The Road to Thiamine
In August 2020, I was at my wits end. I had developed gastroparesis in March 2020, after 10 days of metronidazole (Flagyl), for a H. Pylori infection and SIBO-C symptoms. After seven days, I developed the symptoms usually associated with the intake of this drug – nausea, confusion, anxiety, paranoid thinking and mild gastroparesis symptoms. I no longer had bowel movements initiated by my body and had to use enemas twice a week. This state continued and worsened until the end of July 2020, when I also had a surgery for stage 4 endometriosis.
I managed to stay alive those months by eating an elemental diet (90%) and a few bits of solid food such as white rice, goat cheese, or lean meat. After the surgery, however, my gastroparesis got worse. I contacted my family doctor at the end of August and told her that I could no longer eat any solid food without severe nausea and that I need to be in a hospital to be fed intravenously or with a gastric tube. She agreed that my situation demanded immediate attention and she wrote me the referral for an inpatient hospital admission.
I was lucky though that at that exact time, I stumbled upon the low oxalate diet mentioned by a member of a Facebook group. I joined the Trying Low Oxalate (TLO) group on Facebook and read what researcher Susan Owens wrote about oxalates. I started implementing it and realized that small portions of low oxalate food every 2-3 hours were accepted by my body. In a few weeks my gastroparesis symptoms were reduced and my belly pain diminished.
From the Low-Oxalate Diet to Discovering Beriberi Disease
At some point in September 2020, while researching oxalates, I found Elliot Overton’s videos on oxalates and I listened to them. I also read his articles on this website where he talks about allithiamine, a thiamine supplement that contains something called TTFD, as being something radically different in terms of its unparalleled effects on the human body. I was skeptical, because I had spent about 20,000 euro on supplements in the previous four years, each of them being promoted as health-inducing by big names in the field of chronic Lyme disease, MTHFR, CFS/ME, SIBO and so on, while their effects on my health were only partial and temporary at best.
I decided that this would be the last supplement I’d buy. The worse would be losing 40 euros and I had already spent too much on worthless treatments. I took 150 mg allithiamine + magnesium + B2 + B3 for 3 weeks and I was less tired, could move more around the house, and overall was feeling much better, even my extreme light sensitivity was subsiding. Then I stopped taking it, not sure it was doing anything. That’s when I knew that it had worked and that I needed it badly. I took the same dosage for another 2 weeks. The next three weeks I had to wait to receive it from the USA, and I was again completely bed ridden.
However, I used this time to read most of Dr. Derrick Lonsdale’s book on thiamine deficiency. I became convinced that I had dry beriberi and that most of my neurological symptoms were caused by thiamine deficiency. I also noticed that the dosage is highly individual and some individuals needed very high doses of thiamine per day in order to function.
I now understood, why 2015 was the year I became bedridden for most than 90% of the time: I spent 6 months in a very hot Asian country, as part of my master degree studies. The energy requirement to deal with the hot weather and the demanding job depleted my already low thiamine levels. At that time, I was on my way to diabetes as well. I had fasting blood sugar levels of 120 mg/dl. I could no longer assimilate/use carbs in the quantities my body required (70% of the daily caloric intake) and I was always hungry and always thirsty. Looking back on my childhood and my ever-declining health from 2008 onwards, it was clear to me that I had problems with thiamine.
The Astonishing Effects of Thiamine
In December 2020, I increased my thiamine dosage to 300 mg per day and I was astonished at the changes I experienced – an 80% reduction across all my symptoms and some even completely disappear.
Mid-January, I decided to increase my allithiamine dosage to 450-600 mg because I felt like my improvements were stagnating. I also noticed that during the days I was more physically active (meaning: I cooked food for longer that 10-15 minutes, my energy levels were higher when I was taking more allithiamine and I didn’t experience the typical post-exertional malaise I was used to in the past). I also noticed that taking allithiamine alone in high doses doesn’t work so well and that the active B complex capsules and the B3 I was taking did have an important part to play in how I felt.
In the beginning of February, I was craving sugars so badly, that I gave in and bought a cake for my birthday. I ate two slices and discovered that my mental confusion, the brain fog and generally poor cognitive skills improved “overnight”. I was astonished, since I had been led to believe that “carbs are bad”, “sugar is bad” and “gluten is bad” and that the problem was with the food itself rather than with my body missing some vital nutrients. I didn’t experience any side effects from the gluten either, even though my food intolerance test shows a mild reaction to gluten containing cereals.
By February 20th, this high-dose allithiamine ‘protocol’ and the ability to eat carbs again, eliminated all of my symptoms of SIBO-C/IBS-D/slow transit constipation, endometriosis, CFS/ME, fibromyalgia, constant complicated migraine with aura, severe food intolerances, including a reversal of my poor cognitive skills. I was able to discuss highly philosophical concepts again, for one hour, without suffering from headaches and insomnia.
Early Metabolic and Mitochondrial Myopathies
On February 21st, I decided to go for a walk. I walked in total that day 500 meters AND walked up four flights of stairs, because I live on the 4th floor without an elevator. By the end of that day, my disease returned and I became bedridden again. I could not believe it. This was the only thing I did differently. I just walked slowly.
And so I searched the internet for “genetic muscle disease”, because my sister shares the same pattern of symptoms. A new world opened before my eyes. I found out that in the medical literature, exercise intolerance, post-exertional malaise and chronic fatigue are well known facts and are described in conditions known as “myopathies”. That there are several causes for myopathy and that they can be acquired (vitamin D or B1 deficiency, toxic substances impacting the mitochondria, vaccines and so on) or inherited. It was also interesting to find out that while doctors manifestly despise and disbelieve CFS/ME symptoms, they are not utterly unknown and unheard of or the product of “sick” minds.
When I read this paper, although old and maybe not completely accurate in the diagnostics, I understood everything about my health issues.
I remembered my mother telling me that my pediatrician said he suspected muscular dystrophy when I was one years old, because I could not gain weight. I weighed only 7 kg at the age of one year, but he wasn’t convinced and so no tests were done in communist Romania. In addition to being overly thin, throughout my childhood, I always had this “limit” that I couldn’t go past when walking uphill or if I ran up a few flights of stairs, no matter how fit and in shape I was. Otherwise, I would develop muscle weakness such that my muscles felt like jelly. I would become completely out of breath, which I now know is air hunger. I couldn’t climb slightly steeper slopes without stopping 2/3 of the way up. My heart would beat very hard and very fast. I would feel like I was out of air and collapse. I first experienced this at the age of 5-6 and these symptoms have been the main feature of my physical distress since.
Because of these symptoms, I have led a predominantly sedentary lifestyle with occasional physical activity, never daily, apart from sitting in a chair at school. I didn’t play with classmates for more than 5 minutes. I couldn’t participate in physical education classes. Any prolonged daily physical activity led to general weakness, muscle cramps, prolonged muscle “fever”, and so I avoided them.
Now, I know why. Since reading this article, I was able to present my entire medical history to a neurologist and my symptoms were instantly recognized as those of an inherited mitochondrial or metabolic myopathy. I am currently waiting for the results of the genetic tests ordered by the neurologist, which will make it possible to get the right types of treatments when in a medical setting.
Before Thiamine: A Long History of Unexplained Health Issues
In addition to the problems with gaining weight and inability to be active, I had enuresis until 9 years old, along with frequent dental infections, and otitis. I had pain in my throat every winter, all winter and low blood pressure all the time. At 14 years of age, I weighed about 43-45 kg. I remained at that weight until age 27. I had a skeletal appearance. I also had, and continue to have, very flexible joints. For example, my right thumb is stuck at 90 degrees, which I have to press in the middle to release. I can feel the bone repositioning and going into the joint. This happens at least once a week.
My diet was ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet, with 70% of the calories coming from carbohydrates from when I was able to eat until 2015. In 2015, I could no longer process carbohydrate due to severe thiamine deficiency.
Since the age of 18, I have had quasi-constant back pain in the thoracic area. I have stretch marks on thighs, but have had no sudden weight gain/loss. Among the various diagnoses I had received before the age of 18 years old:
- Idiopathic scoliosis – age 18. No treatment.
- Iron deficiency anemia – at 18. Treatment with iron-containing supplements. No result.
- Frequent treatments for infections (antibiotics)
- Fasting hypoglycemia (until 2015).
The Fibromyalgia Pit
In 2008, my “fibromyalgia” symptoms began, although looking back at my history, many of these symptoms were there all along. I made a big change in my physical activity levels and this began my 12 year decline in health. In 2008, I started my philosophy studies at the university and decided to get more “in shape” by walking daily to and from the university. A total of 6 km per day.
- Constant fatigue, no energy.
- Worsened back pain.
- Weak leg muscles at the end of the day.
- Frequent nightmares from which I could never wake up. I felt like I couldn’t find my way out of sleep. After waking up, I would sit down and after 10 minutes I found that my head had fallen on my chest and I had fallen asleep involuntarily, suddenly.
- Sensations of waves of vibrations passing through me from head to toe, followed by the sensation of violent “coming out” of the body and out-of-body experiences.
- Heightened menstrual symptoms.
- Fairly frequent headaches.
Over the summer, I recovered completely as I resumed my predominantly sedentary lifestyle. Then, in the fall, I began walking to and from university again, and my symptoms just got worse. This cycle continued for the next few years. My symptom list expanded to include:
- Migrating joint pains.
- Frequent knee tendinitis.
- Pain in the heels.
- Generalized pain, muscles, joints, bones.
- Frequent headaches.
- Sleep disturbance with insomnia beginning at 2-3am every night.
- Frequent thirst, increased water intake (3-4 l/day).
- Frequent urination, especially at night (woken 2-3 times).
- Bumping my hands on doors/door frames.
- Unstable ankles.
- Painful “dry” rubbing sensation in hip/femur joint.
- Prolonged angry spells.
- Memory problems (gaps).
- Difficulty learning new languages.
I underwent a number of tests including, blood tests, X-ray + MRI of the spine, and a neurological consultation. All that came back was high cholesterol (180 LDL, 60 HDL), low calcium, iron deficiency anemia, scoliosis, and hypoglycemia. No treatment was offered.
From February 2010-August 2010 I had a scholarship in Portugal. Philology studies interrupted. I was using public transport to go to classes, which were about only 3 hours a day. I required bed rest outside classes with only the occasional walk. I had a complete remission of all symptoms in July 2010 when I returned home and resumed my sedentary lifestyle. This was the last complete remission.
From August 2010 – December 2010, I resumed day courses at both universities and resumed the walking.
All of my symptoms were aggravated enough that by December I was bedridden. I stopped attending classes due to back pain in sitting position. I wrote two dissertations lying in bed. Once again, I sought medical advice and had a number of tests and consultations with specialists. I was diagnosed with peripheral polyneuropathy and “stress intolerance”, fibromyalgia. The treatment offered included:
- Medical gymnastics: aerobics, yoga and meditation presumably to get me in shape and calm me down.
- Calcium and iron supplementation, gabapentin, and low-dose mirtazapine.
The physical activity worsened symptoms, as it always does. The mirtazapine improved my sleep. I took it for 2 weeks and then stopped because I was gaining weight extremely fast.
From 2011 – October 2012, I was almost completely bedridden. I had to take a year off because I couldn’t learn anything, my head hurt if I tried. The physical symptoms improved after about a year, as did the deep and total fatigue. I tried to get my driver’s license in 2012, but failed. I couldn’t remember the maneuvers and the order in which to perform them. I couldn’t concentrate consistently on what was happening on the road. There was too much information to process very quickly.
From 2012-2015, I was getting my master’s in France. This aggravated all of my symptoms of exertion, both physical and intellectual. In 2013, I underwent general anesthesia for a laparoscopic surgery due to endometriosis, after which something changed in my body and I never fully recovered to previous levels of health. I took another year break between the two years of master’s studies. I couldn’t learn anymore. Symptoms relieved a bit by this break. After three months in Thailand for a mandatory internship, in one of the most polluted cities in the world, I got sick and developed persistent headache, with very severe cognitive difficulties. At this point, 90% of my time was spent in bed.
A general anesthetic in the autumn of 2015 for a nose tumor biopsy was the “coup de grâce”. Since then, I only partially recovered a few hours after a fluid infusion in the emergency ward and a magnesium infusion during a hospital stay in Charites Berlin in 2016. Other improvements: daily infusions of 1-2 hours with vitamins or ceftriaxone.
How I Feel Since Discovering Thiamine
In order to recover from the crash I experienced in February, I increased my B1 (TTFD) intake mid-March and made sure I was eating carbs every three hours, including during the night. I need about 70% of my total caloric intake to come from carbs.
I am currently taking 1200 mg B1 as TTFD, divided in 4 doses, 600-1200 mg magnesium, 500 mg B2/riboflavin, 3 capsules of an active, methylated B vitamin complex, 80-200 mg Nicotinamide 3X per day and 1-2 capsules of a multi-mineral and a multi-vitamin. I make sure I eat enough proteins, especially from pork meat, because it contains high amounts of BCAAs and helps me rebuild muscles.
I walked again the last week of April 2021, 500m in one day, because of a doctor’s appointment. I did not experience a crash that day or the following days. I did not have to spend weeks recovering from very light physical activity.
I can now use my eye muscles again, and read or talk with people online. I can cook one hour every day without worsening my condition.
After 5 years of constant insomnia, only slightly and temporarily alleviated by supplements, I can finally sleep 7.5 hours every night again. I no longer wake up 4-5 times a night.
My wounds are healing and my skin is no longer extremely dry and cracked.
My endometriosis, SIBO-C, gastroparesis, food intolerances, “fibromyalgia” pain, muscle pain due to hypermobility, are all gone.
And to think that all of this was possible because of vitamin B1 or thiamine, in the form of TTFD and that I almost didn’t buy it, because I no longer believed in that ONE supplement that would help me!
I will always be grateful for the work Dr. Derrick Lonsdale, MD, researcher Chandler Marrs, PhD and Elliot Overton, Dip CNM CFMP, have done so far in understanding, treating and educating others about chronic illnesses. More than anything, more than any physical improvement I experienced so far thanks to their work, what I gained was truth. Truth about a missing link, multiple diseases being present at one time and about why I have been sick my entire life.
Physical Symptoms and Diagnoses Prior to Taking Thiamine
- Fibromyalgia and polyneuropathy diagnostic and mild, intermittent IBS-C since 2010;
- Endometriosis symptoms aggravating every year, two surgeries, stage 4 endometriosis in 2020;
- Surgeries under general anesthesia severely worsened my illness and set my energy levels even lower than they were before;
- CFS/ME symptoms, hyperglycemia/pre-diabetes, constant 2-3 hours of insomnia per night and constant 24/7 headache since 2015, following an infection and during my stay in a very hot climate;
- POTS, Dysautonomia, Post Exertional Malaise Symptoms from minor activities, starting with 2016;
- Increased food intolerances (gluten, dairy, sugar/sweets, histamine, FODMAPs, oxalates, Sulphur-rich foods), to the point of eating only 6 foods since 2018;
- Chronic Lyme disease diagnostic based on positive ELISA and WB test for IgM, three months in a row, in 2017;
- Weight gain and inability to lose weight after heavy antibiotic treatment, skin dryness, cracking, wounds not healing even for 1.5 years, intolerance to B vitamins and hormonal preparations, since 2017;
- Complicated migraine symptoms and aura, light intolerance, SIBO-C and IBS-D, slow intestinal transit, following a 4 month period of intermittent fasting that made me lose 14 kg, living in bed with a sleep mask on my eyes 24/7, severe muscle weakness, since 2018;
- Two weeks recovery time after taking a 10 minute shower;
- Gastroparesis, living on an elemental diet, in 2020;
- All my symptoms worsened monthly, before and during my period.
Treatments Tried Prior to Thiamine
Gluten, dairy, sugar/sweets, FODMAPs, histamine, oxalate, Sulphur-rich foods/supplements free diets; AIP, SCD, Wahl’s protocol, candida diets; high dose I.V. vitamins and antibiotics, oral vitamins and antibiotics, liver supplements and herbs, natural antibiotics (S. Buhner’s protocol), MTHFR supplements, alkalizing diet, essential oils, MCAS/MCAD treatment, SIBO/dysbiosis diets and protocols, insomnia supplements, and any other combination of supplements touted as helpful for such symptoms.
And this is just what I remember top of my head. Their effect was, at best: preventing further deterioration of my body, but healing was not present.
- Exercise intolerance in myopathies
- Thiamine deficiency myopathy
- D3 deficiency myopathy
- Common causes of myopathies
- Toxic myopathies
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This case story was published originally on May 11, 2021.