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Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can often cause thiamine deficiency. Thiamine deficiency occurs when you don’t get enough thiamine. Your body may not absorb thiamine, or it loses too much.
Roughly 80% of chronic alcoholic patients suffer from this condition.3 Clinicians may prescribe thiamine to those suffering from AUD-induced thiamine deficiency.
Alcohol reduces the absorption of vitamin B1. Heavy drinking can damage the stomach lining, reducing vitamin absorption. Depending on the person, some with AUD absorb no thiamine at all.
An alcoholic’s diet is also low in thiamine. Alcoholics are more likely to drink alcoholic beverages as part of their daily energy intake. They’re also more likely to skip meals or binge on unhealthy food.
Alcoholics have nutrient-deficient food and beverage choices. This increases the risk of thiamine deficiency.
If a person continues to experience thiamine deficiency, they can end up with serious health conditions.
The most common reason for thiamine deficiency is inadequate dietary intake. However, in Western countries, thiamine deficiency is more prevalent in individuals suffering from alcoholism or chronic illness.
The symptoms of thiamine deficiency are non-specific. Many people may not even notice that they’re suffering from this condition.
Symptoms of thiamine deficiency include:
Thiamine converts food to energy. So, people with thiamine deficiency get tired easily.
When you don't have enough thiamine, your body won't produce enough energy for day-to-day function. This leads to fatigue and weakness.
Some studies have also linked fatigue to thiamine deficiency. For instance, one study showed that post-stroke patients with chronic fatigue have benefited from high-dose thiamine.7
Although weight loss can be linked with alcohol dependence, it can also signify thiamine deficiency. Thiamine deficiency can reduce appetite.
In one study, researchers observed the effects of thiamine deficiency in mice. They fed mice a thiamine-deficient diet for 16 weeks. As a result, the mice displayed a significant amount of weight loss.8
According to the researchers, thiamine deficiency inhibited hypothalamic adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity. AMPK regulates food intake.
When the researchers treated the mice with thiamine, their appetite returned, and their body weights increased.
Thiamine deficiency can cause nausea and vomiting. These symptoms are often associated with infections or gastrointestinal problems.
Although nausea and vomiting are non-specific symptoms, they're more prevalent in those with thiamine deficiency.
In addition, alcoholics are more prone to these gastrointestinal problems. Excessive alcohol consumption damages the lining of the stomach. The damage causes ulcers and bleeding.
People with thiamine deficiency also experience emotional disturbances. These may include confusion, short-term memory loss, and irritability.
Thiamine deficiency can also affect your mood. The vitamin affects neurotransmitters that regulate emotions.
Thiamine is also known as Vitamin B1. It's essential for a healthy brain and dendrite function. Dendrites are the parts of your neurons that send and receive information. Without thiamine, dendrites are less able to do this.
Thiamine helps the body use carbohydrates as energy. It also enables the flow of electrolytes to and from muscle and nerve cells.
It can reduce diabetic complications and heart issues. Thiamine also prevents or delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. According to the NHS, a lack of thiamine can kill your neurons, making Alzheimer's more likely.4
Thiamine is available in plants, food, and vitamin supplements. It’s usually found in whole grains, meat, and fish.
Alcoholics are more prone to thiamine deficiency. Continuous thiamine deficiency can cause serious health conditions, such as:
Thiamine deficiency can lead to beriberi, a heart and nerve issue.
There are two main types of beriberi:
In extreme cases, beriberi can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS). This condition is a devastating brain disorder caused by thiamine deficiency.
WKS comprises two separate disorders: Wernicke's Encephalopathy and Korsakoff Syndrome.
WKS is sometimes referred to as alcohol-related dementia.
Wernicke's Encephalopathy usually develops first and has three symptoms:
Korsakoff Syndrome is a severe brain disorder that causes severe short-term memory impairment. In rare cases, seizures are possible.
Korsakoff Syndrome develops in 80% of people with untreated Wernicke’s Encephalopathy.4
WKS requires immediate administration of high doses of thiamine to mitigate the effects of the disease.
Heavy drinkers are at risk of developing a thiamine deficiency. Once the symptoms appear, you must know how to get your thiamine levels back up.
Here are some tips on how to treat thiamine deficiency in heavy drinkers:
If you think you may have low levels of thiamine, talk to your doctor about the best treatment options.
Several treatment options are available for alcohol addiction. You can select from the following:
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