Marina Sampanes Peed
Many of us in the MPN world have experienced:
- read a page and can’t recall what you just read
- forget events, tasks, or activities that you used to remember
- difficulty in thinking clearly
We jokingly call it “chemo brain” and chalk it up to various medications. But what if it’s caused by something else?
According to Catriona Jamieson, MD, PhD, University of California San Diego Cancer Center, it is well-documented that deficiency of thiamine pyrophosphate deficiency (vitamin B-1) causes what we refer to as “chemo brain” or “foggy brain.” Extreme cases of thiamine deficiency can cause Wernicke’s encephalopathy (biochemical lesions on the brain), that affect vision, confusion, and memory.
Causes of thiamine (Vitamin B-1) deficiency
The body doesn’t produce essential vitamins; they must be ingested through eating healthy foods to maintain normal health.
Cancer cells metabolize faster than normal cells and they draw upon the body’s nutrient resources including glucose and micronutrients such as vitamins niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin riboflavin, and thiamine (Vitamin B1).
It’s quite common for patients to forget their nutritional needs when appetite is suppressed due to splenomegaly or certain medications.
Just one of these factors is enough to cause foggy thinking. When experiencing disease progression, the cancer cells are dominating the use critical nutrients.
Weigh the Risks
An association between cancer and low thiamine levels is demonstrated in several reports. The use of supplemental vitamins to modulate cancer rates has been promoted and discounted for years.
Some argue thiamine supplements may contribute to tumor cell survival, proliferation, and chemotherapy resistance. Other studies suggest that very high dose thiamine produces growth inhibition of malignant cells.
What’s the answer?
Like many other elements, there is no single one size fits all answer. Talk with your hematologist about possible thiamine deficiency. If it’s low, proper dosage of Vitamin B-1 might clear the fog. Vitamins are medicine for your body, so It is important to make any changes with the knowledge and guidance of your physician.For more information check out these articles:
The Role of Thiamine in Cancer: Possible Genetic and Cellular Signaling Mechanisms
Linking Vitamin B1 with Cancer Cell Metabolism