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Written by Natalie Olsen, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-EP
Natural Treatment for Neuropathy: Why They’re Important
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition resulting from damage to the nerves. It affects the signaling from the central nervous system to the rest of the body, like the hands and feet. There are many natural treatments for neuropathy that may help decrease pain, numbness, weakness, and in some cases involuntary twitching, that neuropathy can cause.
Read on to learn more about natural treatment for neuropathy and how they work.
Natural Treatment for Neuropathy: How They Work
Getting daily movement can be a great way to improve symptoms of neuropathy. Movement increases oxygen and blood flow to the cells and tissues. It can also decrease blood sugar levels over time, which can have a positive impact on diabetic neuropathy. Routine exercise both preserves and promotes healthy function of the peripheral nerves that are affected in neuropathy.
Therefore, aim to get some daily movement as a natural treatment for neuropathy and get the following benefits:
- improvements in nerve function
- reductions in neuropathic pain and numbness
- improvements in functional mobility
2. Vitamin B12
Those who are not getting enough B12 are at higher risk for neuropathy. B12 is essential for the optimal functioning of the central nervous system. In addition, certain medications, like Metformin and proton pump inhibitors, may deplete levels of B12 and are linked to similar symptoms as neuropathy. Ensure you have enough B12 in your diet or use a supplement if necessary.
Vitamin B12 rich foods include fish, meat, poultry, fortified cereals, and dairy products.
3. Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid (⍺-lipoic acid) is an antioxidant made in the body. It is helpful for killing free radicals which can cause damage to the nerves.
For those experiencing diabetic neuropathy, it may decrease associated symptoms. One high quality trial showed taking 600 mg of Alpha lipoic acid twice a day for 6 months resulted in significant improvements in symptoms from neuropathy.
4. Keep Blood Sugar Balanced
Imbalanced blood sugar, which can result in diabetes, may lead to diabetic neuropathy. Keeping your day-to-day blood sugar balanced can be helpful for decreasing risk of neuropathy that comes with diabetes. To keep blood sugar balanced, focus on the following:
- Include enough fiber daily. Aim for 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men each day. Focus on high fiber foods like legumes, whole grains, fruits, and veggies.
- Limit ADDED sugar to 24 grams for women and 36 grams for men daily. Aim to eat whole fruits instead of candies, cookies, sodas, and other sweets with high added sugar.
- Eat regularly. Avoid skipping meals which could lead to overeating and cravings later, and negatively affect blood sugar balance.
- Focus on whole foods while limiting processed, refined foods.
Acupuncture may be a good natural treatment for neuropathy that is worth a try. It is typically done by inserting needles at very precise acupuncture points on the body and has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine to promote natural healing and improve functioning.
Many studies show potential benefits of acupuncture on improving neuropathy as it may improve nerve conduction in both sensory and motor nerves.
6. Gluten Elimination
Gluten intolerance and sensitivity is a potential root cause of neuropathy in some people. This is called gluten neuropathy. If you experience neuropathy and suspect you have a gluten intolerance, it may be beneficial to do a trial elimination of gluten to see if it helps improve symptoms. According to The American Academy of Neurology, a strict gluten-free diet may protect against nerve pain in those who have gluten sensitivities.
To avoid gluten, eliminate foods and drinks that contain wheat, barley, and rye. Also be mindful of hidden sources of gluten found in certain sauces like soy, condiments, and dressings. Read labels and look for foods that say “gluten free” to make it easier to identify.
7. Vitamin D
Vitamin D has a neuroprotective effect, so it is no surprise it may be beneficial for those with neuropathy. Studies have shown vitamin D deficiency is associated with neuropathy in those with diabetes as it is linked to high blood sugar, inflammation, and increased pain sensitization.
The best source of Vitamin D is from the sun, although there are small amounts found in certain foods like fatty fish, mushrooms, and fortified cereals and milk. Vitamin D levels can be assessed with a blood draw. If you have a deficiency, it is best to supplement.
8. Essential Oils
Although there is not extensive evidence on essential oils and neuropathy, some studies have shown benefits.
One study used massage oil of equal parts lavender, rosemary, geranium, and eucalyptus diluted to 5% in coconut oil in diabetic patients with neuropathic pain. Significant improvements in pain and improvement in quality-of-life scores were seen after using the oil for a total of 30 minutes, 3 days per week for 4 weeks. A similar study was done with 10% lavender oil in sunflower oil for one month and noted a decrease in neuropathic pain.
Using essential oils are safe and may be beneficial. It is best to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil like coconut or sunflower oil and obtain them through a reputable source.
Neuropathy can occur for a variety of reasons, and results in damage to the peripheral nerves which can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and twitching.
There are many researched natural remedies that can be beneficial to try if you are experiencing neuropathy and the unpleasant symptoms that come with it. Improving your vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels, taking alpha-lipoic acid, getting daily movement, eliminating gluten, balancing day-to-day blood sugar, trying acupuncture, and using essential oils are some of the safe and effective natural remedies you can try.
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