Save your eyes, brain…and much, much more. When an imbalance is repaired at a very basic level, we can expect improvements all over the body. On the show last week, Bill Sardi discussed his report on a book by Derrick Lonsdale, MD which explained the crucial role of thiamine also known as vitamin B1. (I will use the terms interchangeably.) The information was so powerful that I was considering doing a summary. Then, this week Mr. Sardi wrote an excellent follow up piece on the same nutrient—in this case about its use for for the prevention of eye diseases. Both of those articles go into detail and provide many scientific references. Frankly, as much for my benefit as much as yours, I am creating this simple review of the often forgotten, underappreciated, humble but mighty vitamin B1.
Why you should care: For one thing, an oil soluble form of B1 (benfotiamine) is performing better in studies to treat Alzheimer’s than any medication has! You should also care about thiamine if you or someone in your family has issues with one or more of these: abnormal heart beats (or atrial fibrillation), anxiety, ataxia (appear to be drunk, slurred speech, stumbling), blood pressure low, calf muscle cramps, diabetes, constipation, depression, eating too little, eating too much, eyelid constriction, glaucoma, hives, intolerance to cold or hot temperatures, lack of appetite (anorexia), macular degeneration, memory loss, moodiness, nausea (especially during pregnancy), post-vaccine problems, pseudo angina (chest pain) upon exertion, ringing in the ears, salt craving (can be low zinc), sensitivity to light or noise, sleeping too little, sleeping too much, sneezing, stuttering, sweating excessively, or throat spasms. There are a lot (perhaps hundreds) of conditions of the heart, lungs, eyes and brain diagnosed as a “disease” that should instead probably be identified as vitamin B1 insufficiency.
How can B1 have so many effects? The reason I used the bunny graphic is because thiamine helps assure that the power supplies in our cells (our batteries, the mitochondria) have sufficient energy. For that reason alone it is hard to imagine a system or organ that wouldn’t suffer if we were low in B1. Our autonomic nervous system also depends on it. What’s that you say? It is the system that works automatically behind the scenes without your conscious direction. Bill Sardi noted that it is the system that “regulates heart rate, respiratory rate, pupil response (eye), urination, digestion and bowel movements, blood pressure and body temperature as well as tear, saliva and sweat production.” If our autonomic nervous system is not sufficiently supported with thiamine, we over react to even minor stressors.
Thiamine is critical to help hemoglobin, the red pigment in red blood cells, pick up oxygen and transport it where it is needed. Many eye diseases (e.g. glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration) are known as being caused by low oxygen. As further evidence, sleep apnea makes macular degeneration worse, while hyperbaric oxygen treatments make it better. It sure couldn’t hurt to take B1 for any of those eye problems. Lack of proper oxygenation also affects chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia and angina. Vitamin B1 even helps some of our beneficial gut bacteria.
Insufficiency versus deficiency. Long-term inadequate levels of thiamine (B1) result in a deficiency disease, beriberi. But some of the tissues discussed above are delicate and may struggle long before the body as a whole would show the deficiency.
Why would we be low in B1? Persons who eat beef, liver, beans, nuts and rice will be getting some. However, the American diet contains a lot of refined sugars and processed carbohydrates that block thiamine (B1) absorption. Alcohol, tea and coffee also interfere. Many drugs interfere. Arsenic contamination in the food supply (e.g. from glyphosate weed killer, Roundup) also block thiamine. Even dietary supplements with polyphenols (like resveratrol, quercetin, cinnamon) if taken at the same time can interfere. (Longevinex has been shown to be therapeutic for macular degeneration.) Folks might not be able to properly use B1 if they are low in the mineral magnesium.
What to do. Thiamine is poorly absorbed. The fat soluble form (e.g. Benfotiamine) is six times more biologically available! So take that kind. (Allithiamine is a rarer form that is particularly known to cross the blood brain barrier.) The only multivitamin containing those is Molecular Multi. If you are struggling with some of the complaints listed above, buy some separate benfotiamine and take it at a different time of day than other supplements like Longevinex. I take mine mid-afternoon. Standard supplement dose is 150 mg. but 300 mg is available. (Examples below.) That’s fine because only a small amount is absorbed.Don’t bother getting a blood test. They are expensive, do not show what is in storage and change daily.
Bill Sardi’s article on macular degeneration gives the details of the eye diseases and citations. Give a copy to your eye doctor.