What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy accompanied by nerve damage is experienced by approximately 20 million people in the U.S.
PN is a condition that varies in severity from individual to individual, depending on health status. Peripheral neuropathy is any condition affecting normal functionality of nerves in the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is composed of the network of nerves that connects the central nervous system – brain and spinal cord – to the rest of the body.Chronic prickling, numbness or cold sensation in your extremities (feet and hands), which can spread to arms and legs.
What causes peripheral neuropathy?
Although not diabetics develop peripheral neuropathy, many do exhibit signs of PN. It is estimated that 60 percent to 80 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes experience some type of neuropathy symptoms. Left untreated, PN can become acute enough to cause debilitation and symptoms including digestive abnormalities, acute pain, cardiac complications and fatality if allowed to progress to a systemic situation involving multiple organ systems.
- Auto-immune disease such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis
- Tumors such as of the spinal cord
- Infections such as HIV, leprosy, varicella-zoster (virus causing chicken pox and shingles), herpes simplex, West Nile or cytomegalovirus
- Toxicity in the body
- Substance abuse such as alcohol
- Cumulative exposure to frequencies such as radiation
- Kidney or liver disorders
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Certain types of rare, degenerative conditions – paraneoplastic syndromes – that can originate as an immune response to cancer, and can indirectly trigger widespread damage to nerves.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy
Although this not a conclusive list of symptoms and not a guaranteed confirmation of PN diagnosis, these are some signs experienced by those experiencing peripheral neuropathy:
- Muscle weakness
- Cramps, pain and / or tingling
- Changes in touch sensation or inability to feel movement or vibration
- Inability to coordinate movements such as tying shoes, buttoning clothing, holding a pencil and writing, etc.
- Twitching of muscles
- Hypoglycemia (lowered blood sugar) including sweating, shakiness and rapid heartbeat (palpitations)
- Inability to feel pain or change in temperature
- Sleep disturbance or disruption
- Interruptions in or difficulty in breathing
- Autonomic nerve damage which can cause the following: excess sweating, heat sensitivity / intolerance, disturbance in blood pressure which affects ability to expand and contract small blood vessels
- Digestive symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea / constipation, stomach bloating, appetite loss
- Damage to kidneys and nerves in bladder which can lead to increased frequency in urination
Sexual dysfunction – erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, decreased libido / interest
- Rarely, some individuals experience challenges eating or swallowing when esophageal nerves become affected.
Pharmaceutical treatment for peripheral neuropathy
Doctors may prescribe medications which can cause side-effects, and include anti-seizure and anti-depressant drugs. Side effects may include the following:
- Uncontrollable sleepiness
- Weight loss or gain
- Liver complications including failure
Although medications may manage peripheral neuropathy, they do not target and resolve the root cause of this and many health disorders. Identifying the culprit of disease can create a successful outcome and healing for the condition under consideration.
The following information is intended to address underlying causes of peripheral neuropathy, which is typically a secondary condition that arises because of a primary health issue such as diabetes. Dietary and lifestyle habits have marked impact on the ability of our bodies to recover and heal from a variety of illnesses and disease.
Dietary habits to avoid complications that can lead to diabetes, auto-immune disease, gastrointestinal disorders and others that may lead to peripheral neuropathy:
- Avoid sugar and processed carbohydrate food products
- Avoid processed and packaged foods
- Consume real, organic, nutrient-dense foods including grassfed and grass-finished meats, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, pasture-raised dairy foods that are not pasteurized nor homogenized (raw), organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.
- Consume fermented, probiotic-rich foods including sauerkraut, pickles and other cultured vegetables, sour cream, kefir, yogurt made from whole, organic, raw milk and without added ingredients, preservatives, fillers and flavorings/colorings.
- Manage blood sugar balance by eating protein and traditional fats every few hours to keep insulin levels normal
- Reduce or eliminate grain consumption – grain consumption can contribute to chronic health issues if not traditionally-prepared and organically sourced due to their natural phytic acid content which leaches minerals from bones and can cause 1) depletion of these stores in the body, 2) glyphosate residue from herbicides such as Roundup which have been shown to contribute to digestive and other health conditions, and 3) the presence of increased gluten and gliadin content (proteins) found in wheat, rye, barely and some other grain foods. Consumption of these foods lead to digestive disorders and auto-immune conditions because of hybridization practices and alterations in traditional farming methods during the modern, industrial era.
Supplements that may be helpful in treating peripheral neuropathy
- Vitamin E – potent antioxidant to reduce free radicals and oxidative stress. Recommended, Unique Vitamin E.
- B Vitamin complex – B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), B12 (cobalamins)
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid – especially beneficial in conditions such as diabetic neuropathy
- Glutamine – Amino acid that provides neuroprotective support
- Glutathione – Tripeptide that allows the body to detoxify from harmful substances and prevent their storage in tissues and cells.
- Elemental magnesium – beneficial for cramping and works with calcium. Recommended: 12foru magnesium spray (topical and for use in capsules). Also, magnesium and Dead Sea salt baths, 2-3 times weekly or daily if needed. Salts are available at most health food stores. See Elemental calcium below for combination supplement.
- Elemental calcium – leafy green vegetables, pastured raw dairy foods (sour cream, kefir, yogurt, cream cheese, and raw milk) (see Elemental magnesium above), recommended: Pure Synergy.
- N-Acetylcysteine – potent antioxidant, study shows inhibition of diabetic neuropathy and protection against the condition caused by chemotherapy.
- Omega 3 essential fatty acids – cold water, wild-caught fish (salmon), cod liver oil, grassfed and finished meats, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, pastured, raw dairy foods
Studies reveal reduction in demyelination of nerves, restore peripheral nerve function, and neuropathic pain. In demyelination, the myelin sheath of neurons becomes damaged.
The following non-drug treatments may be beneficial to prevent and treat peripheral neuropathy, depending on location / severity of the condition:
- Spinal manipulation / chiropractic care
- Massage or energy work / manipulation
- Orthopedic shoes to alleviate gait disturbance and assist in prevention of foot injury.
- Splints for carpal tunnel syndrome to assist in positioning the wrist to allow healing of compressed nerves and relieve pressure
- Those with severe muscle weakness may experience improvement with tendon transfers or bone fusions to hold their limbs in better position, or to relieve nerve compression.
- Herbal treatments
- Cognitive behavioral or other psychotherapy modalities to assist in dealing with neuropathic pain.
- Gentle, regular exercise and movement, such as walking, stretching; avoid sedentary positions (sitting or standing) or any positions that require you to be in one place for a long period of time and to allow movement and circulation. Regular exercise is effective at maintaining normal levels of insulin production and lowering blood glucose levels.
- Physical therapy to increase muscle strength and mobility
Please consult with a qualified health care practitioner before starting any type of regimen to treat this or other chronic health care condition.