The Scoop on Vitamins: Vitamin B1 – Thiamine

This is part of our continuing series on the function of vitamins in the body.

The family of B vitamins is collectively called the B Complex. B Vitamins are used in many ways, from helping the liver clear toxins and excess hormones to creating energy within our cells. Every system in your body requires B vitamins to function.

B1, also called thiamine, is a unique nutrient that plays an integral role in the brain and central nervous system. B1’s coenzyme form is important for the synthesis of acetylcholine, which is critical in preventing memory loss and nerve inflammation. B1 is also important for the repair and prevention of any impairment of nerve function.

Another of B1’s major contributions to the body is the dynamic way it facilitates proper digestion:

B1 assists in the production of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid), which is vital to the proper breakdown and assimilation of food.
B1 helps maintain muscle tone in the intestines and stomach, prevents constipation and plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates.
B1 provides nourishment for all digestive organs, helps us to get maximum nutrition from our food and regulates appetite.

Symptoms of B1 deficiency include loss of reflexes, peripheral paralysis or numbness in the extremities. These symptoms have engendered theories that B1 deficiency may be a player in diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Restless Leg Syndrome.

B1 deficiency often stems from high amounts of exercise or a diet that’s high in carbohydrates or alcohol. An optimal amount of B1 for an active adult is between 1.2-1.5 mg daily. Dietary sources include pork, nuts, beans, peas, brown rice, egg yolks, asparagus, broccoli and raisins. It’s important to note, however, that B1 is often lost during food preparations in which the cooking water is discarded. A simple way to maintain the B1 content is to try soups and stews that combine some of the above ingredients—it’s a delicious way to enjoy the flavor and nutrients our bodies need.

Supplementation is also an excellent way to support your body’s thiamine needs. Try taking a quality B-complex supplement and a food-based multivitamin every day to ensure your daily B1 needs are met.

Sources
The Nutrition Desk Reference, by Robert Garrison and Elizabeth Somer

Elizabeth Willis is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and Herbalist. She has a private practice in Boulder, Colo., and also works at Pharmaca’s downtown Boulder location. Elizabeth specializes in a holistic approach by connecting her clients with the more dynamic roles of food and nutrition. She believes that by eliminating food intolerances, building optimal nutrition and working directly with the emotional body, it is possible to greatly revive one’s health by reconnecting body with spirit.