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Did you know that – according to some recent studies – as many as 40% of the world’s population isn’t getting enough vitamin B12? You may be one of them. In fact – this important vitamin plays a host of different roles for your body, especially for your nerves.
Watch the video below to find out why vitamin B12 is so important, why you might not be getting enough of it and what you can do to fix it. Then jump down to our analysis below for a more in depth look at vitamin B12 deficiency and its connection to neuropathy.
Why so rampant?
As Dr. John Douillard mentions, there are many factors that can affect your body’s absorption and storage of vitamin B12. The vitamin already has inherently poor absorption rates, but the following factors can make it even harder for your body to get B12:
- Diet (plant-based diets are especially lacking in B12)
- Weak or poor digestion
- Certain medications (i.e. some diabetes medications, acid-reducing drugs and more)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Conditions that affect your small intestine (i.e. Crohn’s disease or celiac disease)
- Immune system disorders
Common problems associated with a B12 deficiency
One of the most common symptoms of a deficiency of vitamin B12 is fatigue and weakness. Other problems that can be caused by not getting enough vitamin B12 include:
- Shortness of breath
- Cognitive problems including memory loss
- Mood changes or depression
- Nerve related problems including numbness and tingling
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty walking
- Constipation, diarrhea or gas
- Loss of appetite
Vitamin B12 Deficiency & Neuropathy – Is there a connection?
You may have noticed that nerve related problems like numbness and tingling can be one of the symptoms of B12 deficiency. So, is there a connection between low levels of vitamin B12 and neuropathy? The answer is yes – vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to neuropathy.
One of B12’s primary functions is to build up, repair and maintain the layer of protective fat around your nerves (known as the myelin sheath). If you’re not getting enough vitamin B12, over time the myelin sheath becomes weakened, damaged and even destroyed – leaving the nerves vulnerable.
So even if your neuropathy wasn’t caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough B12 to give your nerves their best fighting chance at slowing or even stopping nerve damage before it spreads.
Tips for getting enough vitamin B12
With vitamin B12’s inherently poor absorption rates, it’s important to make sure you’re doing all you can to get enough of this nerve boosting vitamin. As Dr. Douillard mentions, improving your digestion is a great place to start. So how can you improve your digestive health? Here are a few tips:
- Eat a high-fiber diet
- Take probiotics
- Limit high fat foods
- Eat more lean meats
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat on a schedule
- Eat slower
- Exercise regularly (to improve blood flow)
Besides improving digestion to get better absorption of B12, you can also take vitamin B12 supplements that have better absorption rates. Most vitamin B12 supplements use a cheap, synthetic version of B12 known as Cyanocobalamin. While it may be inexpensive to buy, it is largely ineffective since very little of this form of B12 will actually make it into your bloodstream. The more effective form of B12, known as methylcobalamin – has significantly higher absorption rates and has even been shown to regenerate damaged nerves when taken in high doses.
Whether a vitamin B12 deficiency played a role in your neuropathy or not – it’s critical that you do everything you can to make sure you’re getting enough B12 and that your digestive health is in the best shape possible to maximize your body’s absorption of it. Doing so will give your damaged nerves their best chance at slowing the spread of your neuropathy and repairing the damage that has already been done.
Are you taking any prescription drugs? If so, you’re far from alone. In fact – more Americans are taking prescription drugs than ever before. According to the most recent statistics, a staggering 60% of Americans ages 20 or older are taking at least one prescription drug. That means 3 out of every 5 adults have a prescription.
While prescription drugs can offer new treatment and relief from different ailments, it is important to know the risks involved. The side effects can be serious – and sometimes even permanent. Among the various side effects associated with prescription drugs, nerve damage is one that can become irreversible if not caught early enough.
We’ve encountered thousands of patients whose neuropathy was caused by the prescription drug they were taking. More often than not, they didn’t even know what neuropathy or nerve damage was (let alone that they were at risk of it) while taking the drugs.
With that in mind, we decided to create a simple to read, downloadable & printable guide to prescriptions that have been shown to cause neuropathy. Our team has spent hours researching every available data source and have compiled what we believe to be the most complete guide to drugs that can cause neuropathy available today. Click the download button below to get your free copy of the guide.
Keep it somewhere on your computer or print it off and stick it in the medicine cabinet. Check your prescriptions against this list and consult with your doctor if you have any concerns. Of course, these prescriptions won’t always cause nerve damage, but if you’re taking any of them and have noticed an increased in neuropathy-related symptoms (i.e. numbness, tingling, pain) – consult your doctor immediately.
If you’re anything like me – you’ve spent countless hours researching neuropathy and looking for the best medicines and treatments available. You know all of the prescription medications on the market for nerve pain – and you’ve probably even tried a lot of them.
Sometimes I get so caught up in searching for the latest remedies or nerve boosting medicines that I overlook the one that’s hiding in plain sight: food. As the quote above states, food can be a powerful form of medicine – even for something like neuropathy.
Your nerves are under constant threat. Whether it be oxidative stress that damages and kills nerve cells or persistent wearing down of nerves from excessive amounts of unhealthy foods like sugar, there are a variety of things that can weaken and kill your nerves. To protect against these threats – or to heal and rebuild in the event that damage has already occurred – your body needs certain nerve-boosting vitamins and nutrients.
These include things like b-complex vitamins (especially B12), Vitamin D, Magnesium, Zinc, Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and more. So – what are some of the best foods for boosting the health of your nerves? Here’s a list of 40 nerve-boosting snacks and foods to add to your grocery list:
Seeds & Nuts
When eaten in moderation, seeds and nuts make great snack foods and can deliver important vitamins and nutrients to your nerves. WebMD even describes nuts as “one of the most balanced foods on the planet”! They are often a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin B12. In addition to their nerve-boosting benefits, they have been shown to help lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar and even promote weight loss! Here are 10 types of seeds & nuts you should be snacking on everyday:
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Hemp Seeds
Beans & Grains
Need a healthy side dish for dinner? Certain beans and grains can provide a real boost to your nerves by fueling them with essential b-complex vitamins, magnesium, zinc and more. Here are the 8 best beans and grains for your nerves:
- Black beans
- Navy beans
- Garbanzo beans
- Pinto beans
- Red kidney beans
Dark, leafy greens can be miracle workers when it comes to nerve pain. In fact, growing research shows that plant-based diets can stop and even reverse the effects of diabetic neuropathy. So, next time you want a quick but healthy meal, reach for one of these nerve-healing vegetables:
- Green Peas
Herbs & Spices
Natural herbs and spices are a great way to increase the flavor of almost any meal – and they can even help reduce nerve pain and deliver important nutrients to your nerves. Try working these herbs and spices into your next meal:
- Fresh Basil
When it comes to healthy nerves – vitamin B12 is king. This important vitamin helps build up and repair the myelin sheath – a protective layer of fat around your nerves. A strong myelin sheath means stronger, more resilient nerves. So what’s a good food source of this important vitamin? Fish is hands down one of the best sources of B12.
Not only that – it’s also rich in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce nerve pain and inflammation. So whether you catch them with your own reel or pick them up at the grocery store, make sure to include some of these as a regular part of your diet:
Meat can be a great source of vitamin B6, one of the b-complex vitamins that is critical for optimal nerve health. Do your nerves a favor and cook up your favorite recipe with one of these staple meat products in your next meal:
Did you know there are compounds known as free radicals roaming around inside your body right now? Now, these free radicals aren’t necessarily bad – but if left unchecked, they can harm or even kill cells – leading to a variety of negative health outcomes and chronic conditions. Enter berries! Berries are a rich source of antioxidants, which seek out and neutralize free radicals. So whether you eat them as a snack or as a side in a meal – make sure you’re eating these antioxidant-rich berries often!
Want to start each day out with a little boost to your nerves? Make one of these staple breakfast foods a regular part of your breakfast routine:
- Fortified Cereal
Water does a body good – and that includes your nerves. Keeping yourself hydrated helps regulate body temperature, improve circulation, reduce muscle spasms (which can pull on nerves and trigger intense nerve pain) as well as reduce inflammation!
How much bad information or advice regarding neuropathy have you gotten since your diagnosis? Maybe you were told about some secret, cure-all drink mix whose only “cure” was to cure you of your desire to ever drink it again. Or maybe you were simply given inaccurate information from a friend, doctor or even fellow neuropathy sufferer. At some point, everyone with neuropathy will be given some advice or information that they will later find to be erroneous.
To help you avoid some of the most common pieces of bad information or advice, we’ve put together a list of some of the worst neuropathy advice we’ve heard over the years. Have you fallen victim to any of these?
#1 – Don’t worry about the pain, numbness or tingling – it’s just a sign of aging
While some may experience pain, numbness or tingling with aging – that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. In fact – many elderly adults live an entire lifetime without experiencing nerve damage related symptoms as a result of aging. If you experience any sensations of pain, tingling or numbness on the skin you should visit your doctor as soon as possible.
#2 – There’s no cure – so don’t even bother trying to treat it
Go onto just about any online neuropathy forum and you’ll be sure to see a few commenters saying that there is no cure for neuropathy and it’s a waste of time and money to seek treatment. While the frustration is understandable, these types of comment are misleading. Neuropathy is both treatable and in some cases – even reversible. Not everyone will have the same results – but you should never abandon hope completely.
There are ways to mitigate the pain to help make life more manageable. And – if you have certain forms of neuropathy such as diabetic neuropathy, aggressive treatment and lifestyle choices (i.e. managing blood sugar) can actually stop and reverse the damage. Bottom line – just because certain treatments haven’t worked for others doesn’t mean you can’t experience positive results.
#3 – All forms of neuropathy are the same and should be treated the same way
There are both different causes of neuropathy and different types of neuropathy – and choosing the most effective treatment will depend largely on both of those factors. The most common causes of neuropathy include:
- Autoimmune diseases (i.e. lupus)
- Exposure to toxins
- Inherited diseases (i.e. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease)
- Physical trauma or pressure on nerve
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
The symptoms of your neuropathy will depend on the type of nerve(s) damaged. The three types of peripheral nerves are:
Sensory: Damage to sensory nerves often causes pain, tingling and numbness.
Motor: Damage to motor nerves can lead to muscle weakness, cramps and difficulty with motor functions such as walking.
Autonomic: Damage to autonomic nerves often results in dizziness, excessive sweating, diarrhea or constipation, sexual dysfunction and more.
It is possible to experience symptoms from one, two or even all three types of nerves. Understanding that the symptoms of neuropathy extend far beyond the pain, tingling and numbness most often associated with it can help you catch it earlier and get the best treatment started.
#4 – Only people with diabetes get neuropathy
While it’s true that as many as 70% or more of diabetes patients will develop neuropathy – they are far from the only ones who experience neuropathy. As we’ve already seen, there are variety of things can contribute to or cause neuropathy. From vitamin deficiencies to medications, there are a lot of causes of neuropathy completely unrelated to diabetes.
#5 – Nerves do not regenerate
You may have been told that once a nerve is damaged, the damage is done and there is no reversing it. While some damaged nerves may never completely recover, it is possible for nerves to regenerate and repair themselves. In fact, in a study of the effects of ultra-high doses of vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) on patients with neuropathy, researchers discovered that the higher doses promoted nerve regeneration. Vitamin B12 helps by repairing and rebuilding the myelin sheath – a protective coating around your nerves.
Besides vitamin B12, there are a number of things you can do to boost the your nerve health. From eating right to taking supplements to doing low-impact exercises, these can all boost circulation and provide your nerves with the essential vitamins and nutrients they need to regenerate and stay healthy.
#6 – If you only have numbness or tingling it might go away – so don’t waste your money on seeing a doctor unless it gets worse
One of the worst things you can do is ignore your neuropathy or put off seeking treatment until things get worse. Many people feel they can tolerate mild numbness or tingling and put off going to the doctor. Others hesitate going in because they don’t want to waste time or money seeing a doctor for seemingly small or mild discomfort. However, ignoring your symptoms could cost you. Left untreated, your neuropathy may spread to other areas and the symptoms may intensify – ultimately leading to intense pain. The financial costs can also be greater the longer you wait as more aggressive treatments and more frequent visits to a doctor or specialist may be necessary.
#7 – Since your symptoms aren’t in the hands or feet – it’s probably not neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy most commonly affects the hands or feet. However – that doesn’t mean the symptoms are exclusive to those body parts. In fact, as we discussed earlier – damage to motor or autonomic nerves can lead to symptoms completely unrelated to the hands and feet. If you experience any lasting symptoms like pain, numbness or tingling on any part of the body – you should visit your doctor as soon as possible to discuss and evaluate the problem.
#8 – Prescription medications will cure your neuropathy
For some people, prescription medications can have a wonderful effect on managing their nerve pain. However, they should not be confused as a cure or even a treatment for neuropathy. The medications prescribed to neuropathy patients are designed to mask the symptoms – allowing the patients to live a more normal life – but they do not provide a long-term cure or fix. Their effects are temporary and require the patient to continue taking them indefinitely in order to experience results.
While you may find prescription medications to be beneficial, it is important not to consider them as your sole treatment. Rather, use them to manage the pain (if necessary) and discuss with your doctor or neurologist what treatments or lifestyle changes can help target the nerve damage itself and provide lasting relief.
#9 – Don’t take supplements for nerve pain
Maybe you’ve been told not to waste money on vitamin or nutritional supplements designed to relieve nerve pain. The truth is, some supplements can provide both effective and lasting relief. The key is to know which ingredients to look for. Some of the key vitamins, herbs and ingredients we recommend you look for are:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin D
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10)
- Feverfew extract
- Oat Straw extract
- Passionflower extract
- Skullcap extract
#10 – Exercise will make your neuropathy worse
Last but not least – maybe you’ve been told to avoid exercise because it may make your neuropathy worse. While it’s true that some forms of exercise can be difficult – if not impossible – because of the pain you experience while doing them, it is rare that gentle, low impact exercises will make your neuropathy worse. On the contrary, study after study has shown that simple exercises like walking, riding stationary bike or swimming have a positive effect and even reduce neuropathic pain.
In this age of information overload – we’re bound to encounter bad advice or misinformation at some point. When it comes to advice and information about something as serious as painful neuropathy, it’s important to be able to recognize the good from the bad. What bad advice or information for neuropathy have you been given at some point only to discover the truth later? Share your stories below or on our Facebook Page!
If you suffer from neuropathy – there’s a good chance you’ve heard of or even been prescribed the drug Gabapentin to treat your nerve pain. Commonly known by its brand name Neurontin – the drug has been used for a number of off-label uses. In the early 2000’s, sales of gabapentin skyrocketed, reaching $2.3 billion in annual sales.
Despite these record sales, however, the parent company Pfizer was ordered to pay $430 million in fines from a 2004 settlement involving charges that it illegally marketed the drug for non-approved uses.
So – what if you’re taking or considering taking the drug now? It is still on the market and doctors often prescribe it for neuropathy – so chances are it’ll cross your path at some point. Lets take a deeper look at 6 things you need to know about gabapentin before taking it:
#1 – Originally Created to Treat Seizures
Gabapentin was developed in 1993 to prevent and control seizures. It falls into a class of drugs known as anticonvulsants – or drugs used to treat epileptic seizures. It has also been approved by the FDA to relieve nerve pain from shingles.
#2 – Evidence shows it’s largely ineffective for neuropathy
Only 14% of patients taking gabapentin for chronic neuropathic pain report meaningful relief. In a recent study by an independent organization looking at the effectiveness of gabapentin and other drugs for treatment of nerve pain, as few as one in ten patients experienced a reduction in pain.
#3 – Fatigue and weight gain are common
Two of the most common side effects of gabapentin are fatigue and weight gain. Many report excessive sleepiness and difficulty functioning while taking gabapentin. Significant weight gain has also been reported among some taking the drug – although the risk is generally low (only about 3% report significant weight gain).
A study by the University of Miami Department of Neurology found that weight gain is more common among high dose users. In their study of 28 patients taking over 3000 mg/day, 10 patients experienced weight gain of 10% of their baseline weight. 15 patients gained 5-10%, 16 experienced no change and 3 patients actually experienced weight loss of between 5-10% of their baseline weight.
#4 – Depression, clumsiness and delusions have also been reported
Jump onto any message board discussing gabapentin and you’re likely to find a number of complaints from users saying it felt like their brains had turned to jello, that they had difficulty functioning and that they experienced varying levels of depression. For many, these side effects were severe enough that they discontinued use of the drug.
#5 – May cause seizures when you stop taking it
If you decide to stop taking gabapentin, one potential withdrawal symptom to be aware of is seizures. Because it was designed to prevent or control seizures, in some cases the discontinued use of it may actually cause seizures. While the risk is low, talk to your doctor before discontinuing use of the drug.
#6 – Costs between $100-$200 a month
As of 2015, the average cost for a month’s supply of gabapentin was between $100-$200.  There are both cheaper (i.e. Desipramine and duloxetine) and more expensive (i.e. pregabalin) treatments for neuropathy, so gabapentin falls somewhere in the middle of the road in terms of cost.
Whether you’re currently taking gabapentin or consider taking it in the future, understanding the benefits, side effects, costs and more is important in determining whether the drug is right for you or not. As always, weigh the risks against the potential benefits and discuss any concerns with your doctor.