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Live Q&A Video with Dr. Kennedy: 10+ Things That Make Nerve Damage Worse

Hopefully you were able to join us live for the discussion of “10+ Things That Make Nerve Damage Worse.” We covered a lot of information with Dr. Kennedy and to help provide you the best resource possible, we’ve taken that information and compiled it below. The Live video provides some additional anecdotes and insights, but this post will give you an easy summary to reference in the future.

So what are some of the things that could be worsening your nerve damage?

Nutritional Deficiencies:

There are certain vitamins and nutrients your nerves need to stay healthy and prevent nerve damage from spreading. One of the most common vitamin deficiencies linked to nerve damage is Vitamin B12 deficiency. Dr. Kennedy wrote a blog post about this a couple of weeks ago, you can read that here, but here are a couple primary takeaways:

  • B12 helps support and maintain a healthy nervous system, including building up and repairing the myelin sheath (a protective coating around your nerves). If you go too long without getting enough B12, your nerves are at a higher risk of being damaged and developing neuropathy.
  • Taking a high quality B12 supplement ensures that your nerves have the support they need to stay healthy. Be sure it is B12 as methylcobalamin NOT cyanocobalamin, as this form has a much better absorption rate. [1]

Free Radicals (Oxidative Stress)

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. When there are more free radicals present than can be kept in balance by antioxidants, the free radicals can start doing damage to fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in your body.

A study of 69 research papers examined the role of oxidative stress and peripheral neuropathy and found an increased level of free radicals and decreased levels of antioxidants in patients with peripheral neuropathy. It concluded that “it is evident that oxidative stress is implicated in the pathogenesis of – or is at least systematically present in – peripheral neuropathy.” [2]

One of the best ways to combat free radicals (and oxidative stress) is by supplementing with antioxidants like R-Alpha Lipoic Acid. This potent antioxidant has the ability to regenerate other antioxidants to neutralize free radicals that kill nerve cells. It has also been shown to help reduce, and in some cases even reverse nerve damage. [3]

If you’re thinking, “what the heck are free radicals in my body?” we get it. Here’s a great article from Healthline that breaks down oxidative stress, free radicals, and the importance of keeping them all in balance.  

Poor Circulation

Poor circulation starves your nerves from the oxygen and nutrients they need, this can lead to worsening symptoms and allow nerve damage to spread. Some of the best ways to improve circulation include:

  • Staying active: even just 10-15 minutes of walking or stretching each day will get the blood moving!
  • Massage: self massage is an easy way to stimulate circulation to starving nerves.
  • Nitric Oxide supplement: this targeted supplement helps widen blood vessels leading to improved blood flow. Especially important in helping nerve healing supplements like the B12 and R-Alpha Lipoic Acid actually reach the nerves!

Inflammation

Swelling caused by inflammation stretches and pulls the nerves, often resulting in painful flare-ups of your symptoms. The first thing you can do to limit this inflammation is to avoid inflammation triggering foods like:

  • Sugar
  • Trans-fats
  • Processed meats
  • Refined carbohydrates
  •  

Additionally, here are a few beneficial supplements that have been known to ease inflammation:

  • Curcumin (a compound found in turmeric)
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin E
  • Ginger
  • Magnesium

Highly Glycemic Foods

Highly glycemic foods wreak havoc on nerves. They are foods that rapidly raise blood glucose levels. High glucose levels can interfere with nerve signal transmission, damage the nerves themselves, and also weaken the blood vessels that supply nerves with nutrients and oxygen.

Common highly glycemic foods include:

  • Refined grains (replace with whole grains, when possible)
  • White & whole wheat bread
  • Potatoes and fries
  • Chips
  • Cakes, cookies, and other sweets [4]

Gluten

According to the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy: If you have a gluten allergy, celiac disease, consuming gluten can trigger and worsen your symptoms. Common sources include all food containing white, wheat, cake or baking flour. Look for products labeled ‘gluten free’.

Too much sugar

Added sugars add flavor but few nutrients - which can lead to nutritional deficiencies that damage nerves. [5]

Additionally, sugar damages the nerves in the following ways:

  • Excessive sugar pulls water into the nerves, causing them to swell.
  • At the same time, sugar makes the nerve’s protective covering (the Myelin Sheath) less pliable. This results in it becoming less able to accommodate the swelling nerve.
  • The combination of swelling and a less pliable nerve result in damage to the nerve. Less blood and oxygen are able to get to the nerves and eventually symptoms of neuropathy, such as pain, numbness or tingling, set in. [6]

Saturated Fats

Prevalent in fatty meats and dairy products, saturated fats can cause inflammation and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. For enhanced wellness, replace fatty protein sources with lean alternatives and eat moderate amounts of healthy fat sources. [7]

Stress

If left unmanaged, stress releases chemicals that heighten your sensitivity to pain. It also triggers the body to produce more glucose as part of the stress response, increasing your risk of diabetes.

To prevent stress from negatively impacting your health and your nerves, find ways to relieve stress daily. Exercise, mindfulness, and meditation are three very effective ways to manage stress. [8]

Repetitive or prolonged pressure on nerves

A job or hobby that puts stress on one nerve for long periods of time increases the chances for development of peripheral neuropathy. Here are some common culprits that put pressure on peripheral nerves and cause nerve irritation or damage:

  • Playing certain sports or musical instruments
  • Using vibrating power tools
  • Crutches
  • Sitting for too long
  •  

Speaking of sitting, if you sit at a desk for hours on end, it cuts off circulation and starves the nerves in your calves and feet from important nutrients and oxygen. It can also pinch nerves or put a constant strain on them. Here is another resource for you about How Sitting is Killing Your Nerves and What to do About it.

Doing nothing about your nerve damage

One of the biggest myths about neuropathy is that there’s nothing you can do to cure it, so you shouldn’t waste your time or money on medicines or treatments to stop it.

But the truth is that peripheral nerves can regenerate under the right circumstances. And you can also slow or stop the spread of nerve damage. [9]

So, you can do nothing and risk allowing the damage to spread – resulting in more pain and discomfort. Or you can take steps to slow down and contain the damage, which can prevent you from suffering even more than you already do.

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2 comments

  • Have chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy now for 10 years and in spite of taking Alpha Lipoic Acid, B12, B6 and folic acid along with acupuncture over the years the neuropathy has only gradually worsen to where today more intense. Appreciate learning if there is any way to help reverse/stabilize before gets more intense and would impact my mobility severely. Thank you.

    William Green
  • forget the personal anecdotes. Do you have documentation from pub med or the Cochrane reports showing double blind studies which support your claims?

    Stephen Miller

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