Beriberi is caused by a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin
B1), which in turn causes neurological, mental, and
Symptoms of beriberi range from mild to severe:
- Mild symptoms include fatigue, irritation, slow
learning and confusion, poor cold tolerance, nausea,
vomiting, and whiteheads on the face or upper torso.
- Severe symptoms include memory loss, heart pain, weight loss, abdominal and heart discomfort,
poor digestion, gas, diarrhea, constipation, extreme
fatigue, mood swings, mental confusion, tachycardia
(rapid heart rate), and heart failure, and if left untreated,
can even result in death.
What To Consider
Parasites, gastrointestinal or liver disease, food allergies,
and/or severe stress can all be causes or co-factors
Beriberi is divided into two classifications-primary
beriberi and secondary beriberi:
- Primary beriberi is caused by the inadequate intake of vitamin B1 through food. It occurs
most often in people who eat highly refined and processed
foods. It is especially prevalent in people who subsist
on polished (white) rice, as vitamin B1 is lost in the
milling process that produces white rice.
- Secondary beriberi is related to the loss of B1 due to poor utilization of the nutrient in
the body due to such factors as liver disease, gastrointestinal
problems, alcoholism and/or drug addiction, pregnancy,
hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), breast-feeding,
fever, stress (emotional and physical), genetic predisposition,
and impaired absorption, such as with diarrhea, parasites,
gastrointestinal loss of friendly bacteria, damage to
the lining of the gastrointestinal tract by drugs, alcohol,
stress, parasites, food allergies, celiac disease (wheat
intolerance), or other gut problems.
When the factors causing beriberi are properly addressed,
the condition usually starts to resolve within a few
days to one week depending on the severity of the deficiency
B1 and the severity of the symptoms.
foods rich in thiamine and other B vitamins such as
brown rice, whole grains, raw fruits and vegetables,
especially green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts,
and yogurt. Drinking excessive liquids (more than one
glass) with meals may wash out thiamine and other B
vitamins. Also avoid raw fish.
For cases of mild symptoms, take thiamine (30 mg a
day in divided doses).For severe symptoms, take thiamine (30-100 mg
per day in divided doses), along with vitamin B complex,
a multivitamin and multimineral complex, and vitamin
In extremely severe conditions of beriberi, with symptoms
such as severe cardiac and mental dysfunction, such
as in cardiovascular beriberi or Wernicke-Korsakoff
syndrome (marked reduction of blood flow to the head
with dramatic symptoms), B1 needs to be given by injection,
50-100 mg two times daily. See a physician immediately
if you suffer from such symptoms.
Rescue Remedy for generalized stress (four
drops in a half-glass of water). Sip frequently, then
repeat. Single flower essences are helpful to ease emotional
discomfort and stress from physical condition.
Sulfur can help ease the symptoms of beriberi.
If your symptoms persist despite the above measures,
seek the help of a qualified health professional.
Back to Health Conditions A to Z