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Neuropathy

Diabetes, Joint disorders | May 31, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

Nervous system, diabetes

Neuropathy

Neuropathy is a nerve condition that leads to pain, numbness and tingling in different areas of the body. Diabetes is the leading cause of the condition, but other factors include injury, certain medications and exposure to toxins. There are different kinds of neuropathy and this can result in different treatments for each.

The nervous system explained

Your nervous system consists of two parts. The central nervous system includes your brain and spinal cord and your peripheral nervous system involves nerves which branch out to reach the rest of your body. Messages are transmitted between these two components to regulate a large range of functions such as:

  • Voluntary muscle movement (motor nerves)
  • Involuntary organ activity (autonomic nerves)
  • Perception of stimuli i.e. taste, sound, sight and touch (sensory nerves)

Different kinds of neuropathy

Different types of neuropathy are named according to the body part affected, the cause of nerve damage or the number of nerves affected.

Different kinds of neuropathyFocal or mononeuropathy involves only one nerve, most often in your hand, head, torso or leg. The most common types of focal neuropathy are entrapment syndromes, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or sciatica.

Diabetic neuropathy is a common type of neuropathy. Over time, high blood glucose levels and levels of fats in the blood from diabetes can damage your nerves.

Diabetic neuropathy commonly affects the nerves of the hands and feet but can involve other nerves in different areas.
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Autonomic neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the nerves that control the body’s automatic functions. This can lead to problems with digestion, blood pressure, sex organs, sweat glands, eyes and bladder function. The damage can also lead to hypoglycaemia unawareness.

Peripheral neuropathy affects nerves in outer (peripheral) parts of the body such as the feet, legs and less commonly the hands and arms. This type of neuropathy is very prevalent. About one-third to one-half of people with diabetes have peripheral neuropathy.

Proximal neuropathy affects the muscles of the hips, buttocks or thighs. It is a rare but disabling type of neuropathy that usually only affects one side of the body.

Polyneuropathy affects several nerves at the same time. Most people with neuropathy have polyneuropathy.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of neuropathy depend on what nerves are involved, but they usually include:

  • Tingling or ‘pins and needles’
  • Burning sensation
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Pain

In autonomic neuropathy blood pressure, temperature control, digestion, bladder function and even your sexual response can be affected. Proximal neuropathy can cause pain and weakness in hips and thighs.

What are the causes?

There are many known causes of neuropathy including:

  • Diseases like diabetes, Guillain-Barre syndrome and AIDS
  • Kidney disorders which allow high levels of nerve-damaging toxins to circulate
  • Chemical imbalances due to liver disease
  • Toxins from exposure to heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury and thallium
  • Long term alcohol abuse
  • Chemotherapy and radiation
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Some medications, including anticancer medications, anticonvulsants, antivirals and antibiotics
  • Spinal tumours
  • Pressure on a nerve

Natural therapies to improve nerve health

As there are many different causes of neuropathy and treatment will vary depending on the individual’s circumstances. If you suffer from neuropathy here are some ways in which you can get relief.

Diabetes

Natural therapies to improve nerve healthIn diabetics, or even those with pre-diabetes, tightly controlling blood sugars is a must.
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This can be obtained by adhering to a low glycaemic index diet and exercising regularly.
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Cut out the processed food and replace this with wholegrains, fish, fruit and loads of vegetables.

B vitamins

These essential nutrients are important for a healthy nervous system. A deficiency in B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid) and B12 (cobalamin) are known causes of neuropathy, and correcting the deficiency often improves or eliminates symptoms.

A 2013 study found that adding a supplement containing L-methylfolate 3 mg, pyridoxal 5-phosphate 35 mg, and methylcobalamin 2 mg twice daily to other medications improved symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. At 24 weeks, those receiving the combination therapy had a 26% decrease in pain symptoms compared with a 15% decrease for those on medication alone, with no significant adverse effects. The supplement used in the study contained the bioavailable and metabolically active form of folic acid, pyridoxine and cobalamin.

Alpha lipoic acid

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a potent antioxidant which is beneficial for nerve health. It regenerates endogenous antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and glutathione. In neuropathy, alpha lipoic acid slows its progression and relieves the burning sensation. Doses of 600mg per day appears to be effective.

Gamma Linolenic acid

Classified an as omega-6 nutrient, gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is a fatty acid found in evening primrose oil. It is a constituent of neuronal cell membranes and is believed to decrease neuropathic pain by having some anti-inflammatory effects. Two placebo-controlled trials showed improvement in pain scores and multiple neurophysiologic assessments in patients with diabetes treated with GLA (360-480 mg/day).

In combination with ALA and physical exercise, GLA had a beneficial effect on neuropathic back pain. After 6 weeks significant improvements were noted for paraesthesia (pins and needles, numbness or tingling sensation), stabbing and burning pain and improvement in quality of life.

Capsaicin

Naturally found in chili, capsaicin helps alleviate nerve pain by depleting your body’s natural supply of substance P. It also works by desensitizing sensory receptors in your skin.

Several meta-analyses and systematic reviews have found that topical capsaicin can be very effective, both as an adjunctive treatment and as monotherapy for neuropathic pain.

The concentration used in the studies was 0.075% capsaicin cream, applied 3 to 4 times a day for 6 to 12 weeks. Capsaicin led to an improvement in daily activities and ability to sleep and a reduction in pain as measured with a visual analog scale and physician global evaluation.

Acetyl L-carnitine

Acetyl L-carnitine (ALC) has been studied in patients with neuropathy associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), cancer, and diabetes. Potential mechanisms of action include the correction of a deficiency that may be causing the neuropathy (which sometimes occurs in HIV positive patients or those taking anticonvulsants), a direct antioxidant effect, or an enhanced response to nerve growth factor. Suggested oral doses range from 2000 to 3000 mg/day.

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References

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/neuropathy

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/nerve-damage-diabetic-neuropathies

Onysko M, et al. Targeting neuropathic pain: consider these alternatives. J Fam Pract. 2015 Aug;64(8):470-5

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26485261

Ranieri M, et al. The use of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and rehabilitation in the treatment of back pain: effect on health-related quality of life. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2009 Jul-Sep;22(3 Suppl):45-50

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19887043

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