Nutritional Support for Neuropathy

If you deal with the feeling of “pins and needles,” a burning sensation in your feet, legs, and arms, intense stabbing pain, and struggle with blood sugar, you may have peripheral neuropathy. And you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 60 to 70 percent of diabetes patients have neuropathy, and symptoms may not appear until about 10 to 20 years after the diagnosis of diabetes. Sedentary lifestyles, poor diets, and insulin resistance may mean that many people aren’t aware they have diabetes until they have symptoms.

Prescription drugs typically recommended for diabetic neuropathy vary, but all cause their share of significant side effects. They range from antidepressants and anti-seizure medications to pain relievers and anti-nausea medicines.  But none of them get at the core of the problem – repairing delicate blood vessels and nerve endings and helping the body improve some of the pathways involved in metabolizing blood sugar. Fortunately, along with lifestyle choices, specific nutrients can stop – and even reverse – the symptoms and causes of neuropathy.

B Vitamins:

These critical nutrients are also essential for blood sugar metabolism and nerve health. For example, people with diabetes are typically deficient in thiamin, or vitamin B1, much like vitamin B6. Thiamin helps the body metabolize carbohydrates effectively to turn those calories into energy. Without it, not only do sugars not break down as they should (leaving more in the bloodstream), but your chances of oxidative damage and inflammation in the blood vessels increase. Benfotiamine is a fat-soluble form of vitamin B1 (thiamin) that can achieve five times the concentration in the body compared to standard water-based thiamin. Benfotiamine prevents glucose toxicity and brings elevated blood sugar levels back to normal. Benfotiamine has also been clinically proven to reduce pain and complications of diabetic neuropathy, the “pins-and-needles” and “tingling” that people with diabetes feel in their feet and legs.  The active form of vitamin B12, methylcobalamin, is another “must-have” for those with diabetic neuropathy.  Vitamin B12 supports the nerve structures that move signals throughout the body – some networks are threatened by inflammation and damage from elevated blood sugar levels.  The sooner you get this nutrient into your regimen, the better. According to the Annual Review of Nutrition, up to 15 percent of individuals over 60 are B12 deficient.

Alpha lipoic acid:

This nutrient can boost glutathione levels, helping save delicate nerves from oxidative damage.  It fights diabetic neuropathy by normalizing the intake of blood sugar by the muscles and reducing the pain and tingling of peripheral nerves. The best results come from a 1200 mg per day dose of alpha lipoic acid.

Chromium:

This trace mineral helps prevent the build-up of glucose in the bloodstream. If you have just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or have elevated blood sugar levels, getting chromium into your regimen is essential. In a clinical study, individuals taking chromium reduced their fasting blood glucose level from an average of 197 to 103 in just three months.

Zinc:

Zinc promotes tissue and wound healing. It also stabilizes pancreatic insulin storage and inhibits oxidative stress that promotes insulin resistance and diabetes.  Reduced zinc levels in the pancreas are associated with diabetes, and proper amounts of this mineral tend to keep insulin levels at an even keel.

While there are many forms of minerals available as supplements, amino acid chelated forms are easily used by the body, the bonding of a mineral to the amino acid glycine creates a mineral form that passes through the intestinal wall and is incorporated into the bloodstream much more efficiently.

Boswellia (Boswellia serrata):

It is one of nature’s most potent anti-inflammatory medicines. It is a specific inhibitor of 5-LOX, an enzyme that activates inflammation-inducing leukotrienes. One of the most significant difficulties for people with nerve damage from diabetes is the pain and inflammation that goes along with it. The most active and beneficial of the boswellic acids in the extract is AKBA (Acetyl-11-keto-B-boswellic acid).  However, not all boswellia extracts are equally helpful. For example, in unstandardized boswellia products, the AKBA levels can be deficient – sometimes as little as 1 percent. Look for Boswellia standardized to at least 10 percent AKBA to ensure you get the best.

There is a growing awareness of the benefits of nutrients for slowing or reversing disease. In the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, researchers concluded that micronutrients, including vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, and zinc, among others, could “improve diabetic neuropathy symptoms.”

The damage done by elevated blood sugar levels – type 2 diabetes – happens slowly over time. It is not always noticed at first. A sensible diet and exercise must be part of your regimen.

 

Michael K Chase, MS, NTP
Nutrition Science and Dietetics

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Individuals should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The statements made in this informational document have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any product discussed is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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