Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is a water-soluble vitamin that acts as a coenzyme participating in the complex process of glucose conversion into energy. Thiamine is vulnerable to heat, air, and water in cooking.
Thiamine is a component of the germ and bran of wheat, the husk of rice, and that portion of all grains which is commercially milled away to give the grain a lighter color and finer texture.
Known as the "morale vitamin" because of its relation to a healthy nervous system and its beneficial effect on mental attitude, thiamine is also linked with improving individual learning capacity. It is necessary for consistent growth in children and for the improvement of muscle tone in the stomach, the intestines, and the heart. Thiamine is essential for stabilizing the appetite by improving food assimilation and digestion, particularly that of starches, sugars, and alcohol.
A diet rich in brewer's yeast, wheat germ, blackstrap molasses, and bran will provide the body with adequate thiamine and will help prevent undue accumulation of fatty deposits in the artery walls.
Thiamine is rapidly absorbed in the upper and lower small intestine. It is then carried by the circulatory system to the liver, kidneys, and heart, where it may combine further with manganese and specific proteins to become active enzymes. These are the enzymes that break down carbohydrates into simple sugars.
Thiamine is not stored in the body in any great quantity and therefore must be supplied daily. It is excreted in the urine in amounts that reflect the intake the quantity stored. Because the amount of thiamine stored in the body is not very great, body tissues deplete rapidly when a deficiency occurs.
Eating sugar will cause a thiamine depletion, as will smoking and drinking alcohol. Thiamine can be destroyed by an enzyme present in raw clams, oysters raw fish.
Individual thiamine needs are determined by body weight, the quantity of the vitamin synthesized in the intestinal tract, and daily calorie intake. As the calorie intake, especially of carbohydrates, increases, the proportion of thiamine ingested increases. The National Research Council recommends 0.5 milligram of thiamine 1000 calories daily for all ages.
There is evidence suggesting that older people use thiamine less efficiently; hence a higher intake, along with the other B vitamins, may be advantageous. A thiamine intake of 1.4 milligrams daily is recommended during pregnancy and lactation. The need for additional B1 increases during severe diarrhea, fever, stress, and surgery. There are no known toxic effects with thiamine, although large doses may cause B-complex imbalances.
Deficiency Effects and Symptoms
A deficiency of thiamine not only makes it difficult for a person to digest carbohydrates but also leaves too much pyruvic acid in the blood. This causes loss of mental alertness, labored breathing, and cardiac damage. A mild deficiency of thiamine is difficult to diagnose and easily attributed to other problems. First signs include easy fatigue, loss of appetite, irritability, and emotional instability. If the deficiency is not arrested, confusion and loss of memory appear, followed closely by gastric distress, abdominal pains, and constipation. Heart irregularities crop up, and finally, prickling sensations in the lower extremities, impaired fibratory sense, and tenderness of calf muscles will occur. A thiamine deficiency can also lead to inflammation of the optic nerve. Without thiamine, the function of the central nervous system, which depends upon glucose for energy, is impaired.
A thiamine deficiency can result in decreased coordination, body-reaction time, eye-hand coordination, motor speed and manual steadiness. A thiamine deficiency affects the cardiovascular system as well. The heart muscles are weakened, and cardiac failure may occur. The gastrointestinal tract is also affected, and symptoms such as indigestion, severe constipation, anorexia (a loss of appetite), and gastric atony (loss of muscle tone in the stomach) may occur. "Some researchers believe that the lack of thiamine may be the first link in a chain leading by way of the liver and female hormones to cancer of the uterus."
Beneficial Effect on Ailments
Thiamine is used in the treatment of beriberi, a deficiency disease associated with malnutrition. Thiamine intake has improved the excretion of fluid stored in the body, decreased rapid heart rate, shrunken enlarged hearts, and normalized electrocardiograms.
Nutrients such as thiamine and niacin have been used together to treat multiple sclerosis patients. Dr. George Schumacher tells of his use of thiamine hydrochloride given intraspinally to two multiple sclerosis patients with noted improvement. Dr. Frederick Klenner used large doses (100 milligrams) of Bl9 B3, and B6 with reported success.
Thiamine and a multivitamin program have been used in the treatment of myasthenia gravis.
Alcoholism has been successfully treated with thiamine: "Cade (1972) reported that alcoholics admitted to his hospital are routinely given intravenous multivitamins containing at least 200 mg. thiamine. They may require this twice a day. In spite of a great increase in the number of alcoholic admissions to the hospital, there has been steady improvement until the death rate has fallen to zero. In 1945-50, before thiamine treatment was used, eighty-six patients died of alcoholism complications. In 1956-60, eight people died, but no deaths have occurred from 1966 to now. Cade concluded 'that because the mode of death was identical with that in beriberi, because thiamine deficiency has been demonstrated in a significant proportion of sick alcoholics, because deaths no longer occur when they are given thiamine, and because there have been no other discernible significant changes in treatment which are likely to have been responsible, thiamine is the therapeutic agent which is literally lifesaving in a significant proportion of patients.' Thus thiamine Vitamin B1 has been clearly shown to have saved lives among alcoholics."
Many other ailments have been aided by the administration of thiamine. Thiamine is essential in the manufacture of hydrochloric acid, which aids in digestion. It helps in eliminating nausea, especially that caused by air or sea sickness. It has improved people's dispositions by alleviating fatigue. Thiamine helps improve muscle tone in the stomach and intestines, which in turn relieves constipation. Herpes zoster (shingles), a painful clustering of blisters behind the ear or elsewhere, has been successfully treated with thiamine.
Dentists have found B1 useful. Dental postoperative pain is promptly and completely relieved in many patients by the administration of thiamine. Pain can often be prevented before the operation by administration of B1 to the patient. Thiamine therapy has reduced the healing time of dry tooth sockets. Evidence shows that replacement of thiamine to injured and diseased nerves not only restores proper functioning but also relieves pain.