If you eat refined carbohydrates, use caffeine, drink alcohol, or take any one of a number of commonly used medications you are robbing your body of the essential & critical vitamin B1 (thiamine).   I used to do computer analysis of various diets to determine nutrient content.  Almost all diets no matter how healthy were deficient in the B vitaminsMagnesium & Vitamin C.
Unfortunately, vitamin B1 deficiency is widespread. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more B1 is used in metabolizing the carbs which often contain little or no B1 (unless inadequately fortified).  Alcohol is also metabolized as a carbohydrate & robs your body of numerous vitamins, especially B1.  Chronic alcohol consumption causes inadequate nutritional B1 intake, depletes B1 in the metabolism of alcohol, decreases B1 absorption in the GI tract & impairs B1 utilization in the cells.  Vitamin B1 deficiency also contributes to other forms of alcohol-induced brain injury to be discussed later.
The thiamine form of B1 is water soluble & easily lost every day in your urine.  But there is a fat soluble form called Allithiamine which is far more effective than the commonly available water soluble form.  This form is excreted from the body at a slower rate & is more useful for protecting & promoting the health of the nervous system. 
The brain requires much more thiamine than other cells.  Numerous B1 deficiency symptoms relate to the nervous system.  Because brain cells & nerves have a high amount of fat, more fat soluble B1 will stay in the nervous system where it effects its numerous benefits.
Allithiamines are found naturally in onions, garlic, leeks, and other members of the allium family of vegetables.  Benfotiamine is the most effective metabolic precursor of active thiamine available. It has been safely used in Europe for many years. This lipid-soluble form of vitamin B-1 can enter a cell by dissolving in the lipid (fat) portion of the membrane and diffusing through it.
Clinical studies have shown that supplementation with benfotiamine results in plasma levels 5 times higher than the usually available water-soluble thiamin. The amount absorbed into specific cellular tissues such as the brain, nerves, kidney, liver or muscle can be five to twenty-five times more than regular thiamin. Most of the thiamine in the serum is bound to protein, mainly albumin. In blood 90% of thiamine is in the red blood cells.
Vitamin B1 is needed to metabolize carbohydrates, fats & protein. It is required by every cell of the body to form ATP which is the fuel running your body. It is a coenzyme for decarboxylation in carbohydrate metabolism to create brain & body energy. Three critical enzymes which metabolize carbohydrates require vitamin B1 to as a cofactor to function correctly.  It is a building block of DNA & critical brain neurotransmitters. Vitamin B1 is also needed for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine & GABA and for the production of myelin nerve sheaths, fatty acids, steroids & amino acids. Nerve cells require vitamin B1 in order to function normally. The cells of the nervous system & heart are particularly sensitive to the damage of vitamin B1 deficiency.
Vitamin B1 works hand in hand with Vitamin B2 and Vvitamin B3  which is why most nutritionists  suggest that vitamin B1 be taken as part of a B-complex vitamin  or other Multivitamin supplement.  I suggest that before you supplement a separate B vitamin for any specific purpose, first have a foundation of a good B complex vitamin.
Thiamine rich foods are pork, poultry, brown rice & bran, nuts, oats, flax seeds, dried beans, peas, soy beans, romaine lettuce, asparagus, spinach, kale, sunflower seeds, yellow fin tuna, celery, tomatoes, eggplant, mustard greens, brussels sprouts, cabbage, watermelon, carrots, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, corn, kale, liver , eggs, pineapple, & oranges. Some foods are B1 fortified.
Are you vitamin B1 deficient?
First off, vitamin B1 levels decline with age. However, as previously noted, deficiency is most commonly found in those with poor diets, those who eat sugar & refined carbohydrates, those using excessive caffeine, those regularly using common medications, those under stress, those with chronic fatigue syndrome, alcoholics, diabetics, people with malabsorption conditions following gastric bypass surgery, & children with congenital heart disease. Vitamin B1 deficiency is prevalent in those with Autism & ADHD.
Individuals undergoing regular kidney dialysis may develop severe vitamin B1 deficiency and should discuss the need for vitamin B1 supplementation with their physician.
Thiamine deficiency can also occur when excess vitamin B1 is used up by the body. This can be caused by:
  • Pregnancy
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Lactation
  • Fever- Severe infection/sepsis
  • Increased physical exercise
  • Refeeding syndrome (is a metabolic complication that occurs when nutritional support is given to severely malnourished patients)
Inadequate thiamine intake can occur via diets consisting mainly of the following:
  • Food containing a high level of thiaminases (which impair thiamine), including milled rice, raw freshwater fish, raw shellfish, and ferns
  • Food high in anti-thiamine factor, such as tea, coffee, and betel nuts
  • Sulfites are added to many processed foods as a preservative. Sulfites destroy thiamine
Certain medications can deplete vitamin B1. These include:
*Acid Blockers: Cimetidine (Tagamet), Esomeprazole (Nexium), Famotidine (Pepcid & Pepcid Complete), Lansoprazole (Prevacid 24hr), Nizatidine (Axid), Omeprazole (Prilosec OTC), Pantoprazole (Protonix), Rabeprazole (Aciphex), Ranitidine (Zantac)
*Antacids: Aluminum & magnesium hydroxide (Maalox, Mylanta), Aluminum carbonate gel (Basaljel), Aluminum hydroxide (amphojel, AlternaGEL), Calcium carbonate (Rolaids, Titralac, Tums), Magnesium hydroxide (Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia), Sodium bicarbonate (Alka-Seltzer, baking soda)
*Antibiotics (just a few listed here, but all deplete vitamin B1: Aminoglycosides, Amoxicillin (Amoxil), Azithromycin (Z-pak), Cefdinir (Omnicef), Cephalexin (Keflex), Ciprofloxacin (Biaxin), Doxycycline (Doryx), Erythromycin (E.E.S.), Levofloxacin (Levaquin), Minocycline (Minocin), Penicillin (Pen VK), Sulfamethoxazole & trimethoprim (Bactrim, Septra), tetracycline (Sumycin)
*Anticonvulsants: Phenytoin (Dilantin) space supplement at least 4 hours away from the medication, Zonisamide (Zonegran)
*Antivirals: Delavirdine (Rescriptor), Lamivudine (Epivir), Nevirapine (Viramune), Foscarnet (Foscavir), Zidovudine, AZT (Retrovir), Zidovdine & lamivudine (Combivir)
*Aromatase Inhibitors for breast cancer: Anastrozole (Arimidex)
*Cardiac Glycoside: Digoxin (Lanoxin, Lanoxicaps, Digitek)
*Blood Pressure Drugs: Bumetanide (Bumex), Ethacrynic acid (Edecrin), Furosemide (lasix), Torsemide (Demadrex), Indapamide (Lozol), Hydrochlorothiazide or HCTZ (Hyrodiuril). Any combination drug that contains HCTZ or hydrochlorothiazide (dozens of drugs contain this), Chlorothiazide (Diuril), Chlorthalidone (Hygroton), Methyclothiazide (Enduron), Metolazone (Zaroxolyn)
*Diuretics: Loss of thiamine through renal excretion can occur with most, if not all, diuretics. It has been seen with the use of such diuretics as mannitol, acetazolamide, chlorothiazide, amiloride, and loop diuretics. Thiamine loss is associated with the increase in urine flow rate.
*Bronchodilators: Theophylline (Uniphyl, Theo-24, or Theo-dur)
*Hormone Replacement Therapy/Oral Contraceptives: Estradiol (estrace, Climara, Estraderm, estring, Activella, Femring, Combipatch,strogel, menostar, & many others), Estrogen-containing drugs (hormone replacement therapy & birth control), estrogens, conjugated (Premphase, Pempro), Ethinyl estradciol (found in many birth control pills)
*Sulfonamides: Sulfa antibiotics, some diabetes medications
*SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators used for breast cancer): Raloxifene (Evista), Tamoxifen (Nolvadex), Toremifene (Fareston)
*Miscellaneous: Alcohol, coffee, estrogen dominance, genetic problems that prevent you from activating B1, quercetin & rutin, raw shellfish or raw seafood such as sushi, oysters or mussels, sulfites found in foods as a preservative, tea (because of the tannins in tea, even decaf), tobacco (nicotine)
Symptoms of Vitamin B1 deficiency can include:
  • Chronic fatigue & apathy
  • Numbness & tingling or burning in hands & feet/ peripheral neuropathy
  • Atrophy of leg muscles
  • Unsteady gait
  • Nerve degeneration
  • Weak, sore muscles
  • Leg cramps
  • Indigestion (especially constipation)
  • Abdominal pains
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Circulation problems
  • Heart palpitations & irregularities see my newsletter Nutrients to Support a Healthy Heart”
  • Heart failure
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Hypersensitivity to noise
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety & feelings of impending doom
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Personality changes, including aggression
  • Emotional instability
  • Obsessions
  • Panic disorder
  • Night terrors
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Psychosis
  • Visual disturbance
  • Coma
  • Hair loss
  • Beriberi, there are two types of this disease:
 Dry beriberi is vitamin B1 deficiency with nervous system involvement including peripheral neuropathy with impaired reflex, sensory & motor function of the extremities especially the lower legs. This occurs from degeneration of the myelin sheath around the nerves.
Wet beriberi is vitamin B1 deficiency causing heart involvement & potential ultimate heart failure.
  •  Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome: Vitamin B1 deficiency is a significant factor in the development of alcohol induced brain damage known as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.   Wernicke's encephalopathy is a serious neurologic disorder causing acute mental confusion, unsteady gait orophthalmoplegia (paralysis or weakness of the eye muscles). It may cause memory loss and confabulation (a memory disturbance, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories).
Untreated thiamine deficiency has a potentially fatal outcome.
What are other health benefits of Benfotiamine?
The incidence of diabetes is rapidly increasing in our obese carbohydrate driven society.   Benfotiamine is an important nutrient in the fight against the potentially lethal impact of sustained high blood sugar levels. It has been shown to aide in preventing the development & progression of many diabetic complications.
Most diabetes medications only tackle the problem of high levels of” plasma” glucose, but benfotiamine helps to reduce both elevated levels of “intracellular” glucose and alters the body’s biochemical response to the toxic breakdown products of excess sugar. Benfotiamine stimulates the production of transketolase, which is an essential enzyme that naturally converts the potentially toxic glucose breakdown products into harmless compounds that can be safely eliminated by the body.
Benfotiamine blocks the biochemical pathways by which high blood sugar damages cells throughout the body. It can help diabetes sufferers protect their nerves, kidneys, eyes, blood vessels, and heart. Due to its ability to ameliorate dangerous diabetic complications, benfotiamine is an essential supplement for people with elevated blood sugar levels.
Here are just a few of the studies showing how benfotiamine can benefit people with diabetes:
*Protects against advanced glycation end products(AGEs) products in both diabetic and normal aging organisms:  Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are proteins or lipids that become glycated (the bonding of a sugar molecule to a protein or lipid) after exposure to sugars. Glycation causes a rigidification & cellular malfunctioning. It causes kidney, nerve, and retinal damage in diabetics, but is also a significant contributory factor to cardiovascular disease and other aging disorders in adults without diabetes. Glycation end products can be a factor in the development or worsening of many degenerative diseases, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic renal failure and Alzheimer’s disease.
*Blocks three major pathways of hyperglycemic damage and prevents experimental diabetic retinopathy in animals:  Researchers found that diabetic rats treated with benfotiamine did not develop the same pathologic changes in their retinas as did the untreated diabetic rats. In fact, the blood vessels in the retinas of treated rats showed no signs of progression to diabetic retinopathy after nine months, and their retinas were virtually indistinguishable from the retinas of non-diabetic rats.
*Aids in the treatment of diabetic polyneuropathy: Studies show a significant improvement in diabetic polyneuropathy when benfotiamine is combined with vitamin B6 B12.
*Helps prevent Incipient Diabetic Nephropathy:  Diabetic nephropathy, or diabetic kidney disease, affects 20 to 30 percent of patients with diabetes. It is a common cause of kidney failure.
Developed in Japan in the early 1960's to treat alcoholic neuritis, there have many clinical trials showing benfotiamine effectively aides in:
*Stopping the progression of memory Loss and Alzheimer's: Recent studies conducted on mice show that benfotiamine helps to improve cognitive function. It has also been shown to greatly reduce the production of amyloid plaque (one of the two brain abnormalities that define Alzheimer's disease). Benfotiamine’s ability to improve cognitive function & reduce amyloid plaque production is thought to slow the onset & progression of Alzheimer’s.
*Decreasing alcohol consumption in women: A double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial of benfotiamine for severe alcohol dependence showed alcohol consumption decreased from baseline levels for 9 of 10 benfotiamine treated women after 1 month of treatment compared with 2 of 11 on placebo. 
Other benefits of Benfotiamine may include:
  • Improves overall energy by maintaining healthy levels of glucose and leptin. Leptin is a protein produced by fatty tissue and believed to regulate fat storage in the body.
  • Supports immune health and function
  • Acts as an antioxidant to protect tissues from free radical damage
  • Supports nerve health and conduction
  • Supports a healthy heart
  • Supports optimal vision and eye health
  • Supports optimal digestion
  • Enhances and supports healthy, balanced moods
  • Helps moderate back pain & sciatica
  • Helps moderate CFS/Fibromyalgia
  • Enhances exercise performance
For more information I recommend the following books:
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PRISCILLA SLAGLE, M.D. or Cathy Jones, Assisitant
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