Also known as thiamine, vitamin B1 enables our nervous system and muscles to work properly. It also processes glucose, allowing the body to use carbohydrates to make us feel energetic.
Its water-soluble nature means that vitamins are carried through the bloodstream and whatever the body does not use is eliminated in our urine. Thus, it is essential to get a consistent daily dose of vitamin B1.
Sources of Vitamin B1
Any product with white flour or white rice may be enriched with vitamin B, but to get vitamin B1, you will have to eat more specific foods. Foods that are rich in vitamin B1 include meats like beef, pork, and fish. Vegetarians can opt for alternatives such as grains, like cereals, brewer’s yeast, nuts, eggs, and pulses. Some fruits and vegetables are also rich in the vitamin, such as cauliflower, oranges, potatoes, and kale. Choose brown rice when you can since white rice usually contains a less amount of the vitamin.
Since vitamin B1 is needed for survival but is not stored in the body, daily consumption through our diet is needed. The average American gets their required vitamin B1 intake through natural and fortified sources. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), each serving of fortified breakfast cereal contains 1.5 milligrams (mg) of vitamin B, which already exceeds the daily recommended amount, while whole wheat bread contains 0.1 mg.
It is important to note that certain foods can cause a reduction in the rate that vitamin B1 is absorbed by the body. Coffee and tea contain tannins, a chemical that could lead to less efficient and thorough absorption if it comes into contact with vitamin B1.
If eaten in large amounts, fish and raw shellfish can also lead to thiamine deficiency, as these foods contain chemicals that can destroy the vitamin. While cooking normally destroys these chemicals, thiamine is simultaneously removed in the process.
Why We Need Vitamin B1
Besides being necessary for survival, Thiamine is in charge of assisting bodily functions in the brain, nerves, intestine, stomach, and heart. It is particularly known to help prevent diseases such as beriberi, a condition that manifests through damaged senses, reflex or motor skills. Thiamine can also aid in ailments like AIDS, cataracts or other vision conditions; the accompanying pains that come with diabetes, kidney disease, canker sores, and cervical cancer.
It also helps to boost more general health conditions such as a weakened immune system, motion sickness, and stress. Digestive problems such as poor appetite and diarrhea can also be prevented with increased consumption of Vitamin B1. As a whole, B vitamins are vital for maintaining the health of your liver, brain, hair, and eyes.
When Vitamin B1 is Used
Thiamin is given to patients suffering from peripheral neuritis, or the inflammation of nerves outside the brain. Other ailments that may warrant the use of vitamin B1 include ulcerative colitis, or when a patient is in a coma. Some athletes even take thiamine supplements to boost their sporting performance, since it is not considered a prohibited substance in America.
How to Tell If You’re Lacking Vitamin B1
Initial symptoms of vitamin B1 deficiency include emotional instability, dizziness, sleep issues, general pain, nausea, and constipation.
As mentioned earlier, a lack of vitamin B1 causes beriberi. Occasionally, this can even result in congestive heart failure that causes lower limb edema. Although beriberi is rare in America, such cases are still existent and hence, precautions should still be taken. In such cases, thiamin is quickly administered, which usually solves the issue— a crucial point to note for those who are still doubtful about the importance of vitamin B1.
Your muscles may also start to take a hit and become weak. Cardiovascular symptoms such as an enlarged heart may even start occurring.
How Much You Need
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of thiamine differs between genders.
For males, 1.2 mg should be consumed and 1.1 mg for females over 18 years of age.
Who is Susceptible to B1 Deficiency and The Treatments Available
Cancer patients, pregnant women who suffer from morning sickness along with patients experiencing hemodialysis and bariatric surgery are most likely to suffer from thiamine deficiency. Some diseases such as HIV can reduce the absorption of nutrients including vitamin B1. Lifestyle choices and habits also make a difference, and those with poor diets or are heavy alcohol drinkers are likely to experience difficulty absorbing thiamin from their food.
At its extreme, vitamin B1 deficiency can lead to death, since it is strongly linked to a disorder that affects those with chronic alcoholism. This is known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. However, patients with conditions such as drug use disorders and digestive problems are also susceptible to this syndrome. In this case, thiamine injections are a common treatment for this condition.
To treat mild vitamin B1 deficiency, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends ten mg thiamin every day for a week, followed by three to five mg for the subsequent next six weeks. For more severe cases, infants are intravenously administered 25 to 30 mg while adult doses range from 50 to 100 mg before it is slowly decreased over the span of seven weeks.
While natural sources of vitamin B1 are always recommended, this might not always be possible for everyone. Those thinking of starting on supplements to get their daily dose of vitamin B1 can rest assured that its water-soluble properties mean that you are less likely to overdose or experience side effects from consuming these supplements.
Although thiamine is generally considered safe even when high doses are taken, it is nonetheless still important that you check with your health care provider by seeking a medical expert’s advice on the most appropriate and effective methods to improve your health rather than relying on self-diagnosing.
Since B vitamins help to convert carbohydrates, fats, and protein into glucose, it is important that everyone consumes food rich in this vitamin. Conscious diet changes will help to ensure that you do not run the risk of being vitamin B1 deficient.
What’s more, a healthy intake of vitamin B1 will lead to better overall health as well.
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