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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.
What does vitamin D have to do with neuropathy?
New research is giving us insights into the effects that a lack of this important vitamin could have on the severity of your neuropathy symptoms.
Doctors have long known the negative affects of vitamin D deficiency on the human body. These include weakness, excessive sweating, chronic pain, osteoporosis and mood. They’ve also known that low levels of vitamin D cause an increased risk of diabetes – a common culprit for causing neuropathy.
A new study released in February of 2016 sheds even more light on vitamin D deficiency in neuropathy. In fact, it shows evidence of a direct link between vitamin D levels and the severity of symptoms from neuropathy.
The study looked at 111 cancer patients between ages 42 – 89 years old (median ages was 66 years old) who were also experiencing either motor or sensory peripheral neuropathy. Of the participants, 54% were male, 45% female. After observing the group for 12 weeks, the researchers noticed that patients with a deficiency of vitamin D were more likely to suffer from severe motor or sensory peripheral neuropathy. While low vitamin D levels were not an indicator for developing peripheral neuropathy, they appear to influence the severity of symptoms.
So what should you do if you think you’re lacking in vitamin D? First talk to your doctor and discuss your concerns. He or she will help determine whether or not you have a deficiency. If so, daily vitamin D supplements can help restore it to proper levels. Another, less expensive, option is to get 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure each day – which your body uses to produce vitamin D!
If you’ve ever thrown water on a kitchen fire, you know first hand that water is ineffective on grease or cooking oil fires. Not only does it not extinguish the flames – it actually has the opposite effect, sending flaming balls of grease or oil airborne. In a flash the fire grows exponentially.
Isn’t water the most common and effective methods for extinguishing flames? Usually it is, but in certain situations it isn’t.
So what does this have to do with your neuropathy?
The same principles apply. Before attempting to extinguish your symptoms, it’s useful to know the cause. Perhaps you have diabetic neuropathy, chemo-induced neuropathy, etc. Once you know the cause, you can choose the most effective tools for fighting it. While many of the tools or treatments you’ll use will overlap across various causes or neuropathy types, there will also be times when a certain treatment is best suited for one situation and not another. Understanding this will make a significant difference as you treat your neuropathy.
To help get you on the path to better, more effective treatment, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the most common causes of neuropathy and the best options for treating each one. We’re not suggesting you self-diagnose the cause of your neuropathy, of course, but this guide can help you be more prepared as you work with your doctor to determine the cause.
Most Common Causes of Neuropathy:
According to the National Institutes of Health, between 60 and 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy.  The risk of developing neuropathy increases with age and with the duration of diabetes. High levels of blood sugar, combined with a variety of other factors, damage nerve cells and result in neuropathy. For some, no symptoms will be manifested. In many cases, however, symptoms such as pain, tingling or numbness will occur.
Manage Blood Sugar:
The most effective way to slow, stop and even reverse diabetic neuropathy is to control blood sugar levels. Maintaining a healthy balance of blood sugar help the nerves to heal and regenerate.
Check your medications:
Some medications used to treat diabetes have been linked to neuropathy. Among them is the popular drug Metformin. Check with your doctor to make sure your medication isn’t causing your neuropathy. Review our list of 65 Medications That Can Cause Neuropathy to see if anything you’re taking is on the list.
Research has shown that a plant-based diet can help reduce the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy. Studies suggest that a plant-based diet helps improve insulin resistance, resulting in positive effects on diabetic nerve pain. One important note is that plant-based diets are often low on Vitamin B12 – a crucial vitamin for nerve health. Consider taking a daily B12 supplement if on a plant-based diet.
CAUSE: CHEMOTHERAPY & CANCER DRUGS
Another leading cause of neuropathy is chemotherapy. Between 30 and 40 percent of chemotherapy patients develop Chemotherapy-induced neuropathy (CPIN). Chemotherapy patients who have previously gone through chemotherapy or radiation treatment are more likely to develop CPIN. Other factors that can increase the risk of CPIN are:
- Alcohol abuse
- HIV or AIDS
- High doses or longer treatments using cancer drugs
- Taking multiple drugs whose side effects include nerve damage
So, which cancer-related drugs are most likely to cause neuropathy? Here’s a list:
- Bortezomib and carfilzomib
- Platinum drugs (i.e. isplatin, oxaliplatin, carboplatin)
- Podophyllotoxins (i.e. etoposide and teniposide)
- Taxanes (i.e. paclitaxel, docetaxel, cabazitaxel)
- Thalidomide, lenalidomide and pomalidomide
- Vinca alkaloids (i.e. vinblastine, vincristine, vinorelbine)
Alter dosage or stop treatments:
If your doctor determines that chemotherapy is causing your neuropathy, he or she may recommend lowering the dosage or stopping the treatment until the symptoms subside.
Certain supplements may help reduce the symptoms of CIPN and help maintain the health of your nerves. These include supplements like calcium, magnesium, acetyl-l-carnitine, alpha-lipoic-acid, vitamin E, B-complex vitamins (especially B1 and B12), glutathione and more. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement as they may interfere or reduce the effectiveness of your treatments.
Cause: VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY
Vitamin B12 is absolutely essential for protecting your nerves. It helps build up and maintain the layer of protective fat around the nerves (known as the Myelin Sheath). When you don’t get enough B12, this layer begins to weaken and deteriorate – ultimately leading to nerve damage if left unaddressed.
Take B12 Supplements or eat more B12-rich foods:
This one is obvious – if a lack of vitamin B12 is causing your neuropathy, then getting more of it is the solution. The tricky part is that vitamin B12 has an extremely poor absorption rate, so very little of it makes it into your system. That’s why it’s important to take a sufficient dosage and to consistently take it everyday. If you are vegan, be sure to take a B12 supplement, as plant-based diets are often low in B12!
While medications help us with a wide array of ailments – they come with some risks. In fact, there are a number of medications that have been linked to neuropathy. Cholesterol lowering statins are among some of the more common drugs linked to neuropathy, as are some diabetes, cancer and blood pressure related medications. Fluoroquinolones, which are antibiotics that are commonly used to treat a variety of illnesses such as respiratory and urinary tract infections, have also been linked to nerve damage. Click the image below for a comprehensive list of 65 medications that have been linked to neuropathy.
Reduce dosage or stop usage:
The best thing you can do if a drug you’re using is causing neuropathy is to recognize the symptoms early and discuss them with your doctor. The earlier you catch it, the better your chance of stopping the spread of symptoms and even reversing the damage. Your doctor may recommend reducing the dosage or ceasing the medication completely. If stopping the medicine completely, he or she will typically offer an alternative medication that doesn’t carry the risk of neuropathy.
You will also want to take nerve-boosting supplements to help stop the damage from spreading and to help regenerate damaged nerves.
Many people experience the troublesome symptoms of neuropathy after surgery. In some cases, the stretching or compression of nerves during surgery causes the damage. Researchers have more recently discovered that post-surgery nerve inflammation also causes pain, tingling and numbness.
Nerve-boosting supplements can help damaged nerves to properly heal and regenerate – increasing the likelihood of full recovery. One of our first employees, Marsha, suffered from neuropathy for years after a surgical operation. After discovering and taking Nerve Renew Neuropathy Support Formula, she experienced a full recovery from her postsurgical neuropathy.
Yoga or Tai Chi:
The stretches and body movements used in alternative exercises like yoga and tai chi have been shown to be beneficial to patients suffering from neuropathy. The exercises help develop useful habits and techniques for coping with and minimizing pain.
Other Potential Causes:
Heavy alcohol consumption over an extended period of time may result in neuropathy. Heavy users are often lacking in important vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin B12 since the alcohol blocks their absorption.
Exposure to toxic substances
Exposure to toxic substances like heavy metals or certain chemicals may result in nerve damage.
Infections & Tumors
Tumors and infections can put pressure on the nerves and wreak havoc on the peripheral nervous system. Some common infections that could lead to neuropathy are Lyme disease, Epstein-Barr virus, diphtheria, hepatitis C, shingles and HIV.
When the immune system begins attacking different systems within the body, it can result in neuropathy. Autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Guilliain Barre syndrome may cause neuropathy.
Trauma or Repeated Pressure on Nerves
From a traumatic accident like a vehicle collision to a seemingly harmless thing like sitting for long periods of time and putting repeated pressure on the nerves, both can cause the symptoms of neuropathy. Recovery will depend in large part on the extent of the damage to your nerve.
As much as 50% of people with a kidney disorder will develop neuropathy. As a kidney begins to fail, extra fluids and waste begin to fill the body – sometimes resulting in nerve damage.
Some neuropathies are hereditary. There are four types of hereditary neuropathy:
- Hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy
- Hereditary sensory neuropathy
- Hereditary motor neuropathy
- Hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy
Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most common hereditary neuropathies, and falls into the motor and sensory category.
Regardless of the cause of your peripheral neuropathy, boosting the health of your nerves through proper diet and supplementation can help slow the spread of your symptoms. However, the sooner you and your doctor can pinpoint a cause, the quicker you can identify and begin the most effective treatment for your symptoms.