Standing On Pins and Needles…

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

December 23, 2013

  • Are your feet and legs going numb?
  • Here’s what sugar does to your nerve cells
  • 3 supplements with amazing results

Last week I was saddened to hear some news about a local chiropractor

He’s a lively gentleman who tells everyone he meets that he’s not going to retire until he reaches 90. (He just turned 83 this year and still sees patients several days a week.)

Well, I just found out that he’s retiring “early.” In fact, he’s shutting the door to his practice in just a few days.

It’s not because he wants to retire. And it’s not because he doesn’t have the strength or energy to perform spinal manipulations on his patients all day.

It turns out he has peripheral neuropathy in his feet and legs.

This is a form of nerve damage that causes weakness, numbness and pain in the extremities. Once it strikes, neuropathy can make it difficult to walk, run, climb stairs and maintain balance.

Even more importantly, if you can’t feel your feet, your chances of stumbling or taking a fall increases. And if one of our feet becomes damaged with a cut, burn or infection you may not even realize it unless you visually inspect them on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, neuropathy doesn’t just affect elderly chiropractors.

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I have patients as young as their 30’s who are already starting to experience symptoms. And it’s something that most people don’t understand.

So let’s take a look at what might be happening if your feet feel like they are on “pins and needles” or your hands and fingers feel numb – and what you can do about it.

One of the most frustrating things for many people is finding out why they have neuropathy in the first place. A lot of folks never get an answer to this question. That’s because over a third of the time, the underlying cause of neuropathy is never discovered.

Neuropathy can be caused by all sorts of problems… vitamin deficiency, vascular problems, nerve damage, certain medications, exposure to toxins and even infections like shingles or hepatitis C.

But here in the U.S., the bulk of neuropathy cases can be tied back to sugar metabolism. And that’s what I’m going to focus on today.

Believe it or not, more than two out of three diabetics will experience neuropathy at some point in their lifetime.

However, you don’t have to be diabetic to experience sugar-related neuropathy.

You see, every time you eat processed foods, sweets and high glycemic carbs, your blood sugar shoots up. And every time this happens it causes your body to form something called advanced glycation end products (AGES.) These AGES are damaged molecules that attach to your nerve fibers and may contribute to neuropathy.

And that’s not all the only thing that happens…

When your blood sugar races out of control, it interacts with an enzyme that turns sugar into sorbitol. Now, I’m not going to bore you with the details. But I will tell you that when this occurs, it causes water to build up in the main cells of your peripheral nervous system. As these cells swell up, the nerves become pinched – and even damaged.

High sugar levels also damage the walls of your blood vessels. As this damage occurs, it reduces the supply of oxygen and other nutrients that fuel your nerves.

Now here’s the thing. When you go to the doctor your fasting blood sugar levels might be perfectly normal. After all, if you haven’t eating in 8-12 hours any sort of after-meal spike will already have passed.

A normal reading on the A1C blood test doesn’t help either. That’s because this test takes an average of blood sugar levels over a 3-4 month period of time. It doesn’t take into account what happens on a day-to-day basis – especially if you eat carb-laden meals and snacks.

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This might explain why so many people don’t get answers when it comes to determining the underlying cause of their neuropathy. It could be as simple as multiple daily blood sugar spikes that are never revealed.

However, there are some pretty easy ways to reduce those spikes… and relieve neuropathy symptoms at the same time.

Sugars, grains and processed foods are all “bad boys” when it comes to controlling blood sugar. Consuming them will shoot your sugar levels through the roof. And if you’re also experiencing symptoms of neuropathy, it’s a sure bet these foods are the culprit.

So it’s important to avoid them and stick with a Mediterranean style diet. You’ll be surprised at the difference it can make when you manage your blood sugar with healthy foods.

But you’re human. There will be times when you just don’t stick with a healthy diet. And that’s where certain nutrients can really help…

Green coffee bean extract helps control how your body processes sugar. It contains a compound called chlorogenic acid. And I’m really impressed with the way this nutrient works.

It literally blocks the absorption of sugar in your intestines. This is great news for you, because it stops those big blood sugar spikes after meals. It’s especially useful when you deviate from a healthy meal by ordering pizza or chowing down on a bowl of pasta.

All it takes is 200 mg. twice a day before your heaviest meals to keep your blood sugar in check. However, I do have a word of caution…

If you are on any medications for blood sugar, blood pressure or cholesterol, be sure to work with your physician. You may have to back off the pharmaceuticals once you start taking green coffee bean extract.

Cinnamon is one of my favorite winter spices. So I was thrilled when a study showed that less than half a teaspoon of cinnamon daily could significantly reduce the risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the study, which appeared in Diabetes Care, the researchers divided a group of volunteers who were not taking insulin randomly into groups.

Among those eating the cinnamon, the researchers saw a 20 percent improvement in blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the volunteers eating as little as 1,000 mg. (less than half a teaspoon) of the spice a day for 40 days.

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is found in every cell in your body where it helps turn glucose into energy. And it’s a real winner when it comes to controlling sugar metabolism and relieving symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

ALA works in a couple of different ways. First and foremost, it improves insulin sensitivity. This helps keep your blood sugar in check. But it doesn’t stop there. It also helps widen your blood vessels to keep vital nutrients and oxygen flowing to your nerves.

Better yet, as little as 600 mg. a day can help reduce stabbing, burning, numbness and pain associated with neuropathy. I recommend taking 200-300 mg. three times a day.

Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC) is another must-have when it comes to blood glucose problems and peripheral neuropathy. Like ALA it helps improve insulin sensitivity which, in turn, keeps your blood sugar under control.

And when it comes to neuropathy, ALC has shown some amazing results. It not only alleviates pain and other symptoms, it also improves regeneration of nerve fibers. I suggest adding 500 to 1000 mg. of acetyl-L-carnitine three times daily for maximum results.

I also recommend getting plenty of exercise. Exercise will help improve circulation, prevent muscle wasting and improve strength in areas affected neuropathy.

Resources:
Thom, E. The Effect of Chlorogenic Acid Enriched Coffee on Glucose Absorption in Healthy Volunteers and Its Effect on Body Mass. The Journal of International Medical Research, Volume 35, Number 6, November 2007, pp. 900-908(9)

Kamenova P. Improvement of insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus after oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid. Hormones (Athens). 2006 Oct-Dec;5(4):251-8.

Heinisch BB, et al. Alpha-lipoic acid improves vascular endothelial function in patients with type 2 diabetes: a placebo-controlled randomized trial. Eur J Clin Invest. 2010 Feb;40(2):148-54.

Ziegler D, et al. Oral treatment with alpha-lipoic acid improves symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy: the SYDNEY 2 trial. Diabetes Care. 2006 Nov;29(11):2365-70.

Geltrude Mingrone, et al. “L-Carnitine Improves Glucose Disposal in Type 2 Diabetic Patients”. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 1999. 18 (1): 77–82.

Sima AA, et al. Acetyl-L-Carnitine Study Group. Acetyl-L-carnitine improves pain, nerve regeneration, and vibratory perception in patients with chronic diabetic neuropathy: an analysis of two randomized placebo-controlled trials. Diabetes Care. 2005 Jan;28(1):89-94

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