For a person with neuropathy, it can be difficult to enjoy many of life’s simple pleasures. Recurring pain, muscle weakness, balance issues, and mobility issues all conspire to rob you of the experience of activities which you once took for granted.
Fortunately, while there is no cure for certain types of neuropathy—including the most common form in America, peripheral neuropathy—there are treatments, supplements, and lifestyle changes which can help with managing the symptoms, making the overall experience far less unbearable.
What Is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy refers to a number of different health conditions affecting various parts of the nervous system. Outside of the brain and the spinal cord, which are collectively known as the “central nervous system,” your body’s nerves connect with your muscles and skin throughout your extremities.
They also transmit those autonomic signals which regulate your body’s sensory input and organ functions. If nerves are your body’s internal telecommunications signals, then neuropathy would be one or more dead phone lines—resulting in dropped calls, static interference, and other impediments to getting a clear signal through.
Neuropathy symptoms can result from your brain misinterpreting signals from your body, or from the absence of a signal raising an alarm upstairs. This “alarm” takes the form of a variety of uncomfortable sensations, which have evolved over millions of years to draw our attention to specific problems. In the case of misfiring nerves, however, the pain itself is the problem, requiring effective management techniques.
If you suspect yourself of having neuropathy, you need to see a doctor for an official diagnosis. This will help to clarify whether or not you have neuropathy, what form you have if it is present, and what is causing it. This will unlock a variety of treatment options, affording you options in your overall nerve pain management strategy.
Is All Neuropathy the Same?
There are many different types of neuropathy. They are differentiated based upon cause, the nerves which are affected, the number of nerves affected, and the associated symptoms. Diabetic neuropathy is by far the most common classification of neuropathy in the United Sates.
Within this classification, the most common form is that of peripheral neuropathy, which affects the long nerves that bring signals from the brain and spinal cord to the outermost extremities. Peripheral neuropathy frequently involves episodes of nerve pain; it cannot be cured, but a variety of healthy lifestyle choices, dietary options, and supplements exist to help manage the symptoms.
Common treatments for peripheral neuropathy include over-the-counter painkillers, or—in the event of frequent and severe pain—an ongoing regimen of prescription-strength painkillers. Antidepressants may also be prescribed for pain management.
TIP: Lifestyle Changes for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
There are a number of ways in which you can effectively help to manage your neuropathy symptoms without prescription-strength painkillers or antidepressants. It may take some time to work out a strategy which is effective in your case, but it is possible to lead a normal life while dealing with neuropathy.
- Drink plenty of water, and follow basic tips to stay hydrated.
- Maintain a healthy bodyweight (tips for maintaining bodyweight as a type 2 diabetic).
- Eat foods rich in trace minerals like calcium, zinc, and magnesium
- Exercise regularly to help maintain muscle strength, full range of movement, and blood glucose control. Common strategies for motivating oneself to exercise include listing short- and long-term goals, working out with a buddy, and finding activities you enjoy which have good aerobic and cardiovascular benefits.
- Take care of your feet! Nerve damage leaves your feet vulnerable to injury and infection which may pass unnoticed without daily maintenance and inspection.
Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms
Unfortunately, it is not unknown for patients to go without symptoms for years, as their neuropathy continues to progress without their awareness. The body’s nervous system includes redundancies, and there are so many nerves that those which are affected first may not be susceptible to symptoms right away.
When symptoms do arise, whether immediately or after a period of time, they tend to include some or all of the following:
- Recurring nerve pain in the affected area. Pain may be a sharp, prickling sensation, or a stinging burning sensation.
- Other unpleasant sensations, including “pins and needles,” numbness, and recurring bouts of muscle weakness. These are usually experienced in specific areas, most often in the legs and feet, though they may also affect the hands and arms.
- Hypersensitivity; specific parts of the body may become extremely sensitive to touch, where a slight brush or bump can result in stinging nerve pain of the sort that neuropathy sufferers frequently endure to begin with.
- Loss of balance and coordination.
What is Benfotiamine?
Among the many vitamins we require to stay healthy (and alive) are the B-Complex vitamins, like Methyl B-12. B-vitamins perform a wide range of useful functions, including allowing us to process our food and get the energy that we need to survive. Symptoms of a B-vitamin deficiency are varied, depending upon which of the B-vitamins you’re lacking (and what its usual function is); generally speaking, they include fatigue and confusion, mood swings, anemia, or immunodeficiency. They may also involve skin rashes, itching, and other such discomforts.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine), along with its cousin B2 (riboflavin), is involved in the process of converting food to energy. Thiamine is also good for a variety of neurological benefits, including the maintenance of healthy levels of focus and concentration. It is predominantly found naturally in whole grains, milk, eggs, and dark green vegetables.
Vitamin B1 is normally water-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are less readily absorbed by the body, which results in supplements being manufactured to include huge amounts of them—ensuring that your system gets enough of them to meet its needs. Benfotiamine is a fat-soluble form of vitamin B1; it is more readily absorbed by the body’s digestive system, and is more readily taken in by the body’s tissues.
TIP: Side Effects of Benfotiamine
There is no evidence to suggest that high levels of benfotiamine are unsafe. Numerous studies and clinical trials show no side effects, even from the extremely high amounts of Benfotiamine and other B-Complex vitamins present in some nerve pain supplements (such as Nerve Renew by The Neuropathy Treatment Group which provides up to 13,000% of the daily requirement of certain B vitamins).
If you are a cancer patient, you need to talk to your doctor before taking B-Complex vitamin supplements of any kind, but benfotiamine in particular. Because benfotiamine is fat-soluble, it can be readily assimilated by tumors, which use B1 (of which benfotiamine is a variation) to create enzymes that help hide them from the body’s immune system.