Vitamin B1 is known as the “mood-booster” vitamin because of its dramatic effect on our nervous system and our mood. Besides supporting the nervous system, vitamin B1 helps with carbohydrate metabolism, boosts our immune system, wards off mosquitoes, helps develop red blood cells, maintains muscle tissue, promotes growth in children and helps control motion sickness. A synthetic version of vitamin B1 is added to white flour in in order to ward off beriberi, but it is better to consume the natural form, found in abundance in whole grains. Because thiamine helps with carbohydrate metabolism, it also makes energy available for the body, including the brain. So if you are not getting enough thiamine, you may not be feeding your brain enough glucose for it to think well.
Extra Thiamine Requirements
If you are pregnant or nursing, use oral contraceptives, cigarettes or diuretics, you will need more vitamin B1. Those with diets high in refined foods, too much sugar and junk foods and/or alcohol will also have higher requirements for thiamine. Last, but not least, heavy metal pollutants like mercury and stress also use up thiamine in the body and will increase your need for it. B vitamins are used in detoxifying the body, and if you are exposed to more toxins, you will need more of the B vitamins overall.
Deficiency Symptoms of Vitamin B1
Fatigue and insomnia, bad memory, poor brain function and muscle coordination, headaches, weakness and confusion are all symptoms of Vitamin B1 deficiency. Insufficient thiamine has also been linked to mood changes, disorderly thinking, fear and feelings of uneasiness — all signs of mental depression that can often affect memory as well. Beriberi is a disease that can develop from a severe deficiency of B1, and is characterized by weakness, limb swelling and heart enlargement. It affects the nervous, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems, but is rare in the US today because of the synthetic B1 additive in white flour.
Food Sources of Vitamin B1
Although you may get enough vitamin B1 to ward off beriberi, many of us do not get the optimum amount, especially because of all the stress we are under, both physically and emotionally. Some of the best sources of Vitamin B1 are nutritional yeast, liver and whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, oatmeal and rice bran. However, other foods like watermelon, asparagus, fresh peas, pork, ham and beef, legumes, nuts and seeds like sesame seeds are also good sources of Vitamin B1.
Also, if your gut is healthy, and has a preponderance of good bacteria (probiotics), it will be making B vitamins. However, many of us have taken antibiotics over the years that have lowered the amount of good bacteria, so unless you have taken steps to overcome that, like with large amounts of probiotics, either in supplement form or with cultured vegetables or lacto-fermented beverages, you probably aren’t making all the B vitamins your body needs.
Should You Supplement with Vitamin B1?
If you have a healthy gut and no Vitamin B deficiency symptoms, and you eat a lot of the foods containing B vitamins, you might not need to supplement. However, most of us are under enough stress and also have eaten a lot of refined foods that have stripped B vitamins from our bodies, and so vitamin B supplementation can be beneficial. However, unless know you have a big Vitamin B1 deficiency and are taking only B1 for a specific purpose and certain length of time under the care of a health care practitioner, we do not recommend supplementing only with Vitamin B1. All the B vitamins work in conjunction with each other, and often supplementing with just 1 or 2 of them can cause other B Vitamin imbalances. We recommend adding a whole food supplement containing the B Complex vitamins, such as nutritional yeast and/or whole food based B vitamins. These are very hard to find, but it is worth it to your body to use food-based vitamin B, in our opinion. It can take 6 months to 1 year to replenish your body’s supply of B vitamins, so supplementing can really help you to catch up.
Copyright 2008, Karen Pijuan. This article may be copied only in its entirety and only if all links, including those in the resource box or about the author section, remain intact.