If someone had walked up to me ten years ago and asked me what I was doing to maintain the health of my nerves – I would have given them a blank stare. Sadly, for most people – my old self included – nerve health is an afterthought (if even a thought at all). Few understand the threats to their nerve health or the steps that can (and should) be taken to protect them.
Among the various threats to the health of our nerves are nutritional deficiencies. Though we tend to associate vitamin or nutrient deficiencies with underdeveloped countries – the reality is that they affect developed countries and populations as well. The advent of processed foods and ready-made meals with low nutritional values (empty calories) has led to quite staggering numbers of nutritional deficiencies, even in countries like the United States.
A few common deficiencies that can have an adverse effect on your nerves include magnesium deficiency as well as a deficiency of vitamins B2, B12, and D – among others. Let’s take a closer look at these four deficiencies and how they affect your nerves:
Magnesium deficiency can cause the nerves in both your peripheral and central nervous systems to act erratically. As these systems become overactive, the nerves become easily excited and more sensitive to pain. Getting enough magnesium (recommended daily dosage is between 310-420 mg/day for adults) helps reduce transmission of unnecessary pain sensations – thereby giving our nervous systems some much needed calm and promoting the health of our nerves.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Deficiency
Vitamin B2, or Riboflavin, is important for nerve health primarily because of what it does to help facilitate our bodies’ use of other important B vitamins. Riboflavin helps change the chemical makeup of other B vitamins so that they can be used by the body. According to researchers at Oregon State University, “Riboflavin deficiency can affect multiple pathways in the metabolism of vitamin B6, folate, niacin, and iron.” Without riboflavin, these other vitamins are rendered useless.
Recommended daily allowance of riboflavin is at least 1.3 mg/day.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is perhaps the most important vitamin for nerve health. It supports the health and function of nerves in various ways, one of which is by maintaining the health of the myelin sheath – the protective covering around our nerves. It also helps make DNA – the genetic makeup of our cells!
Deficiencies in vitamin B12 have been linked to neuropathy. If our bodies do not get enough of it, the coating that protects our nerves can begin to deteriorate – exposing the nerves and increasing the chance of pain. Besides weakness, numbness, and tingling – another serious symptom of b12 deficiency is the impairment of brain function. Proper supplementation of b12 is critical to reversing this and other effects of deficiency.
For adults, the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg/day.
Vitamin D Deficiency
If you suffer from diabetes there’s a good chance you’ll experience the symptoms of neuropathy. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy. Recent research has shown that a deficiency of vitamin D can lead to a greater risk of diabetes or complications associated with diabetes, including neuropathy. If your neuropathy was caused by diabetes, getting enough vitamin D can be an important step in lowering your risk of complications.
Besides lowering the risk of diabetes and the complications associated with it, vitamin D helps promote the health of your nervous system by maintaining proper calcium levels in the body and by promoting the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin – which can help boost mood!
For adults, the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 600 IU/day.
Whether you suffer from Neuropathy or not, looking out for the health of your nerves through proper nutrition and supplementation should not be ignored. For those currently suffering from the crippling effects of nerve pain, working with a doctor to test for nutritional deficiencies that may lead to more effective treatments and a possible reversing of the damage.
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