Is your entire body suffering from stabbing, throbbing or numbness? That even a simple act of walking can become an everyday chore?
There are billions of nerves in your body. These nerves are like branches of tree, spreading out and act as messenger, sending messages to your brain and spinal cord. When everything goes smoothly, the brain gets the info so that you can move your muscles, recognize pain, and keep your internal organs working properly.
However, when peripheral nerves get damaged, things changed: Walking could become challenging, one might experience unrelenting pain and one could end up with a serious injury, for example when touching a hot stove without knowing how hot it can be.
Living with neuropathic pain may lead you to feel that you have lost control of your life. Unremitting neuropathic pain can steal a person’s ability to enjoy life, maintain important relationships and perform well at a job or work at all.
There are many different causes of neuropathy, including diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, infections, and autoimmune disorders.
Nerve damage is common in diabetes
Diabetic nerve pain is one of the most common types of nerve pain. Half of all people with diabetes will develop neuropathy. However, most people with diabetic neuropathy are unaware that they have nerve damage, until it is picked up on routine screening by healthcare providers. Typical symptoms vary from person to person, which may include one or more of the symptoms, numbness, pins and needles, tingling, discomfort, weakness in both feet and spread up to the legs. Neuropathic pain sometimes can be worse at night and can cause sleeping disturbance. These symptoms can lead to major effects on health and wellbeing as:
· Balance problems increase the risk of falls
· Weakness leads to deformities in the feet
· Numbness means damage to the feet may go unnoticed
Take steps toward relieving your nerve pain
Some common treatments involve physical therapy, surgery, and injections for increased nerve pressure. Taking medication such as over-the-counter painkillers, ibuprofen or aspirin are some of the other treatments.
There are also several non-medication treatments to help reduce symptoms and peripheral neuropathy.
Some cases of peripheral neuropathy are related to vitamin deficiencies. For example, vitamin B is essential for your nerve health and a deficiency can lead to significant nerve damage.
Vitamin Bs are useful in treating neuropathy as they support healthy nervous system function. Some of the types of vitamin B that plays a role are Vitamin B-1 (thiamine and benfotiamine), B6 and B12.
Benfotiamine is a relative of thiamine, which is better known as vitamin B1 can reduce pain, inflammation levels and prevent cellular damage. Whilst vitamin B-12 is an important substance in maintaining and regenerating peripheral nerves. It has been shown that Vitamin B-12 could promote nerve regeneration by up-regulating gene transcription, as well as alleviate painful symptoms. Vitamin B6 may help to maintain covering on nerve endings. However, higher amounts (>200mg) can lead to nerve damage and cause symptoms of neuropathy.
A number of studies have supported the potential of vitamin B supplementation could promote nerve repair. And these studies have shown a positive effect on diabetic neuropathy as it decrease pain and improve the condition (1).
2. Alpha lipoic acid
Diabetes has been associated with increased production of reactive oxygen species, which could contribute to defective nerve blood supply and damage on the myelin sheath. Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant that can treat diabetic neuropathy, as it can increase insulin sensitivity for blood glucose regulation, improve nerve function and relieve uncomfortable symptoms in the legs and arms, helping the blood flow and inflammatory processes. Clinical study on diabetic patients administrating alpha-lipoic acid daily for 3 weeks have reduced pain and numbness (2).
The administration of chromium can reverse symptoms of severe neuropathy, nerve conduction abnormalities and hyperglycemia in diabetic patient. Consuming excessive amounts of simple sugars can lead to more chromium to be excreted in the urine, causing Chromium loss. Chromium is an essential trace metal element which is essential in many metabolic processes and in homeostasis. Chromium has been proposed as a therapeutic agent to increase insulin sensitivity and improve lipid metabolism (3).
Diet and lifestyle can help to reduce the symptoms or prevent neuropathy
Neuropathy is a complex symptom and the right treatment varies from person to person. Besides supplementing your body with the right vitamins or minerals, physical activity such as exercise can improve blood flow to your arms and legs, helping a person maintain a healthy weight and prevent some conditions that may cause neuropathy. Exercise also helps in blood glucose management, which can reduce or slow down nerve damage. Some essential oils, such as chamomile and roman lavender can help to increase circulation in the body, as well as relieving pain and boost healing with its anti-inflammatory properties. A simple meditation practice can also help people struggling with neuropathy symptoms by lowering their stress, improving their coping skills, as well as decrease the pain intensity. This is a mind-body approach that provides more control over one’s body condition.
Prevention works much better than treatment. Keeping your blood sugar level within the normal range and supplement your body with the right supplements can help your neuropathy from worsening. However, be sure to consult your healthcare provider prior to participating in a new treatment method.
1. Julian T, Syeed R, Glascow N, Angelopoulou E, Zis P. B12 as a Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathic Pain: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2020 Jul 25;12(8):2221. doi: 10.3390/nu12082221. PMID: 32722436; PMCID: PMC7468922.
2. Vallianou N, Evangelopoulos A, Koutalas P. Alpha-lipoic Acid and diabetic neuropathy. Rev Diabet Stud. 2009 Winter;6(4):230-6. doi: 10.1900/RDS.2009.6.230. Epub 2009 Dec 30. PMID: 20043035; PMCID: PMC2836194.
3. Jeejeebhoy KN, Chu RC, Marliss EB, Greenberg GR, Bruce-Robertson A. Chromium deficiency, glucose intolerance, and neuropathy reversed by chromium supplementation, in a patient receiving long-term total parenteral nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr. 1977 Apr;30(4):531-8. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/30.4.531. PMID: 192066.