The Number One Nutritional Deficiency Behind Constipation

Let’s talk about the #1 nutritional deficiency behind constipation: a vitamin B1 deficiency. A severe vitamin B1 deficiency is called beriberi. Beriberi is usually caused by poor diet or alcoholism.

Symptoms include loss of appetite, weakness, limb pain, shortness of breath, and swollen feet or legs.

Treatments include B-1 supplements and eating more B-1-rich foods, such as whole-grain cereals, beans, and beef.

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Understanding the gut and constipation

This common gut problem affects a large portion of the world’s population, with reports indicating that as many as 25% of people suffer from constipation.

This condition can be very restrictive and uncomfortable, affecting people of all ages — from young children to the elderly. Not only is it physically demanding, but it can also reduce the sufferer’s quality of life and mental well-being.

Despite what you may have heard, constipation isn’t simply about the number of times you go to the bathroom each day or week. It’s actually a change to your regularity that can happen suddenly (acute) or over time (chronic).

What’s more, constipation is about more than just how often you go; it can also involve hard and dry stools, making them difficult or painful to pass. Additionally, people with functional constipation often experience bloating along with abdominal pain or discomfort.

You may experience constipation if you experience two or more of the following:

· Less than three bowel movements per week

· Lumpy or hard stools for more than 25% of the evacuation

· Feeling of incomplete evacuation

· Straining

· Feeling of obstruction/blockage

· Manual evacuation maneuvers

There are two main types of constipation: primary and secondary.

Secondary constipation is usually caused by medication, neurological disease, or physical intestinal disorders.

Primary constipation, which is more common, happens when there isn’t an underlying medical problem.

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About vitamin B1 deficiency & constipation

Did you know that thiamine, also called vitamin B1, is one of the eight necessary B vitamins?

Thiamine is crucial for several vital health functions, and a lack thereof can cause thiamine deficiency. If this thiamine shortage is stark and long-term, it’s called beriberi.

Thiamine, like the other B vitamins, is water-soluble. That means it dissolves in water and isn’t stored in your body, so you must consume it regularly. In reality, your body can only store around 20 days’ worth of thiamine at any moment.

Luckily, thiamine is naturally discovered in various foods and added to others through fortification. As a result, it’s often taken as an individual supplement, part of a vitamin B complex, or added to multivitamins.

Photo By alfaolga

Good dietary sources of thiamine include:

  • enriched white rice or egg noodles
  • fortified breakfast cereal
  • pork
  • trout
  • black beans
  • sunflower seeds
  • acorn squash
  • yogurt
  • wide commercial bread varieties
  • corn

Not getting enough thiamine can lead to thiamine deficiency, which can happen in as little as three weeks and affect your heart, nervous system, and immune system.

However, true thiamine deficiency is rare among healthy individuals with adequate access to thiamine-rich foods.

The autonomic nervous system is intimately involved with the gut. When you don’t have enough vitamin B1 (thiamine), many things can go wrong with the autonomic nervous system — which then affects the gut.

aOS (automatic Operating System)

A thiamine deficiency can also cause other problems in your gut that may lead to constipation, including:

· Low stomach acid

· Decreased gastric mobility (gastroparesis)

· Decreased pancreatic enzymes

· Biliary dyskinesia

What causes thiamine deficiency?

The risk of developing thiamine deficiency is generally low in industrialized countries where people have more reliable access to thiamine-containing foods. However, there is a higher risk among certain groups of people.

Some of the most common risk factors for thiamine deficiency include the following:

  • alcohol dependence or long-term misuse
  • older age
  • AIDS
  • long-term use of parenteral nutrition, or a way of receiving nutrients using an IV into the bloodstream
  • chronically elevated blood sugar levels
  • chronic vomiting
  • eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa
  • weight loss surgery
  • diets high in polished rice or processed grains that lack thiamine
  • dialysis used to treat kidney conditions
  • high dose use of diuretics (medications used to treat fluid retention)
  • health conditions that affect your ability to absorb vitamins and minerals

Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals with an overactive thyroid may also have a higher risk for thiamine deficiency due to their increased need for the nutrient.

Additionally, infants whose thiamine-deficient parents exclusively breastfeed are at higher risk of deficiency.


Many people worldwide suffer from constipation, especially as they age. Other causes of constipation include certain medications and a lack of fiber in one’s diet.

More often than not, constipation is mild and can be fixed with changes to diet or exercise; however, if you are experiencing severe or chronic constipation, it is best to consult a healthcare professional.

Disclaimer: Dr. Berner does not diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical diseases or conditions; instead, he analyzes and corrects the structure of his patients with Foundational Correction to improve their overall quality of life. He works with their physicians, who regulate their medications. This blog post is not designed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or any other individual. The information provided in this post or through linkages to other sites is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, consultation, or the advice of your physician or another healthcare provider. Foundation Chiropractic and Dr. Brett Berner are not liable or responsible for any advice, the course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other information, services, or product you obtain through this article or others.

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