Beriberi

Beriberi is caused by a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1), which in turn causes neurological, mental, and cardiovascular problems.

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 of beriberi.

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.

Self-Care Tips

Diet
Eat 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.

Nutritional Supplementation
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 C.

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.

Flower Essences
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.

Homeopathy
Sulfur can help ease the symptoms of beriberi.

Caution

If your symptoms persist despite the above measures, seek the help of a qualified health professional.

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