The reason I decided to write this article is that I’ve had many people question the difference. I’ve even had several people tell me that when they went to their doctor complaining about neuropathy symptoms, the doctor took a blood test and dismissed it as neuropathy because their blood sugars weren’t high.
The term neuropathy has been strongly associated with Diabetes. Diabetes is a major cause of peripheral neuropathy. Current estimates say that 60-70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe neuropathy.
However, it is not the only cause.
Neuropathy is nerve damage. Nerve cells are vulnerable to damage from disease or anything that impairs the body’s ability to turn nutrients into energy, to process waste products, to circulate oxygen or to make the cellular repair.
Diabetes does create the nerve cells vulnerable to damage, but there are many ways in which nerves can get damaged.
What are the different ways that someone will get neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is a result of prolonged elevated levels of blood glucose.
Chemotherapy Neuropathy is caused by damage that is done by the drugs that are attempting to destroy the cancer cells.
Alcoholic neuropathy – Alcohol use creates vitamin deficiencies that can lead to nerve damage.
Medications – certain drugs have possible side effects of nerve damage (neuropathy). The biggest known drug is the anti-cholesterol drugs since it blocks cholesterol which the nerves need to repair themselves. It can create deficiencies that contribute to nerve damage.
Autoimmune Disorders – these are disorders where the body attacks its own cells. If it attacks nerve cells it will create neuropathy.
Bacterial and Viral Infections Viruses can attack nerve cells. Bacterial and viral infections can create autoimmune reactions.
Pressure on a nerve – Pressure constricts the nerve, creates inflammation and can cause damage.
Pressure can be put on a nerve in different ways. The spine being out of alignment, herniated discs, a bone spur from arthritis or bones constricting the nerve (i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome or trauma to the body) as well as a growing tumor can put pressure on a nerve. This pressure constricts the nerve, creates inflammation and can cause damage.
Diseases – Kidney disease creating waste products, connective tissue diseases such as arthritis, lupus, etc. create chronic inflammations that inflame the nerve and create nerve damage. Shingles is a common cause of nerve damage.
Trauma – any physical injury such as falls, car accidents, and sports injuries can damage a nerve. The nerve can be partial, or completely severed, crushed, stretched or compressed. Broken bones can be associated with nerve damage.
Toxins – from ingredients in food such as MSG to cleaning products, paint solvents, etc. etc. Drugs are a form of toxin. The chemicals used are toxic to the body.
Surgery – Nerves can get damaged when the body is cut during surgery. It is a form of trauma.
Vitamin deficiencies – Vitamins E, B1, B6, and niacin are essential to healthy nerve function. Lack of B12 damages the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects the nerves.
What do all these causes have in common?
They damage a nerve.
The body, fortunately, can build healthy cells (actually I remember learning that in Biology 101 in high school and probably earlier in grade school). What does the body need to nourish the cells and build healthy nerves?
The body runs on nutrients – it needs protein, carbohydrates and fats. It needs all the enzymes, vitamins, minerals and co-factors normally found in food. It can then build healthy cells.
Most of the nutrients needed for healthy nerves can be gotten in sufficient amounts with a good diet. However, the two specific vitamins that the body needs a lot of for nerves are B1 and B12. These are harder to come by as B1 is water-soluble and thus washes out of the body too quickly and B12 needs to be properly absorbed which often can be difficult.
Getting supplements that have the right B vitamins is important.
A formula that doesn’t have any herbs or other additives that might interfere with the medications you might be taking is needed.
Herbs, you need to remember, are often like drugs. They can give some temporary relief as long as you keep taking them, but in the case of herbs that relieve nerve damage symptoms, you often have to limit how much you take daily, you can’t keep taking them for long periods of time and they can create side effects.
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