, is what repels mosquitoes from conducting a 'bloody' feast on you! Reason enough to befriend your very own odor!

Thiamine or vitamin B1 was the first water-soluble vitamin to be discovered. Deficiency of this vitamin is well-known for causing the disease 'beriberi', that mainly affects the nervous, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems. Thiamine is crucial for several biochemical processes taking place within our body. The active form of the vitamin, thiamine pyrophosphate, acts as a coenzyme in carbohydrate metabolism. It is also required to release energy from glucose, and for the breakdown of fats. Therefore, the vitamin is vital for energy production, and at the same time, it maintains the normal functioning of the digestive, nervous as well as cardiovascular systems. However, only plants, bacteria, and fungi are endowed with the ability to synthesize thiamine. Due to this reason, animals and humans have to meet their requirement of this vitamin from food, and hence, insufficient dietary intake as well as poor absorption can result in thiamine deficiency.

Probable Symptoms
Beriberi (caused due to thiamine deficiency) can be mainly classified into two types - dry beriberi and wet beriberi. The former affects the nervous system, while the latter is associated with cardiovascular problems. Severe deficiency of thiamine can ultimately damage the brain. The human body can neither synthesize thiamine nor store it for a long time. Hence, its symptoms can appear within two to three weeks from the depletion of its level in the body. The most common symptoms are irritability, fatigue, poor concentration, and memory loss. If the deficiency continues, then peripheral neuropathy can take place due to damage done to the peripheral nervous system. The symptoms of this condition are muscle weakness (mainly in the legs), loss of sensation, and a tingling or burning sensation in the legs.

A few other symptoms of vitamin B1 deficiency are:
Brain deterioration
Reflex deterioration
Decreased vision
Sleep disturbances
Breathing difficulties
Chest pain
Irregular heartbeat
Low blood pressure
Fast heart rate
Excessive sweating
Loss of appetite
Abdominal discomfort
Wernicke's encephalopathy (inflammatory degenerative disease of the brain linked to alcoholism)
Korsakoff's syndrome (dementia during chronic alcoholism)

Possible Causes
  • Poor dietary intake, alcohol abuse, malnutrition, persistent vomiting and diarrhea, renal problems, and liver diseases, are some of the most common causes of this deficiency.
  • Certain conditions like hyperthyroidism, pregnancy, lactation, and fever can significantly increase the requirement of thiamine in the body, and thereby cause a deficiency.
  • Many a time, people dependent on kidney dialysis and intravenous administration of nutrients can also be observed to experience this deficiency.
  • Excess consumption of certain foods and beverages like tea, coffee, baking soda, raw and fermented fish, live yeast, and betel nuts can inhibit thiamine absorption, and result in a deficiency.
Treatment Options
  • Mild thiamine deficiency can be reversed with an adequate intake of thiamine-rich foods like whole grains and lean meat.
  • An acute and severe deficiency may require intravenous administration of thiamine. After a few days, when the patient's condition improves, oral vitamin supplements can be given.
  • The most efficient and lasting treatment is to eat sufficient amount of foods that are rich in thiamine. The most important food sources of thiamine are whole grains, cereals, fish, lean meat (especially pork), dried beans, soy beans, yeast, oatmeal, flax seeds, brown rice, potatoes, eggs, rye, asparagus and chicken, beef or pork liver.

Knowledge about this vitamin deficiency is also important for detecting the condition in its early stage, so that it can be reversed speedily with sufficient intake of thiamine. This can prevent major complications associated with this deficiency. At the same time, avoiding the risk factors for thiamine deficiency, like alcoholism, is equally important for thwarting the risks associated with it.

Disclaimer: This article is purely for informative and educational purposes. Please seek the advice of a registered medical practitioner before consuming any of the supplements mentioned here.
Biological sweet potatoes in a wooden crate
Vitamin B1 containing foods
Fried Fish