If your patients have diabetes, there is a good chance they also experience symptoms of neuropathy.
And they might tell you about a tingling feeling (or loss of feeling) in their feet, legs, and fingers. While in non-diabetic patients this could be attributed to pinched nerves and addressed with adjustments, an individual with diabetes most likely requires supplemental assistance and lifestyle changes. As for supplementation, there are specific ingredients that can stop—and even reverse—the causes and symptoms of neuropathy.
Vitamins as medicine
A study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition examined patients with hyperglycemia, and 14 of 34 patients were found to be deficient in vitamin B6. Those in the group who were given pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P-5-P), the active form of vitamin B6, showed reduced blood glucose levels after only seven days.1
Other B-vitamins, including thiamin, help the body metabolize carbohydrates effectively and turn those calories into energy.2
Benfotiamine, a fat-soluble form of vitamin B1, is over three times more bioavailable than water-soluble thiamine and can reduce pain and the “pins-and-needles” feeling in feet and legs.3,4
In a Serbian clinical study, patients with diabetes were treated with a combination of benfotiamine and vitamin B6 for 45 days. At the end of the study period, more than 85 percent of the patients reported a highly significant reduction in overall pain.4
Additionally, pain due to light pressure, touch, or temperature was reduced from 77 percent of the patients to 22 percent by the conclusion of the study. Pain caused by the loss of muscle fibers was reduced from 90 percent of the patients to just 32 percent. The researchers felt that these results “confirmed that benfotiamine was a good starting choice for the treatment of diabetic polyneuropathy.”4
Methylcobalamin is an active form of vitamin B12 requiring no conversion by the liver. It is critical for nerve structure and signal strength. According to the Annual Review of Nutrition, up to 15 percent of individuals over 60 years of age are B12 deficient.5
Many of your own patients may well fit that demographic.
Research published in the journal Reviews in Neurological Diseases found that L-methylfolate, methyl-cobalamin, and P-5-P improved the epidermal nerve fiber density (ENFD) in nearly 75 percent of the treated patients with type 2 diabetes in just 6 months. In addition, slightly more than 80 percent reported reduced frequency and intensity of the “pins- and-needles” feeling or of the painful sensation (or lack of sensation) brought about by simple touch and contact.6
Riboflavin helps keep reduced glutathione—the body’s natural free radical fighter—active in the eyes. In clinical research, the greatest reduction in cataract risk was seen in those taking a combination of riboflavin and niacin compared with other tested nutrients.7
As seen with deficiencies of other B vitamins, a lack of pantothenic acid can cause numbness and tingling in the feet. The nutrient’s primary role in the body is as Coenzyme A, which is involved in many important functions, including healthy tissue formation, and support for nerve endings and blood vessels. However, high blood sugar can affect levels of Coenzyme A, so pantothenic acid is a valuable nutrient for overcoming diabetes-related deficiencies and treating neuropathy.8,9
A review by researchers at Oregon State University showed that alpha-li- poic acid fights diabetic neuropathy by normalizing the intake of blood sugar by the muscles, reducing the pain and tingling of peripheral nerves. Other laboratory research published in the journal Diabetes found that alpha-lipoic acid reversed markers of diabetic neuropathy and improved peripheral nerve function.10,11
Minerals are important therapeutic ingredients as well. Chromium, known for its metabolic actions, also activates insulin receptors, helping to prevent the build-up of glucose in the bloodstream. In an Indian clinical study, individuals taking chromium reduced their fasting blood glucose level from an average of approximately 200 to 100 in just three months, and brought down their triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol as well.12
Zinc stabilizes the pancreatic storage of insulin and inhibits the oxidative stress that promotes insulin resistance and diabetes. Research published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism reported that reduced zinc levels in the pancreas are associated with diabetes, and proper amounts of this mineral tend to keep insulin levels on an even keel.13,14
The herbal powerhouse boswellia (Boswellia serrata) is one of nature’s most effective anti-inflammatory medicines. It is a specific inhibitor of 5-LOX, making it ideal for treating the pain that accompanies nerve damage.15,16
Reversing the damage
There is a growing awareness of the benefits of nutrients for slowing or reversing disease. For example, in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, researchers concluded vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, zinc, and others could “ameliorate diabetic neuropathy symptoms.”17
The damage done by elevated blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes happens slowly, and isn’t always noticed until serious harm has occurred. But through a sensible exercise regimen, disciplined eating habits, and well-guided use of these nutrient ingredients, the pain, numbness, and tingling of neuropathy can be overcome.
Terry Lemerond is a natural health expert with over 45 years of experience. He has owned health food stores, founded dietary supplement companies, and formulated more than 400 products. A published author, Terry appears on radio, television, and is a frequent guest speaker. He can be contacted through euromedicausa.com.
1 Hou CT, Wu YH, Huang PN, Cheng CH, Huang YC. Higher plasma pyridoxal 5’-phosphate is associated with better blood glucose responses in critically ill surgical patients with inadequate vitamin B-6 status. Clin Nutr. 2011;30(4):478-83.
2 Page GL, Laight D, Cummings MH. Thiamine deficiency in diabetes mellitus and the impact of thiamine replacement on glucose metabolism and vascular disease. Int J Clin Pract. 2011;65(6):684-90.
3 Oh SH, Witek RP, Bae SH, et al. Detection of transketolase in bone marrow-derived insulin-producing cells: benfotiamine enhances insulin synthesis and glucose metabolism. Stem Cells Dev. 2009;18(1):37-46.
4 Nikolić A, Kacar A, Lavrnić D, Basta I, Apostolski S. The effect of benfo- thiamine in the therapy of diabetic polyneuropathy. Srp Arh Celok Lek. 2009;137(11-12):594–600.
5 Baik HW, Russell RM. Vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly. Annu Rev Nutr. 1999;19:357-77.
6 Jacobs AM, Cheng D. Management of diabetic small-fiber neuropathy with combination L-methylfolate, methylcobalamin, and pyridoxal
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10 Shay KP, Moreau RF, Smith EJ, Smith AR, Hagen TM. Alpha-lipoic acid as a dietary supplement: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009;1790(10):1149-60.
11 Kishi Y, Schmelzer JD, Yao JK, et al. Alpha-lipoic acid: effect on glucose uptake, sorbitol pathway, and energy metabolism in experimental diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes. 1999;48(10):2045-51.
12 Sharma S, Agrawal RP, Choudhary M, et al. Beneficial effect of chro- mium supplementation on glucose, HbA(1)C and lipid variables in individuals with newly onset type-2 diabetes. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2011;25(3):149-53.
13 Wijesekara N, Chimienti F, Wheeler MB. Zinc, a regulator of islet function and glucose homeostasis. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2009;11 Suppl 4:202-14.
14 Senapati A. Zinc deficiency and the prolonged accumulation of zinc in wounds. [ITAL]Br J Surg.[/ITAL] 1985;72(7):583-4
15 Ammon HP. Boswellic acids in chronic inflammatory diseases. [ITAL]Planta Med.[/ITAL] 2006;72(12):1100-16.
16 Poeckel D, Tausch L, Altmann A, Induction of central signalling pathways and select functional effects in human platelets by beta-boswellic acid. [ITAL]Br J Pharmacol.[/ITAL] 2005;146(4):514-24
17 Farvid MS, Homayouni F, Amiri Z, Adelmanesh F. Improving neuropathy scores in type 2 diabetic patients using micronutrients supplementation. [ITAL]Diabetes Res Clin Pract.[/ITAL] 2011;93(1):86-94.