GATES BRAIN HEALTH NEWSLETTER
Welcome back! This week we are talking about a condition that is widely misunderstood and not commonly talked about. Enjoy and please contact us if you have any questions!
Do you remember the first time your foot fell asleep? The odd numbness and tingling leaves a lasting impression for many. Most of us do not deal with numbness and tingling on a daily basis. However, those with peripheral neuropathy experience the sensations of pins and needles in their legs and possibly their hands most of the time. Needless to say, peripheral neuropathy is not fun.
So what exactly is peripheral neuropathy? And what causes it?
Peripheral Neuropathy is a process whereby the nerves, for all intents and purposes, die and degenerate. Invariably, there is some ‘metabolic’ process causing the nerve death. The most common metabolic process being diabetes, which accounts for about 50% of cases. Besides diabetes, there are a whole slew of other causes, literally about 100 different diseases, with some having a higher incidence of causing neuropathy than others.
Often when patients see a neurologist and are diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy they are told by their physician ‘half the time it is diabetes, and half the time we do not know the cause….take the medications and you may see some relief. There is no cure.’ Patients are left wondering if there are other causes to their condition, and they feel helpless being told that only taking medications will numb the pain and or tingling.
So why aren’t neurologists running more tests to figure out the other causes of neuropathy?
Unfortunately, insurance companies oftentimes limit what tests doctors can and cannot run. In the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology, a team of researchers who had ties to insurance companies and federal agencies, reviewed nine neurology practices as well as the lab tests, MRI’s, and medications used for neuropathy sufferers. The conclusion of the study was that most of the testing was a waste of money and did not change the treatment for a neuropathy patient. The researchers recommended that neurologists should only be able to test for diabetes, thyroid problems, and B12 deficiencies. They even recommended that MRI’s used to differentially diagnose a disc herniation as the cause of the neuropathy symptoms were not prudent.
Looking at the chart above, it is evident that many factors can contribute to neuropathy. Gluten intolerances, prediabetes, vitamin deficiencies, and disturbances of the bone marrow account for a significant percentage of non diabetic peripheral neuropathy cases. Luckily, diabetes, prediabetes, gluten intolerances and vitamin deficiencies are dietary illnesses which can be improved through lifestyle modification and supplementation. Often it takes years, and sometimes decades of these disorders occurring before peripheral neuropathy will develop. Reversing diabetes or completely restricting gluten from the diet are not easy endeavors. To do so takes immense discipline with oversight and guidance throughout the process.
So what if we improve diabetes, reverse prediabetes, or go on a gluten free diet? Will that help the neuropathy?
If it is early on, then likely yes, to some degree. How much is hard to say. Yet, if these issues have been occurring for years or even decades, a dietary change over a month is not going to do anything by itself alone.
The good news is that nerves can grow back. Think of a wire with insulation around it. That is basically what a nerve is, except the nerve tissue can regenerate unlike a wire.
Many studies have been performed using lasers and or electrical stimulation to ‘stimulate nerves’ back into normal function. These studies have shown improved blood flow in the nerves as well as nerve growth. Though it is a slow process, there is still hope.
If we are able to correct the diabetes, prediabetes, gluten, or vitamin deficiency issue, and then stimulate the nerves by doing peripheral nerve rehabilitation, is there hope? In our experience at Gates Brain Health the answer is YES, most of the time.
The reality is that neuropathy is complicated, diagnosing and understanding it is a discipline within neurology unto itself, and rehabbing peripheral nerves takes a lot of practice and becomes somewhat of an art (knowing where and how much to stimulate).
Our recipe this week comes from our friends at
A Squirrel in the Kitchen.
Here at Gates Brain Health, we eat….