Beriberi (Thiamine Deficiency): Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments

The treatments and home remedies for beriberi or beri beri include thiamine pills and shots, consumption of brown rice, rice bran, legumes, milk, whole grain brown bread, a generally healthy diet, avoiding fish, and drinking water after meals. Beri Beri is a Vitamin B1 deficiency condition which affects almost all physiological functions in its acute functions.

The function of the nervous system, heart, vasculature, and liver are severely affected. Extreme cases may lead to paralysis, the degeneration of nerves, and coma. Treatments are very simple and can completely eliminate the initial symptoms. However, for most cases, thiamine capsules and medical advice should also be turned to for help.

What is Beri Beri?

Beriberi is a syndrome characterized by a group of symptoms exhibited by people who are deficient in Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. Therefore, it usually afflicts malnourished individuals’, particularly in underdeveloped countries. Two kinds of beriberi are well known. Wet beriberi leads to cardiovascular dysfunction while dry beriberi results in necrosis and wearing down of the nervous system. If left untreated, it may cause cardiac failure, necrosis of nerves, or Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome.

Causes of Beriberi

Feeding mothers, lacking the vitamin may pass on the deficiency to their young ones via breastfeeding. Dialysis and usage of a heavy dose of diuretics may also increase the probability of a B1 deficiency. As told in the Nursing Nonprescription Drug Handbook (edition 2002), apart from nutrient-deficient food, there are several major causes of beriberi in developed countries. Hypothyroidism, poor absorption of nutrients from the diet, chronic alcoholism, and prolonged difficulties during pregnancy may also result in this thiamine deficiency disease.

Most of the physiological processes are affected by this deficiency disease and can be detected at early stages. If proper treatment and an adequate diet are taken in a timely manner, complexities which appear due to the involvement of sensitive nervous and circulatory systems can be recovered.


Symptoms of Beriberi

The following symptoms are characteristic of beriberi:

-State of mental confusion due to polyneuritis, which is inflammation of several neurons

-Swelling of stomach or edema generating various intestinal and stomach-related disorders

-Increased heart rate

-Difficulty in breathing

-Loss of weight

-Patient becomes fatigued easily, is apathetic, and experiences difficulty when walking

-Diarrhea and Constipation

-Wasting of muscles, cramps, and pain in body parts

-Impaired growth in young ones

-Vomiting, nausea, anorexia, and abdominal pain


-Overall growth is impaired

-The loss in ability to sense vibrations, paralysis, nerve degeneration, and coma are commonly observed in chronic and severe stages.

One shouldn’t delay when the symptoms begin to appear; immediately consult a doctor to diagnose the underlying root cause of the disease/symptoms. Blood and urine tests can detect low levels of Vitamin B1 and can then be categorized as dry or wet beriberi. Fortunately, while you should always speak with a doctor, there are numerous reliable and 100% efficient natural treatments for treating both wet and dry beriberi.

Treatments & Home Remedies for Beriberi

Medical Treatments

For the treatment of beriberi, doctors generally prescribe thiamine shots or pills. The intake of Vitamin B1-rich pills prove to be highly advantageous and are observed to lend relief to the patient within a short span of time.

Except for in extreme cases, a proper diet comprising of more thiamine than needed must be supplied while the body is in the recovering state. Excess thiamine is never harmful to the body. This diet includes brown rice, legumes, milk, and much more. We have discussed them in detail below:

Brown Rice

Brown or husked rice is considered to be the best source of thiamine, and therefore should be made a part of our regular diet. Try avoiding polished or dehusked rice as they lack vitamin B1. A healthy diet that is rich in rice can always help you from contracting beriberi.

Rice Bran

This is the best of all the known home remedies for beriberi. It has been practiced for hundreds of years. Rice is boiled in an excess of water and the water containing the rice extract is drained and collected in a vessel. This water can is drinkable and has significant quantities of Vitamin B1.


Most of the legumes, seeds, and nuts contain thiamine in their outer covering. These can be used frequently, if not regularly.


Milk is a rich source of vitamins and other mineral nutrients and should be consumed on regular basis.

Whole Grain Brown Bread

As mentioned by eMedicine, grains that contain the outer layer of grains are very rich in thiamine. Feeding individuals with thiamine-rich brown bread can also contribute to the overall vitamin content in the body.

Healthy Diet

A balanced and proper diet consists of raw fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This not only provides you with Vitamin B1, but also all of the other essential minerals, vitamins, and nutrients.


Alagau is a herb found only in the Phillippines and has been found to be effective in treating this thiamine deficiency disease.

Preventions for Beriberi

Avoid Drinking After Meals: Vitamin B1, being a water-soluble compound, tends to get drained out of the body if excess liquid is drunk after meals.

Avoid Fish: Shellfish, clams, mussels, shrimps, and raw tissue of animals contains an enzyme thiaminase which causes a breakdown of thiamine. Therefore, consumption of fish must be avoided in order to retain the existing vitamin B1 in the body.

While any other complications involving the cardiac and nervous system require the help of medical practitioners and a diagnosis, as soon as possible.

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