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Vitamin B1: Different Functions, Deficiency Causes & Food Sources

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Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) deficiency is actually a quite ordinary deficiency. The trouble is when you do a test on this, many times it won’t confirm in the blood since the problem or the defect is in the enzyme that allows B1 to do its job. If you still want to get tested then you should get tested for the enzyme called Transketolase.

Transketolase is an enzyme that works with Vitamin B1 in doing its task. However, it is quite difficult to find a laboratory that will test this enzyme in the blood.

B1 plays a very important role in our body but with the help of 5 enzymes which are involved in all kinds of body chemistry particularly in the mitochondria which are the power factory in our body. So B1 is necessary to put together these enzymes to work.

If you have a deficiency of Vitamin B1 then the enzymes won’t be able to perform and you will feel weak. There will be a lack of stamina especially when you are exercising. You feel tired soon because the enzymes are not working in mitochondria. Cases of Panic Attacks and nightmares at night are also seen due to deficiency of Vitamin B1.

So tiredness is one of the most general symptoms of Vitamin B1 deficiency. When you start consuming Vitamin B1 it brings energy to your body and helps you get rid of fatigue. So instead of conducting a test on B1, it is quite convenient and cheaper to just take Vitamin B1 and check if you feel energetic.

Different Functions of Vitamin B1

B1 deficiency is called as beriberi. B1 deficiency is quite widespread especially in pre-diabetic and diabetic conditions or if you are insulin resistance then you may have a vitamin B1 deficiency. If you consume alcohol on a regular basis you might face vitamin b1 deficiency.

If you consume lots of carbohydrate through your diet then you may develop B1 deficiency. so if you have a high intake of carbs then you probably need B1 to digest that carbs. The high amount of carbohydrate can deplete Vitamin B1.

B1 is involved in defending the mitochondria and the cells against free radicals or oxidation. Hence B1 is known to be a good antioxidant. Vitamin B1 also protects the cell against glycation which is mainly when you merge a sugar with fat or sugar with a protein and it develops a kind of sticky protein.

It also protects you from developing a starch-like protein called Amyloid plaque which gets clogged in the brain and affects its neural function which is what you see in Alzheimer cases.

Problems with Vitamin B1 Deficiency

Cardiovascular Problems

Deficiency of B1 may affect the respiratory system and cardiovascular system like it may lead to an enlarged heart since the heart has to work harder and it gets bigger in size. B1 deficiency can lead to an increase in the pulse rate and edema mostly in the lower part of the ankle. You may see the indentation in the ankle if you press your ankle especially if you are diabetic.

Microvascular Damage

B1 deficiency can cause microvascular damaged where your nervous system doesn’t get enough blood supply and you may feel some numbness, tingling or burning sensation and pain at the bottom of your feet or on your fingertips which are called as peripheral neuropathy.

Digestion Problems

Deficiency of B1 can affect your digestive system. It can create a situation where you have a lower stomach acid (Hydrochloric acid) which may cause sluggishness in the digestive system and also causing GERD. Because of this condition, you can get constipated or you can have acid reflux since the valve which is just above the stomach doesn’t close because it takes a stomach acid to keep that valve closed.


Vertigo which is kind of faintness or dizziness when you stand up suddenly or even when you are standing you experiences some dizziness. This problem arises due to vitamin b1 deficiency. The B1 deficiency also affects the autonomic nervous system which is like the combination between the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system. These two systems automatically do a lot of different tasks.

Insomnia and Nervous Tension

B1 deficiency can cause a lack of tears, excessive sweating or no sweating which a lot of people don’t know why it’s happening. So usually it’s a b1 deficiency. B1 deficiency leads to anxiety especially nervous tension, can’t relax due to excessive thinking, brain fog, insomnia, exercise intolerance where people have a resistance to exercise because they feel they don’t have the energy to exercise. Just take some Vitamin B1 and you are good to hit the gym.

Dizziness while Moving Suddenly or Accelerating

B1 deficiency can create a condition called POTS where your ability to adapt to gravity and positional change is completely ruined because the autonomic nervous system especially the sympathetic nervous system is dysfunctional. So when you stand up the blood flow does not keep up into the brain and you just get dizzy all the time. So you basically have to lay around all day. You can’t quite get up and down without feeling dizzy. So these people absolutely should never go on a rollercoaster because that would really create a serious problem for them.

Sleep Apnea

Deficiency of B1 may cause sleep apnea where some of the nerves in the brainstem that manages and controls the respiratory centers get affected due to lack of B1 and hence stop functioning. In this condition, the person can have breathing problems or feel like he could not get sufficient air.

Restless Leg Syndrome

B1 helps you get relieved of lactic acid which is a derivative of some metabolism in the mitochondria. So if you are Vitamin B1 deficient then you cannot flush out the lactic acid from your body and then you get a condition known as Lactic acidosis where your body starts becoming more acidic. Because of this, you have Restless Leg Syndrome and breathing problems.

Excess Estrogen

Without a sufficient amount of Vitamin B1, you will not be able to flush out Estradiol from your Liver which is the most awful type of Estrogen. So Vitamin B1 helps getting rid of excess Estradiol from your Liver.

Lowers ROS

ROS is something like free radical oxidation which is developed in the body by yourselves. Since Vitamin B1 is a good antioxidant, it helps to decrease that oxidation. So in order to prevent high levels of ROS, you should have enough B1.

Prevents Toxemia During Delivery

Toxemia is a condition which occurs when a woman is pregnant and she is delivering a baby. This toxemia is dangerous for the mother and her baby because it makes the organs start becoming toxic. The heart and kidneys become a problem, the blood pressure goes high and it’s life-threatening as well. So Vitamin B1 helps in preventing toxemia.

Insulin Problem

Deficiency of B1 affects the Beta cells which are present in the Pancreas. The beta cells are responsible for making insulin in the Pancreas and without sufficient B1 the cells will not be able to make enough insulin. If you are diabetic then you will need more insulin than a healthy person because you cannot really absorb B1 properly.

Stress Buildup

When you are deficient of B1 you become highly short-tempered and anxious. You start getting upset with little things and you become very much intolerant to stress.

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

Vitamin B1 deficiency can cause a condition called SIDS where the newborn baby just stops breathing in his or her sleep because B1 affects the respiratory centers as mentioned earlier.

What Causes Vitamin B1 Deficiency

Refined Sugar & Grains

If you compare two diabetic person both are consuming sugar but one is Vitamin B1 deficient and the other one is not, then the first person with B1 deficiency will experience too much of the complications of diabetes as compared to the second person. This is because b1 helps prevent the damage or at least the complications or the symptoms from high sugar.


The more amount of carbs you consume like white rice the more B1 you require to metabolize those carbs. Hence you should prefer consuming brown rice versus white rice since the husk of the brown rice contains lot Vitamin B1.


If you consume alcohol regularly you will deplete vitamin B1 rapidly in your body.


The heat destroys vitamin B1 present in the food. Hence you should avoid too much of pasteurization or cooking of the food.


Vitamin B1 decrease with the age. So the older you are the lower B1 you are going to have.


Diabetic patients are almost always deficient in B1 that’s because Vitamin B1 is ultimately involved in the cell that makes insulin.

Consuming More Coffee, Tea or Wine

There is something called polyphenols that would be coffee tea and wine. So if you consume a lot of coffee or tea don’t be surprised if you end up with the B1 deficiency especially you get jittery if you drink a lot of coffee. So if you feel that jittery feeling just take some B1 and it goes away within about 4 minutes.

Gastric Bypass

If you had a gastric bypass then you face Vitamin B1 deficiency because B1 is absorbed in the first part of the small intestine and during the gastric bypass they remove this first part. So you need to take more B1 and get it absorbed somehow.

Other Causes

B1 deficiency is also caused by

· Sulfites

· Eating Raw fish

· Damaged Liver

· Antibiotics

· Caffeine

· Low stomach acids because you need good stomach acid to absorb B1

· Some of the vaccinations can also trigger B1 deficiency

Foods That are High in Vitamin B1

· Nutritional Yeast

· Eggs

· Fish

· Sunflower Seeds

· Rice Hulls (Rice Husks)

· Squash

· Asparagus

· Sea Foods

So we now hope that you found this article helpful. If you have any suggestions for this article then kindly comment below.


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