Dear Pharmacist: I have neuropathies all over my body; it feels like pins and needles. I take pain medications. Is there anything natural I can do or take? G.D., Colorado
Neuropathy may cause more than the discomfort you describe. It can also cause pain, weakness, dizziness when standing up, burning sensations (even in the tongue), shooting pain, trigeminal neuralgia, tingling, numbness, cystitis, urinary urgency, and vibration/buzzing sensations. In men, erectile dysfunction is possible.
Recognizing that your neuropathy is related to another disorder is huge. If you treat the neuropathy as a disease in and of itself, then you miss the big picture, and the opportunity to cure yourself.
Neuropathy is a symptom of post-herpetic neuralgia (shingles), high insulin, diabetes, gluten sensitivity or celiac, heavy metal toxicity, autoimmune disorders, Lyme disease and medications. A little-known fact is that medications can rob your body of nutrients that would otherwise protect your nerves, so neuropathy pain is a side effect. The number of drugs that can indirectly do this is in the hundreds, and some classic offenders include antacids, acid blockers, oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, corticosteroids, statin cholesterol reducers, breast cancer drugs and fluoroquinolone antibiotics. That last class of drugs, the fluoroquinolones (Cipro, Floxin, Avelox, Levaquin) have a fluoride backbone. Fluoride is known to harm the thyroid gland, reduce thyroid production and cause irreversible damage to the nervous system.
One solution for neuropathies is to reduce insulin and blood sugar. My book, "Diabetes Without Drugs" offers natural remedies to help. I'd get off medications that cause neuropathies (with physician approval) and simultaneously get on medications that support nerve growth. Thyroid medications, specifically "T3" and/or growth hormone shots, can help.
If your doctor approves and supervises you, you could take a few of the following supplements. It's all trial and error, I don't know what's right for you:
Thiamine: A glass of wine every night can steal nerve-protective nutrients like vitamin B1 (thiamine). You can also try benfotiamine, a fat-soluble form of thiamine.
Probiotics: Sounds strange, probiotics allow you to make methylcobalamin (vitamin B12), which you need to produce myelin and protect the nerve cells.
Methylcobalamin (B12): When your body starves for B12, you lose the myelin sheath and your nerves short-circuit. This can cause neuropathy and depression. There are dozens of medications that rob the body of B12, including those for diabetes as well as processed foods, sugar, antibiotics, estrogen hormones and acid blockers.
Lipoic acid: You can buy it as "alpha" at any health food store, or "R" lipoic acid as a more bioavailable form. This antioxidant squashes free radicals that attack your myelin sheath and fray your nerve wiring. It reduces blood sugar, too. High doses are needed to improve nerve pain; however, if you take high doses, you need to supplement with a little biotin. The reason is because lipoic acid is a drug mugger of biotin.