Our brain cells need thiamine to be able to function properly and when our brain has sufficient amounts of thiamine, it is able to produce energy from sugars. Deficiency of this nutrient for what ever reason can lead to the development of Korsakoff syndrome.

Korsakoff syndrome is usually caused by and excessive intake of alcohol and, in most cases, preceded by Wernicke Encephalopathy. A lot of people mistake Wernicke Encephalopathy for Korsakoff syndrome, but in fact they are two very different health problems. They are different disorders that often occur in conjuction with one another and are both caused by a deficiency of thiamine.

Below you will find the common signs, causes, nutritional and natural supplements that could aid in the management of Korsakoff syndrome.



Korsakoff syndrome, often known as Korsakoff psychosis, is a disorder of the brain caused by deficiency of thiamine, most often due to excessive consumption of alcohol.

Korsakoff syndrome can often develop after an episode of Wernicke encephalopathy. Wernicke encephalopathy is a syndrome that destroys the thalamus and hypothalamus in the brain, which are responsible for memory. When these parts are permanently damaged, Korsakoff syndrome develops.

Korsakoff syndrome can be associated with other diseases (such as AIDS) but in most cases is more prevalent among those struggling with alcohol abuse.

Causes of Korsakoff Syndrome

Lack of Thiamine: Korsakoff syndrome is caused by a deficiency of thiamine in the body. The brain needs vitamins to function effectively. In the absence of thiamine, many important parts of the brain can lose functional efficiency. Without proper nutritional supplementation to make up for the lack of thiamine in the body, Korsakoff syndrome can develop.

Excessive intake of alcohol: Alcoholism is a major cause of Korsakoff syndrome. Alcohol hinders proper absorption and storage of vitamin B1, which is a very important nutrient needed by the brain. Researchers found a trend within those struggling with alcohol abuse, in which poor diet can be a factor in disease development. This can lead to poor intake of proper nutrients from the diet and usually means that vitamin supplementation is needed. 

Eating disorders: Eating disorders are a possible cause of Korsakoff syndrome. Inadequate intake of nutrient specific foods can cause the body to be deficient of some essential nutrients, like thiamine. In the long run, these missing foods in the diet can be responsible for a decrease in function within certain areas in the brain, such as those associated with memory.

Gastric surgery: Researchers have found that a large portion of people who undergo gastric bypass surgery often lack the amount of key nutrients in their diet needed to obtain adequate levels for optimum health.

Malnutrition: Improper intake of nutrient dense food for any reason would be another possible cause of Korsakoff syndrome. 

Other possible cause of Korsakoff syndrome include: dieting, fasting, excessive vomiting, kidney dialysis, AIDS, infection and cancers that have spread through the body.

Symptoms of Korsakoff Syndrome

Some of the signs associated with Korsakoff syndrome include:

  • Difficulty learning new information
  • Loss of memory or difficulty with short term memory.
  • Double Vision
  • Loss of interest in activities, indifference
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Abnormal eye movement
  • Difficulty or total loss of muscle coordination
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations

Diagnosis of Korsakoff syndrome

There is no specific laboratory test used to diagnose Korsakoff syndrome.

Its diagnosis can be difficult because the signs and symptoms are similar to other mental disorders. However, experts recommend that check ups in regards to memory and cognitive changes should be carried out on a regular basis. 


Treatment of Korsakoff syndrome is made easier if it is discovered before it moves into the chronic phase.

There are a number of nutritional supplements which if taken on a daily basis will aid recovery and management of this disorder. If left untreated, Korsakoff syndrome can lead to much more serious symptoms and in some cases can result in coma or loss of brain function.

Vitamins: Sufferers of Korsakoff syndrome are always deficient in vitamin B1. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) supplements are essential to help build the thiamine level of the body in addition to consuming foods rich in thiamine.

Vitamin A, B6, and C should be taken to boost the production of serotonin and melatonin.



Since excessive intake of alcohol is the major cause of Korsakoff syndrome, it is necessary to address the problem of alcohol abuse. Addressing this will help control the disorder, as the body will be able to absorb and digest thiamine effectively. Also when the body is provided with adequate thiamine, it will help rebuild damaged tissue and by so doing, Korsakoff syndrome will be properly managed.

Those dealing with Korsakoff syndrome often need much support and love to overcome addiction. In occasions where you are not able to help with their recovery personally, it can be beneficial to seek the help of a family counsellor.


Korsakoff's Syndrome

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