Terry is happy to provide his opinion on diet and nutrition, supplements and lifestyle choices. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the advice of your physician and is not to be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you have any concerns please contact your physician directly.
Q. Hello Terry, “I have been having problems recently with my feet. They feel like they are “falling asleep” more often. I went to see my doctor – he said that I have peripheral neuropathy and that my diabetes caused it (I have had type 2 diabetes for about 10 years). What is peripheral neuropathy? Is there anything I can take to help? Thanks.” — Kathy G., Cleveland, OH
A. Dear Kathy, Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage in the peripheral nervous system, a vast network of nerves that transmit information from the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) to every other part of the body. Like static on a telephone line, peripheral neuropathy distorts and sometimes interrupts messages between the brain and the rest of the body. It leads to numbness, loss of sensation, and sometimes pain in your feet, legs, or hands.
According to the National Institutes of Health, diabetes is the leading cause of peripheral neuropathy. In fact, about 60-70% of all people with diabetes will eventually develop peripheral neuropathy. However, don’t despair – there is hope. Studies have shown that several nutrients play a role in improving neuropathy and in some cases, even reversing its course. I believe you would benefit greatly by taking a blend of these nutrients, which include B vitamins, biotin, alpha lipoic acid, chromium, zinc, and boswellia. However, I do encourage you to talk with your physician about the addition of dietary supplements to your daily regimen.
Levels of essential B vitamins can often be deficient in individuals with diabetes; therefore, it is important to make sure you are getting optimal levels. B vitamins help nerves function better, delay damage to nerves, and reduce the frequency and intensity of symptoms. B vitamins can also help control the elevated blood glucose levels that threaten nerves in the first place. Make sure you look for a formula that features vitamins B6 and B12, folate, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid in their active forms. B vitamins in their active form are already in the form our body uses, so they don’t need to be converted by the liver the way other forms of B vitamins do. You absorb them – they go to work – plain and simple.
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can boost levels of glutathione, one of body’s natural antioxidants, which helps protect delicate nerves from oxidative damage. Current research shows that ALA also fights neuropathy by helping normalize the intake of blood sugar by the muscles, as well as reducing the pain and tingling symptoms.
Research suggests that biotin plays a role in the creation and release of insulin, which could improve blood sugar control. There are also reports that biotin reduces the symptoms of neuropathy, though this may take a couple months before results are seen.
Essential minerals chromium and zinc also play a key role in improving neuropathy. Studies have shown that chromium improves how the body handles blood sugar and insulin, while zinc is extremely effective as an antioxidant and promotes tissue and wound healing. While they can be very effective, minerals like zinc and chromium are often difficult for the body to absorb. I recommend using a formula that features minerals in the form of amino acid chelates. A “chelate” is a bond between a mineral (often called “inorganic”) and a molecule structure, called a “ligand” that helps the body absorb the mineral during digestion. One amino acid chelate form in particular – glycine – makes an excellent molecule to help shepherd minerals through the intestinal wall. It is so small that it can be transported directly into the cells of the body, so it can get to work right away.
One of the biggest difficulties for people with nerve damage is the pain and inflammation that goes along with it. Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) extract is a traditional botanical that does an excellent job relieving pain and inflammation. However, not all boswellia extracts are the same, so you have to select carefully. It’s important to find a boswellia extract that has filtered out the majority of beta-boswellic acid, at least down to 5% or less. Unlike most boswellic acids, beta-boswellic acid is actually pro-inflammatory. Removing it greatly enhances the potency of the boswellia extract. You also want a boswellia extract that includes at least 10% or more of acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid (AKBA). AKBA is the most active component of boswellia and helps to reduce damaging inflammation and the pain that it creates.
So, regardless of whether you have just started to notice symptoms or you have suffered with this problem for a long time, this nutrient combo will help you get back on your feet again.
Terry . . . Naturally