Thiamine, or Vitamin B1, is sometimes called the “anti-stress” vitamin because it is believed to strengthen the immune system. Here’s a look at thiamine benefits and how vitamin B1 helps your health.
Thiamine is among eight B vitamins that play a key role in helping the body convert food into fuel for our bodies. That fuel (glucose) is then used to produce energy. Vitamin B1, along with all the B vitamins, is needed to keep the brain and nervous system functioning optimally, as well as for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver.
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Besides helping maintain important body processes and functions, there is some promising research showing that thiamine supplements may aid in the treatment and prevention of a host of debilitating diseases and conditions. Perhaps the most promise comes in the area of Multiple Sclerosis, where studies show Vitamin B1 helps protect nerves by working to develop myelin sheaths surrounding them. Researchers have found thiamine deficiency can lead the sheaths to deteriorate.
Although more research is required, early studies have shown that thiamine supplements can lower the risk of developing cataracts. Researchers also are investigating thiamine’s role in Alzheimer’s Disease prevention because thiamine deficiency has been linked to spinal nerve damage contributing to dementia.
Finally, some studies show that thiamine supplements may help some heart patients.
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It's rare to be deficient in thiamine, but people with certain chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease, advanced diabetes, as well as those suffering from alcoholism or anorexia, are more susceptible.
Symptoms of thiamine deficiency include fatigue, irritability, “brain fog,” sleep disturbances, depression, and abdominal pain or discomfort resulting from digestive problems. In extreme cases, a disease known as Beriberi can set in. Beriberi causes breathing and heart problems, pain in the extremities, and erratic eye movements.
It’s important to eat a steady stream of thiamine-rich foods and take a supplement if needed because thiamine is water-soluble, meaning it is continually expelled in the urine. Good sources include pork, liver, kidney beans, potatoes, brussels sprouts, eggplant, and asparagus, as well as enriched cereals and rice.
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