Neuropathy is formed from a disease, inflammation or damage to the peripheral nerves, more specifically to the axon or myelin sheath of the nerve, which connect the central nervous system to the sense organs, muscles, glands and internal organs. This effects electrical transmission, causing a series of symptoms felt throughout the body. Some forms involve only one nerve but more often multiple nerves are affected. There are numerous types of neuropathy, each with a different cause and symptom. For example, some neuropathies are described by their cause like diabetic neuropathy or alcoholic neuropathy. The most common form of neuropathy associated with diabetes mellitus is distal symmetric sensorimotor polyneuropathy, often accompanied by autonomic neuropathy.
What are the Symptoms of Neuropathy?
Symptoms are related to whether the sensory nerve or motor nerve fibers are damaged. The symptoms may be seen over days, weeks or years. Some include numbness and tingling, painful cramps, sensations of cold or pain in the hands and feet, muscle weakness or muscle wasting. The loss of any pain sensation is a serious problem with diabetes, contributing to the high rate of lower limb amputations.
What are the Causes?
The causes of neuropathy are not always clear. Specific causes include: diabetes, b-vitamin deficiency, uremia, lead poisoning, drug poisoning, excess alcohol consumption, leprosy and drug poisoning. Neuropathy can also occur from damage to the blood vessels supplying the nerves from Guillain-Barre syndrome and auto-immune health-issues like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. A British research group found that 50% of unexplained peripheral neuropathy can be blamed on wheat.
Peripheral neuropathy may be acquired or can be inherited and falls into 3 categories:
- Caused by systemic diseases
- Caused by trauma from external agents
- Caused by infections or auto immune health-issues affecting the nerve tissue.
There has been documentation showing a correlation with peripheral neuropathy and the use of Cipro and other fluroquinolone antibiotics in relatively young populations.
Recommendations for Peripheral Neuropathy in diabetes:
- Control the cause through life style changes and strict blood sugar control
- Practice weight managment
- Observe stress management
- Eliminate all possible chemical irritants
- Follow a suggested exercise program
- Take supplementation
- Quite smoking and alcohol consumption
Digestion, inflammation and blood sugar is the main focus for neuropathy because you want to make sure you are absorbing the nutrients you need, and that you are eating to avoid blood sugar spikes. For this reason, we recommend avoiding all wheat, refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, cow dairy (if sensitive) and certain nightshades like tomatoes and eggplant. Include a balanced diet of raw and cooked foods, focus on lots of vegetables, 1-2 servings of fruit, nuts and seeds, avocados, wild fish, beans, brown rice, goat yogurt and kefir, chicken and lamb.
Your meals should be structured with protein, fat and small amounts of carbohydrates (preferably vegetables), and you should not go longer than 3-4 hours without a protein centered meal or snack.
A study from the European Journal of Pharmacology found improved sensory nerve conduction velocity in diabetic rats, especially with vitamin B6. The authors concluded that the positive effects of B vitamins on functional and behavioral health-issues of diabetic rats suggest a potential for use in treating painful diabetic neuropathy.
Omega-3 fatty acids and GLA: Data suggests fish oil may be effective in the prevention of diabetic neuropathy and has been found to improve nerve conduction velocity in rats. In humans, 360mg of GLA daily for 6 months significantly improved symptoms of diabetic neuropathy and increased nerve conduction velocity.1,2
Emerging evidence indicates that receptors for vitamin D exist in the central and peripheral nervous system. Other studies have suggested that vitamin D has powerful nerve growth factor inducing effects and that it plays a role in nerve growth and maintenance. In one review, subjects with a vitamin D level less than or equal to 20ng/mL were five times more likely to have diabetic peripheral neuropathy when compared to patients with a vitamin D level greater than or equal to 30ng/mL.
Helps coat the myelin and sheath of the nerve. Must be Non-GMO soy or sunflower lecithin.
Vitamin C prevents excess excitatory glutamate by producing more GABA, and protects against oxidative stress.
1. Jamal GA, Carmichael H. The effect of gamma-linolenic acid on human diabetic peripheral neuropathy: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Diabet Med. 1990 May; 7(4): 319-23.
2. Horrobin DF. Essential Fatty Acids in the management of impaired nerve function in diabetes. Diabetes. 1997 Sep; 46 Suppl 2; S90-3.