Nerve damage from diabetes occurs in about half of all people with diabetes.
Individuals with type 2 diabetes can have many health issues that result as a complication of the disease process. One of these concerns is diabetic neuropathy.
What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
There are several different types of neuropathy, and some affect your organs, like your eyes. For example, with peripheral neuropathy, which is the kind of neuropathy that affects your feet or hands, symptoms can vary from pain, tingling, numbness, or a “pins and needles” feeling.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy occurs as excess sugar circulates in the bloodstream. When the body doesn’t use insulin properly or lacks coverage from medication, nerve damage can occur.
Nerves are a delicate system responsible for many feelings, including pleasure and pain. The most prevalent types of peripheral neuropathy among those with diabetes mellitus include sensory, motor, and autonomic. Some neuropathies affect all three types of nerves, while others may affect only one or two.
Peripheral neuropathy specific to diabetes often affects the body’s extremities, including the hands and feet. Peripheral nerves send signals along your spinal cord to the rest of your body. When damage occurs, the communication is not happening correctly.
Symptoms can vary by individual, but these are the top related concerns.
- Tingling or burning
- Lack of response to hot or cold temperatures
- Sensitivity to touch
- Weakness in muscles and a lack of reflex
- Loss of balance
The sensory nerves are part of the autonomic sensory system, which help keep homeostasis in the body. When there is a disruption and damage to either of these, nerve pain can result. Sensory neuropathy is often described as severe pain by diabetic patients.
Motor nerves run along your spinal cord and send signals to other parts of the body. As a result, degeneration of the cerebellum can occur, which controls muscle tone and coordination of movements. Weakness and stiffness of the arms and legs can result.
Untreated, it can progress, leading to slow walking and poor coordination. This type of neuropathy also reports painful cramps of the calf muscles.
Autonomic nerves are part of the nervous system that runs your internal organs. These control involuntary, automatic processes when they are healthy. Nerve damage is internal, making it hard to detect when the blood sugar level is low and pain is not felt. This makes this one of the most dangerous aspects of this type of neuropathy.
In autonomic neuropathy, nerve damage can affect your heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs, and eyes. When autonomic neuropathy symptoms arise, including:
- Bladder or bowel problems may cause urine leakage, constipation, or diarrhea.
- Nausea, loss of appetite, and vomiting.
- Changes in how your eyes adjust from light to dark.
- Decreased sexual response.
- Hypoglycemic unawareness.
- Heart & blood pressure changes.
Neuropathy treatment could be pharmaceutical. Neuropathic pain can be controlled through medications. Various narcotics are usually effective, although not for everyone. Before taking the approach of drugs, there are other non-pharmacological approaches.
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7 natural ways to manage diabetic neuropathy
Factors that can raise your risk for neuropathy include obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. Individuals with diabetes have a propensity to develop heart disease.
There are simple natural remedies one can utilize before receiving medical intervention. Below are some natural remedies for diabetic neuropathy.
1. Managing your blood sugar
Controlling your blood sugar is the simplest way to prevent neuropathy. Testing your blood glucose daily will give you a picture of your overall health.
The American Diabetes Association recommends testing your blood sugar at least three times a day if you need multiple daily insulin injections. But for the rest of those with type 2 diabetes, testing frequency should be “dictated by the particular needs and goals of the patients,” the ADA says.
Adding physical activity to your day will help control blood sugar levels and deter nerve damage. If damage has occurred, physical therapy may help you restore and rebuild any loss of function.
3. Manage Stress
Stress can cause blood sugars to elevate. A natural remedy for protection involves overall mental health. Simple practices like meditation and yoga help perpetuate relaxation.
4. Eat a healthy diet
Eating a colorful variety of foods ensures that you are consuming a range of antioxidants that help fight off disease. Focusing on a low carbohydrate diet, consuming whole grains containing fiber, and controlling sodium intake will help.
5. Vitamin B
Consuming foods high in b vitamins might help eliminate painful diabetic neuropathy. In individuals with diabetes, benefits can come from including foods rich in B vitamins. If a diverse diet is not sufficient, supplementation can be helpful.
Try incorporating foods like:
- Salmon & Trout
- Leafy greens
- Organ meats
- Low-fat dairy products
- Mussels, clams, oysters
- Chicken and turkey
6. Lipoic Acid
Lipoic acid is a fatty acid that naturally derives from yeast, organ meats, and spinach, to name a few. It has shown an important role in pain relief in DPN patients.
It improves blood flow and blood circulation and minimizes pain and tingling in extremities. Supplementation of Alpha-Lipoic acid 600 mg per day proved effective in reducing pain and improving nerve function in studies.
7. Vitamin D
Vitamin D naturally occurs in fatty fish, mushrooms, dairy, and soy products. Skin exposure to sunlight will also produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties and supports the immune system. Oral supplementation of vitamin D 3 was found to reduce neuropathy severity in studies.
Natural treatment should be the first path explored before medical treatment is necessary. Diabetic patients working with a Certified Diabetes Educator and specialist and alternative medicine practitioner can help you identify natural ways to decrease neuropathy pain.
Lifestyle factors like smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and a sedentary lifestyle can be immediately modified. Neuropathy symptoms and chronic pain can be treated with a combination of natural and medical approaches. Working closely with your practitioners will enable you to take the best course of action.