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Benfotiamine is a lab-created dietary supplement form of thiamine (or vitamin B1). Absorbing thiamine can be challenging, especially if you have certain health conditions that may decrease your ability to absorb certain nutrients. This supplement may also be a helpful adjunct treatment for conditions like Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Here, we discuss the benefits of benfotiamine for thyroid patients.
Thiamine, or vitamin B1, plays an essential role in metabolizing energy and breaking down sugars and carbon skeletons. Thiamine is also involved in communication between neurons and activation of the immune system. Too little thiamine may cause impaired energy metabolism, increased cellular oxidative stress, and neurological side effects.
Benfotiamine was created to make thiamine absorption easier for people with certain health conditions. Some people with gastrointestinal disorders may have difficulty absorbing this essential nutrient. For example, people with Crohn's disease, chronic diarrhea, and alcoholism may have trouble getting plenty of thiamine, thus putting them at risk for a nutrient deficiency.
Outside of people with the above conditions, thiamine deficiency is relatively rare in countries like the United States. However, people who follow specific dietary patterns, such as eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates like white rice and low in whole grains, may be at risk for deficiency.
Benfotiamine is not only used to increase levels of thiamine in the blood, but it may also help manage diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain) and Alzheimer's. In addition, there are several other conditions it may help with, although the research is not as robust to support using benfotiamine in the following conditions:
- Thyroid disease
Some studies show that thiamine deficiency may be present in some people with thyroid disease. Specifically, people with hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) may be more prone to thiamine deficiency because the high amount of thyroid hormone in the blood speeds up the metabolic processes that use thiamine to make ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Therefore, more thiamine is needed to produce more ATP for cellular energy.
Less research suggests that thiamine deficiency may also be a problem in people with autoimmune thyroid disease like Hashimoto's. People with autoimmune conditions often have digestive issues, leading to an increased risk for nutrient deficiencies. In general, many autoimmune conditions are thought to start in the gut. A weakening of the gut mucosal membrane allows toxins to escape the digestive tract and enter the bloodstream.
Benfotiamine has been shown to block glycotoxins from certain foods, namely high-fat meat. Also called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), these toxins are known for triggering inflammation and oxidative stress, which is at the root of conditions like Hashimoto's. AGEs also cause problems with metabolism, including potentially initiating or adding to the progression of metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes.
You can make several lifestyle modifications to reduce your exposure to AGEs, such as changing how you prepare your food and avoiding processed carbohydrates. Additionally, certain supplements like benfotiamine may reduce your overall glycation load, which may decrease inflammation and oxidative stress on your organs.
There is little research on the long-term safety and effects of using benfotiamine. In the short-term, there may be some adverse effects of benfotiamine you will want to keep in mind, such as:
- Digestive discomfort
- Hair loss
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Weight gain
Additionally, some people may not be safe to take benfotiamine, as few studies can confirm its safety. For example, pregnant and nursing mothers should consult their doctor for medical advice before adding this supplement to their health regimen. It may also interact with certain medications, so it is best to consult your doctor first.
We need consistent daily exposure to thiamine through our diet to maintain healthy levels. Along with getting the right amount of this nutrient, the body also has to be able to absorb and utilize it. To boost your thiamine levels outside of trying a thiamine supplement like benfotiamine, you may be able to get it through the following foods:
- Beef liver
- Pork loin
- Black beans
- Macadamia nuts and other nuts
- Fortified whole-grain products and cereals
True thiamine deficiency is relatively uncommon outside of people with alcoholism and diseases that cause chronic diarrhea. However, some providers may consider testing for thiamine deficiency if you have a thyroid disease like Hashimoto's or hyperthyroidism and are not well-controlled on your medication.
A holistic approach to treating thyroid disease often includes looking at certain levels of vitamins and minerals in your blood. Suppose your thiamine levels are tested and are not considered optimal. In that case, your provider may recommend adding a short-term thiamine supplement like benfotiamine or encourage you to increase thiamine consumption through food.
To date, there is no standard dosing recommended for benfotiamine for any medical condition, so you will want to work with your provider to determine your dose and how long you should be on the supplement.
Treating a thyroid condition is highly complex and often involves more than just getting a prescription. Our thyroid doctors at Paloma Health provide a holistic approach to managing Hashimoto's and hypothyroidism.