Posted on 12 Feb 2021
Recent research has found that there is a significant benefit to taking thiamine to help reduce chronic fatigue for those living with IBD. New work from researchers in Denmark suggests that taking high dose thiamine supplements may help fight fatigue in people living with IBD.
What is thiamine?
Thiamine is a specific type of vitamin B that is essential for ensuring that the food you eat gets converted into usable energy. Thinking back to high school biology, the mitochondria in your cells cannot be the ‘powerhouse of the cell’ without thiamine.
Can thiamine be found naturally?
It’s easy to get this type of vitamin B from your diet, it can be found in cereal products, legumes, meat, and dairy products.
How is thiamine processed in your body?
Thiamine is absorbed in your upper small intestine, however, it remains unclear how well thiamine is absorbed in patients with active IBD. Even though IBD flare can directly increase your fatigue levels, going into remission doesn’t mean that the fatigue dissipates as well. Although we have yet to identify how best to treat fatigue in active IBD, new evidence suggests that there are ways to mediate symptoms of fatigue when in remission.
What were the findings of this clinical trial on thiamine, IBD and fatigue?
This randomised controlled trial included 40 people in IBD remission who suffered from chronic fatigue, not explained by a deficiency in iron, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin-D, or other conditions. After taking high-dose thiamine supplements for 4-weeks, people reported significantly less fatigue, although their bowel symptoms largely remained unchanged. Some people reported that their intestinal function had improved after the trial.
There were differences in how fatigue improved in people with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD). Even though general wellbeing and IBD related quality of life slightly improved for people with both conditions, patients with UC experienced less fatigue compared to those with CD as a result of taking thiamine.
Living with IBD? Here are the key takeaways from the study…
If you are in remission and struggling with fatigue, it is unlikely just to be a result of your thiamine levels being low. The researchers compared fatigue improvement after the thiamine treatment in people who initially had low thiamine levels compared to normal levels and found no differences. If fatigue was directly related to thiamine levels, we would have expected to see bigger improvements in fatigue for people who started out with lower levels of thiamine. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. As fatigue is multifactorial and a complicated symptom, your experience with it is probably not directly linked with something as simple as taking vitamin B supplements. However, adding this supplement to other interventions may not be a bad idea. Talk to your IBD care team about adding thiamine to your routine.
If you choose to try supplementing with thiamine, remember not to take thiamine in the evening or at night because vitamin B can cause temporary sleeplessness.
We hope that this information helps you in your health and wellbeing journey!
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Bager, P, Hvas, CL, Rud, CL, Dahlerup, JF. Randomised clinical trial: high-dose oral thiamine versus placebo for chronic fatigue in patients with quiescent inflammatory bowel disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2021; 53: 79– 86. https://doi.org/10.1111/apt.16166