A lot of us take multivitamins and some of us might take a vitamin B complex supplement as well. As with everything we spend our hard-earned money on and put into our systems, it is important that we understand what exactly each nutrient is and what it does once it is inside our bodies. Over the course of the next group of articles, I will take a closer look at each of the members of the large B-vitamin family, which is a popular addition to most multivitamin formulas. We’ll start at the beginning of the group, with vitamin B1, also known as thiamine.
Vitamin B1 is a water-soluble nutrient, which means it does not store up in the body and needs to be replenished. If you take a supplement that contains vitamin B1 or eat some thiamine-rich food in the morning, you will excrete the nutrient in your urine throughout the day. If you are a big-time coffee drinker like I am, it can decrease the levels of vitamin B1 in the body, and drinking a lot of alcohol can do the same thing. In fact, alcoholics tend to be deficient in this important nutrient. Eating a diet high in carbohydrates can also increase the need for more thiamine.
Vitamin B1 is responsible for a variety of jobs inside the body. For example, it helps with circulation and the formation of blood, and it aids with digestion by helping produce hydrochloric acid. Vitamin B1 also helps our bodies metabolize carbohydrates, which is why we need extra if we tend to eat a lot of high-carb foods.
Vitamin B1 also helps the brain work properly and as best as it can, and it also acts as a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical that helps with memory and learning. It is required for proper muscle tone in the heart, stomach, and intestines, and it has a positive influence on our appetites and energy levels. Some articles refer to thiamine as a “morale vitamin” because it has such a positive effect on our mental attitude.
Speaking of the heart, studies have found that taking vitamin B1 may help to treat congestive heart failure. Taking 80-240 mg was shown to improve blood flow by 22 percent, and improve the survival rate of patients.
If you are severely deficient in vitamin B1 (something that rarely happens in most developed nations) you may develop beriberi, a disease of the nervous system. General signs that you are deficient in thiamine include fatigue, edema, constipation, numbness of the hands and feet, loss of appetite, and more.
Many foods are naturally-rich in vitamin B1. Some of these are brown rice, egg yolks, fish, poultry, broccoli, oatmeal, raisins and plums.
Balch and Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Third Edition, page 16