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Fatigue, Crankiness, Trouble Concentrating - Is It a Thiamine Deficiency or ADHD?

vitamin b1 adhd

Thiamine aka vitamin B1. It’s kind of a big deal.  Let’s talk about what it does, what happens if you don’t get enough of it, and where to get it from, so that your vitamin B1 game is on point. 

 First off, what is its purpose in a human? Well, it’s involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids which are found in protein. It plays a crucial part in many metabolic processes related to energy production. 

Your body uses it to form adenosine triphosphate or ATP, which every single cell in your body uses for energy. We need this vitamin for healthy nerve function, healthy eye function, healthy heart function. We need it.

Random fact: It’s called vitamin B1 because it was the first of the B vitamins to be discovered.  

It’s a water-soluble vitamin, so you cannot store excess of it in the body and therefore need to be ingesting it regularly. 

Is vitamin B1 deficiency common? You can find lots of articles online that say that it isn’t that common in developed countries, but I found a great and thorough research paper that claims that we’re probably not catching vitamin B1 deficiency in a lot of people. 

Well here’s where we have to be careful before jumping to conclusions, as thiamine deficiency symptoms can resemble all sorts of other conditions, so just because you have one or more of these symptoms doesn’t automatically mean you’re deficient in B1 and as always, this video is not medical advice, so don’t use it to diagnose or treat any condition. 

That said, here are some of the symptoms:

-Excessive tiredness. Like, a tiredness that just doesn’t seem to stop, and doesn’t seem like your normal energy level. 

-A shift in mood, including being very cranky and mercurial, with moods all over the place.

-A lack of mental clarity and some memory issues

-Loss of appetite or nausea and vomiting

-Blurry vision

-A “pins and needles” feeling in your arms and legs


-Cardiovascular effects, such as an enlarged heart

Now, my ADHDers that are reading - hey there! - you might have heard a few of those and thought, “Hey, aren’t those ADHD symptoms?” And you’re right to think that. A lot of us can struggle with things like tiredness that just doesn’t go away, rollercoaster moods, and memory issues, as well as a lack of mental clarity and focus. 

So . . . wait, is ADHD just a vitamin deficiency? From all the research I’ve done and training I’ve received, I would say no. I have not come across any decent research to say that it is purely a vitamin deficiency – although wouldn’t that make life easier? – but vitamin B1 deficiency has been shown to be correlated with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, so it wouldn’t be surprising to me if there were a correlation with ADHD as well. 

So my two cents on the matter for those of us with ADHD is that we really want to pay attention to this nutrient as we may already have many of the symptoms of a vitamin B1 deficiency even if we’re not deficient, so let’s not throw any more gasoline on the fire, you know what I mean? 

What can cause this?

Here are some of the main causes. If you are diabetic, you’re more likely to have a thiamine deficiency. If you drink alcohol quite frequently, you’re more likely to have a thiamine deficiency. If you are on a high carb diet, which is, unfortunately, most people, you are more likely to have a thiamine deficiency.

What to do?

So, what should you do if you suspect you have a vitamin B1 deficiency? Is there a test you can take? Yes, there is. If you want, you can ask your doctor for a vitamin B1 test, no big deal. Just fyi, the test will usually actually be a test for an enzyme called transketolase, but you’re just going ask to have your B1 levels tested.

If, for whatever reason, testing is not something you care to pursue or you just can’t get an appointment for a test anytime soon, you can try upping your intake of vitamin B1 to see if any of your symptoms resolve, and I’m going to tell you how to do that safely in just a moment. In my opinion, working with your doctor is best, but hey, this is the internet and I know a lot of people are going to want to or are going to have to DIY it, so, let’s just be real here and show you how to do it.

Now, here’s a pro tip. If you’re not going to get tested for vitamin B1 deficiency and you want to simply try increasing your vitamin B1 intake to see if it helps, I highly highly recommend that you write down the day that you started, 

somewhere where it will be easy to find later, maybe in a Google Doc or a note on your phone, if you have ADHD you know exactly why I’m saying this. So you’re going to take notes on day one, write down all your symptoms, and as you go along, make a note to see if things are getting better, and you want to give it some time, at least a few weeks. Really treat it as a proper scientific investigation and see it through if you’re going the DIY route. If that sounds like too much work, then it’s better to simply get it tested and call it a day.

How to get more vitamin B1 in your diet

Alright, so how can we get more vitamin B1 in our diets?

The number one food I would recommend is any kind of pork.

So I’m talking bacon, ribs, ham, pork loin, baloney, pork chops, sausage, hot dogs without the bun if you want to do it right, just go to town on the pork.

Seafood >> Salmon, trout, mussels, tuna, oysters, catfish, and bass, just to name a few

Other options are:

Sesame seeds or tahini

Pine nuts

Sunflower seeds

Macadamia nuts - my favorite


And nutritional yeast is another one. I haven’t tried it yet but a really cool person told me that it’s quite tasty. If you're reading this, you know who you are. 

And last but not least, beef has a little bit of thiamine too. 

So those would be my top recommendations. 

Instead of me spitting a bunch of numbers of milligrams in each serving of these foods, I very much recommend using a food tracking app like Cronometer, putting in everything you eat for at least three whole days, hopefully a few more, and seeing if you’re hitting your thiamine goal by adding in some of these foods.

In addition to adding more thiamine-rich foods to you diet, it’s always a good idea to greatly reduce the amount of carbohydrate you’re consuming if you haven’t already, avoid excessive alcohol consumption or cut it out completely if you can, and keep an eye on your stress levels as all of those things are related to thiamine. 

Thanks so much for being here, and have a happy and healthy day.