Vitamin B1 & Period Cramps — A Natural Menstrual Pain Solution

vitamin-b1-menstrual-pain

Why Vitamin B1 Can Help Prevent Period Cramps

Vitamin B1 plays an important role in contracting muscles and conducting nerve signals.1 The muscular system and nervous system are closely linked in the uterus—the muscular organ where period cramps happen.

Dysmenorrhea is the result of uterine muscles not working quite like they should. Although scientists aren’t 100% sure exactly how vitamin B1 works to reduce period cramps, due to its role in tightening and relaxing muscles, it seems likely that B1 is an important player in period pain management.2

Generally speaking, muscle pain is associated with low vitamin B1 levels.3 Because the uterus is a muscle, some researchers believe period cramps may be a result of not getting enough B1.4

Outright vitamin B1 deficiencies are very rare in developed countries. However, it may be possible to have a mild, subclinical deficiency—that is, B1 levels that are low enough to prevent your uterus from functioning at its best, but aren’t low enough for you or your doctor to notice. Diagnosing mild B1 deficiency is difficult. Its symptoms are vague and tend to fly under a doctor’s radar, or are incorrectly attributed to other issues.5

Understanding Dysmenorrhea & Period Pain

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for period pain. It’s a legitimate gynecological condition that affects between 45 and 95% of people with periods.6 In up to 15% of these cases, dysmenorrhea is truly debilitating, and prevents menstruators from working, going to school, or otherwise enjoying their lives.7 

Some menstruators turn to drugs like Midol or ibuprofen to manage their period cramps, but fear their many side effects. 1 in 5 menstruators who use these drugs will find no relief at all from them.8 Other menstruators are told to just deal with the pain, and power through their period without any treatment.

Many menstruators accept pain as a normal part of their cycle. But let us be clear: period pain is not normal, nor do you have to just deal with it. You have options for managing your period cramps, and grinning and bearing it isn’t one of them.

There’s a growing body of evidence that says nutrition plays a role in dysmenorrhea. The amounts of certain nutrients in your system can determine how severe your period cramps are, how often they strike, and how long they last. Vitamin B1 is just one of these important nutrients that influence period pain.

period-pain

Vitamin B1 History & Basics

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamin or thiamine, was first discovered when it was isolated from rice bran at the turn of the 20th century.9 Vitamin B1 plays a critical role in the growth, development, and basic functioning of cells in every organ of the body.10

All living things on earth use vitamin B1, but only bacteria, fungi, and plants can make it themselves.11 For humans, B1 is considered an essential nutrient, meaning we cannot make it on our own, so we must get it from food or supplements. 

The human body isn’t very good at storing vitamin B1. We're able to cache some away in the liver for later use, but only in very small amounts.10 This vitamin also has a short half-life, meaning it breaks down quickly after it enters the body. This means it’s important to meet your B1 needs on a daily basis to ensure your body has a continuous supply.10

Not getting enough vitamin B1 could cause weakness, fatigue, brain fog, and nerve damage.1 Low B1 levels have been implicated in a number of serious diseases, such as diabetes,12 depression,13 Alzheimer’s disease,14 and dementia.15

Absorbing vitamin B1 may become easier when consumed in higher doses. When small amounts of B1 are consumed, like the amounts found in most food sources, absorption happens via active transport—that is, the body use energy, enzymes, and carrier proteins on the inside of the intestines to pump vitamin B1 into the blood. When large amounts of B1 are consumed, like the amounts found in most supplements, absorption happens via passive transport—that is, the B1 flows freely into the blood, no other actors required.16

Supplementing with moderate amounts of vitamin B1 has almost no complications.17 Since it’s water soluble, extra B1 is flushed out in urine rather than stored in the body. 

What Science Says About Vitamin B1 & Period Pain

The research surrounding vitamin B1 and period pain is young but promising. Although we don’t yet know the mechanism behind how it works, research shows it does, in fact, seem to work. 

Currently, there are about seven studies—involving a total of 1,600 women—looking at vitamin B1 and period cramps.17-23 While the studies are few in number, all have concluded that vitamin B1 is an effective treatment for menstrual cramps, even in severe cases.

Here's the state of science for vitamin B1 and period cramps:

  • A large, well-designed study involving 556 women with moderate to very severe dysmenorrhea found that taking 100mg of vitamin B1 everyday for 3 months alleviated period pain.18 When the study was over, a whopping 87% of study subjects were, according to the study author, “completely cured”. Pain was reduced in 8% of study participants; only 5% of study participants found no relief from vitamin B1.18

Unlike all the current treatments which are suppression-oriented, this curative treatment directly treats the cause, is free from side effects, is inexpensive and easy to administer.”
—L.B. Gokhale

  • In a study involving 152 women with moderate and severe dysmenorrhea, some women took 100mg a day of vitamin B1, while others took 400mg ibuprofen. The study lasted 3 months, and B1 was shown to be more and more effective the longer it was taken. 21% of participants completely recovered from dysmenorrhea after the first month, 56% after the second, and 71% after the third month of the study. Ibuprofen’s effectiveness, on the other hand, leveled off after the first month; after 3 months, only 22% of participants completely recovered from dysmenorrhea using ibuprofen.17

The effect of vitamin B1 and ibuprofen are similar, but vitamin B1 has less complications.”
—Mandana Zafari & Colleagues

  • In a study involving 240 women with dysmenorrhea, some women took 100mg of vitamin B1 everyday for two menstrual cycles, while others took placebo pills. The data showed that vitamin B1 supplements significantly reduced the severity of period cramps, as well as how long the cramps lasted. In fact, vitamin B1 reduced pain intensity by nearly a third, and slashed pain duration in half.19

Vitamin B1…can be substituted instead of high-complication medicines [like] Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.”
—A. Hosseinlou & Colleagues

  • In a study involving 124 women with dysmenorrhea, some women took 100mg of vitamin B1 for the two weeks leading up to their periods for two cycles, while others took placebo pills. The data showed vitamin B1 supplements reduced the severity of pain by half.20

Using vitamin B1 as an alternative treatment to chemical drugs is recommended to decrease the pain intensity of primary dysmenorrhea.”
—M. Azadi Moghtader & E. Jenabi

  • In a study involving 90 women dysmenorrhea, some women took 100mg of vitamin B1, while other took 400IUs of vitamin E. Results showed that both the vitamin B1 and the vitamin E groups experienced less severe period pain, as well shorter durations of pain, compared to before they began taking these supplements.21

Vitamin E and vitamin B1 could be prescribed for dysmenorrhea treatment, since they lead to fewer complications… compared to conventional medications.”   
—Sara Nayeban & Colleagues

  • In studying involving 196 women with dysmenorrhea, some women took vitamin B1 supplements, while others took ibuprofen. On average, results showed vitamin B1 reduced period pain by 49% after two cycles.22

Vitamin B1 is a medicine with similar effect to ibuprofen with much less complications and more acceptability.”
—M. Tofighi & Colleagues

  • In a study involving 242 women with dysmenorrhea, some women took 100mg of vitamin B1, while others took a placebo, everyday for 3 menstrual cycles. Results showed dysmenorrhea symptoms were reduced in 86% of study participants.23

[Vitamin B1] treatment did not have any side effects and…is tolerated easily.”
—M. Zamani & F. Soltan Beigi

It’s important to note that, in nearly every study lasting more than one menstrual cycle, the effects of vitamin B1 became more and more pronounced the longer it was taken. If you’re interested in using vitamin B1 to help manage period cramps, remember it’s important to stick with it.

dysmenorrhea-natural-healing

How to Get Enough Vitamin B1

It’s always best to get your vitamins and minerals from healthy foods. The most common sources of thiamine in the US are cereal, bread, and pork.24 Here are some other foods that pack in plenty of thiamine:

Food

Serving Size

Percent Daily Value of thiamine in one serving25

Fortified* breakfast cereal

¾ cup

100%

Pork chop

6 oz

57%

Salmon

6 oz

40%

Black beans

1 cup

28%

Trout

6 oz

26%

Enriched** pasta

1 cup cooked

26%

Acorn squash

1 cup

23%

Enriched** white rice

1 cup cooked

22%

Lentils

1 cup cooked

22%

Mussels

3 oz

17%

Brown rice, not enriched

1 cup cooked

12%

Oatmeal, not enriched

1 cup cooked

12%

Whole wheat bread

1 slice

7%

* Fortified means that manufacturers added nutrients to a food that weren’t present in that food to begin with, or weren't present in very large quantities. In other words, they added a bunch of thiamine to a food that had tiny amounts of thiamine in it naturally.
** Enriched means that manufacturers replaced whatever nutrients they destroyed during processing. In other words, they took a food that had thiamine in it, stripped some thiamine out of that food, then added back only the amount of thiamine they destroyed.

While food should come first, sometimes life gets in the way. Even for healthy people, food preferences, schedules, values, and dietary restrictions can make it difficult to meet your thiamine needs from food sources on a daily basis. Only a fraction of adults in the US get the recommended daily intake of all B vitamins by diet alone.26

To make matters worse, people with common dietary restrictions avoid many of the top food sources of thiamine. 

You May Not Be Getting Enough Thiamine If You…

  • Avoid gluten. Americans get about half of their thiamine from foods than have been fortified27—that is, the manufacturer, not Mother Nature, added the thiamine. Foods with added thiamine are usually made from grains, like breads, cereals, and pasta. However, most gluten-free versions of these foods are not fortified, so gluten-free options are often devoid of thiamine.

  • Are a vegan or vegetarian. Meat (especially pork and beef) and seafood (especially trout, mussels, and tuna) are great sources of thiamine, yet aren’t friendly to those who avoid animal products. Dairy products like yogurt and milk also contain moderate amounts of thiamine, but are cut out of vegan diets.

  • Follow Paleo or Keto. Cereal, rice, pasta, bread, and beans are all excellent sources of thiamine. However, these foods are avoided in fad diets that eliminate grains and legumes.

  • Eat too many sweets. While not a dietary restriction per se, research shows that eating too many simple carbohydrates—like soda, candy, cakes, cookies, and other sweets—can decrease thiamine levels in the body.28 Thiamine plays a key role in carbohydrate metabolism. Because we use up thiamine to process carbohydrates, eating too many carbs can deplete the body's thiamine supply, which may leave other parts of the body short on the thiamine they need.29

Even if you choose thiamine-rich foods regularly and keep your sweet tooth in check, not all of the thiamine listed on the Nutritional Facts label makes it into your body. Sometimes, the thiamine in a food can degrade or leach out before you even have the chance to eat it. To make matters worse, degradation and leaching tends to happen most often in our best food sources of thiamine, like grains, meat, and fish.

Here are some things that reduce the amount of vitamin B1 in your food:

  • Processing. Processing grains (e.g. taking a whole grain and making it into a refined grain) removes much of the thiamine found naturally in these foods. This happens because most of the thiamine found in grains lives in the germ.5 The germ is brimming with B vitamins so it can nourish a baby grain plant should it germinate, or sprout. The germ is left intact in whole grains, but it’s stripped off in refined grains, taking the thiamine with it. For example, unenriched white rice (a refined grain) has about one-tenth the thiamine than what’s in unenriched brown rice (a whole grain).25

  • Heat. Vitamin B1 tends to break down at high temperatures. The simple act of baking bread or searing a piece of meat or fish can destroy the thiamine found in these foods. For example, a loaf of bread has about 20-30% less thiamine once it’s baked.10

  • Boiling or Steaming. Vitamin B1 is soluble in water. This means that when a thiamine-rich food sits in water, the thiamine will leach out of the food and into the water.10 This isn’t an issue if you’re planning to drink the cooking water—for example, if you’re making soup. But if you’re going to drain the cooking water off—like you would when cooking pasta, rice, or beans—then you may be pouring most of the thiamin down the drain.

Even when you manage to eat thiamine-rich foods that haven’t been processed, heated, boiled, or steamed, other components of your meal may be blocking the thiamine in your food from being absorbed in your gut.

Here are the major factors that block vitamin B1 absorption:

  • Polyphenols. Polyphenols are a type of compound found in many tasty foods, like coffee, tea, thyme, sage, spearmint, cinnamon, sunflower seeds, red wine, barley, rye, blueberries, currants, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and dark chocolate.5 Generally speaking, polyphenols are good for you—they’re antioxidants.30 But they’re not good for vitamin B1 absorption. Polyphenols react with thiamine—either in your gut, or in the food itself—transforming it into a form humans can’t absorb.28

  • Alcohol. Ethanol—the chemical our body breaks alcohol down into—impairs the absorption of thiamine in the gut, while also diminishing thiamine stores in the liver.31 Alcohol abuse is the most common cause of thiamine deficiency in developed countries.32

  • Sulfites. Sulfites are often added to foods as preservatives. They’re commonly used in wine, dried fruit, juices, syrups, and snack foods like cookies and crackers.33 Sulfites attack thiamine, changing its chemical structure in the process, rendering it unusable to the body.11

The Bottom Line

It’s possible to get all the vitamin B1 you need from food alone. But for many menstruators, this is harder than it seems. Gluten-free? Breakfast cereals not your thing? Do you cook your food? You’re probably not getting as much vitamin B1 as you think you are. 

Frustratingly, even if you partake in some basic—even healthy—eating habits, like limiting red meat, drinking coffee with breakfast, or sprinkling cinnamon on oatmeal, you may be limiting the amount of vitamin B1 in your system.

A good vitamin B1 supplement can step in to help you fill the nutritional gaps in your diet. Many people find B1 supplements to be good peace of mind, especially considering they have almost no side effects.17

Supplements provide vitamin B1 in doses beyond what food alone can offer. When it comes to managing period cramps with vitamin B1, supplemental doses may be your best bet. Researchers looking at period pain and vitamin B1 use up to 8333% of the Daily Value of vitamin B1 in their studies. You’d have to eat over eight boxes of fortified breakfast cereal everyday to achieve this dose.34 (But please don’t.)

Why De Lune?

A growing body of evidence points to vitamin B1 as an effective treatment for menstrual cramps. However, vitamin B1 is only one of many nutrients shown to play a role in period pain.

While you could buy supplements of each of these nutrients individually, you don’t have to. We've combined all them in a single bottle of relief. We also added a powerhouse blend of herbs, all of which have been clinically shown to reduce period cramps.

Drop De Lune into a cup of tea when period pain arises, and join our growing community of menstruators who have made peace with their periods.

References:

1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002401.htm

2. Abdollahifard, S., Koshkaki, A. R., & Moazamiyanfar, R. (2014). The effects of vitamin B1 on ameliorating the premenstrual syndrome symptoms. Global journal of health science, 6(6), 144.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4825494/

3. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/thiamin

4. Werbach, M. R. (2004). Nutrients in the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, (256), 128-130.
http://go.galegroup.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE%7CA123709137&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=15254283&p=AONE&sw=w

5. http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/en/thiamine_in_emergencies_eng.pdf

6. Proctor, M., & Farquhar, C. (2006). Diagnosis and management of dysmenorrhoea. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 332(7550), 1134.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1459624/

7. Roberts SC, Hodgkiss C, DiBenedetto A, Lee E. Managing dysmenorrhea in young women. Nurse Pract. 2012;37(7):47-52.
https://journals.lww.com/tnpj/Abstract/2012/07000/Managing_dysmenorrhea_in_young_women.12.aspx

8. Owen, P. R. (1984). Prostaglandin synthetase inhibitors in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea: outcome trials reviewed. American journal of obstetrics & gynecology, 148(1), 96-103.
https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(84)80039-3/abstract

9. Egi, Y., & Kawasaki, T. (2003). THIAMIN | Properties and Determination. Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition,5767-5772.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/sdfe/pdf/download/eid/3-s2.0-B012227055X011895/first-page-pdf

10. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Thiamin-HealthProfessional/

11. http://thiamine.dnr.cornell.edu/Thiamine_biochemistry.html

12. Page, G. L. J., Laight, D., & Cummings, M. H. (2011). Thiamine deficiency in diabetes mellitus and the impact of thiamine replacement on glucose metabolism and vascular disease. International journal of clinical practice, 65(6), 684-690.
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1742-1241.2011.02680.x

13. Zhang, G., Ding, H., Chen, H., Ye, X., Li, H., Lin, X., & Ke, Z. (2012). Thiamine Nutritional Status and Depressive Symptoms Are Inversely Associated among Older Chinese Adults–3. The Journal of nutrition, 143(1), 53-58.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3521461/

14. Lu’o’ng, K. V. Q., & Nguyễn, L. T. H. (2011). Role of thiamine in Alzheimer's disease. American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias®, 26(8), 588-598.
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1533317511432736

15. Gibson, G. E., Hirsch, J. A., Fonzetti, P., Jordan, B. D., Cirio, R. T., & Elder, J. (2016). Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and dementia. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1367(1), 21-30.
https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/nyas.13031

16. Combs, GF Jr. (2008). The Vitamins: Fundamental Aspects in Nutrition and Health (3rd ed.). Ithaca, NY: Elsevier Academic Press.
https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=UEy0DAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=Combs,+GF+Jr.+(2008).+The+Vitamins:+Fundamental+Aspects+in+Nutrition+and+Health+(3rd+ed.).+Ithaca,+NY:+Elsevier+Academic+Press.+&ots=BvAt-wEpw1&sig=zzWW7FAnuRihIHl8DaPofKTBxDk#v=onepage&q&f=false

17. Zafari, M., Aghamohammady, A., & Tofighi, M. (2011). Comparing the effect of vitamin B1 (vit. B1) and ibuberofen on the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. Afr. J. Pharm. Pharmacol, 5(7), 874-878.
http://www.academicjournals.org/app/webroot/article/article1380796129_Zafari.pdf

18. Gokhale, L. B. (1996). Curative treatment of primary (spasmodic) dysmenorrhoea. The Indian journal of medical research, 103, 227-231.
https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/8935744

19. Hosseinlou, A., Alinejad, V., Alinejad, M., & Aghakhani, N. (2014). Effects of Fish Oil Capsules and Vitamin B1 Tablets on Duration and Severity of Dysmenorrhea in Students of High School in Urmia-Iran. Global journal of health science, 6(7), 124.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4796395/

20. Azadi, M. M., & Jenabi, E. (2016). Effect of Vitamine B1 on the Intensity Primary Dysmenorrheal.
https://www.sid.ir/En/Journal/ViewPaper.aspx?ID=533019

21. Nayeban, S., Jafarnejad, F., Nayeban, S., & Sefidgaran, A. (2014). A Comparison of the Effects of Vitamin E and Vitamin B1 on the Severity and Duration of Pain in Primary Dysmenorrhea. Journal of Midwifery and Reproductive Health, 2(2), 143-146.
http://eprints.mums.ac.ir/5505/1/JMRH_Volume%202_Issue%202_Pages%20143-146.pdf

22. Tofighi Niaki, M., Zafari, M., & Aghamohammady, A. (2012). Comparison of the effect of vitamin B1 and acupuncture on treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. ISCA J Biological Sci, 1(1), 62-6.
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/851b/6466748d5b3d1273da9651e787f43fa544ee.pdf

23. Zamani, M., & SOLTAN, B. F. (2001). Evaluation the treatment effect of vitamin B1 in primary dysmenorrhea.
https://www.sid.ir/En/Journal/ViewPaper.aspx?ID=41037

24. Sharma S, Sheehy T, Kolonel LN. Ethnic differences in grains consumption and their contribution to intake of B-vitamins: results of the Multiethnic Cohort Study. Nutr J 2013;12:65.
https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-12-65

25. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/

26. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vitamins/vitamin-b/

27. Fulgoni VL, 3rd, Keast DR, Bailey RL, Dwyer J. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr 2011;141:1847-54.
https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/141/10/1847/4630521

28. Lonsdale, D. (2006). A review of the biochemistry, metabolism and clinical benefits of thiamin (e) and its derivatives. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 3(1), 49-59.
https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2006/349513/abs/

29. Page, G. L. J., Laight, D., & Cummings, M. H. (2011). Thiamine deficiency in diabetes mellitus and the impact of thiamine replacement on glucose metabolism and vascular disease. International journal of clinical practice, 65(6), 684-690.
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1742-1241.2011.02680.x

30. Rice-evans, C. A., Miller, N. J., Bolwell, P. G., Bramley, P. M., & Pridham, J. B. (1995). The relative antioxidant activities of plant-derived polyphenolic flavonoids. Free radical research, 22(4), 375-383.
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/10715769509145649

31. Agabio R. Thiamine administration in alcohol-dependent patients. Alcohol Alcohol 2005;40:155-6.
https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/40/2/155/148571

32. Said HM. Thiamin. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. London and New York: Informa Healthcare; 2010:748-53.
https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/20123334375

33. http://extoxnet.orst.edu/faqs/additive/sulf_tbl.htm

34. https://www.generalmills.com/en/Brands/Cereals/total/brand-product-list

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.