Supplements That May Help With Diabetic Neuropathy

Certain dietary supplements may play a beneficial supporting role in the prevention and management of diabetic neuropathy. Frequently characterized by pain, tingling, or numbness in the hands and feet, diabetic neuropathy is caused by nerve damage owed to the hyperglycemia, inflammation and small blood vessel impairment associated with diabetes.

Available studies on the effectiveness of supplementation for neuropathy show mixed results, but we know nutrition is an important aspect of stabilizing our blood sugar, and preventing diabetes complications.

Three For Neuropathy

According to the Mayo Clinic, three supplements likely beneficial for warding off neuropathy, or slowing its progression are alpha-lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, and vitamin B12:

  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid. In several small studies, alpha-lipoic acid diminished pain for people with diabetic neuropathy and improved their nerve function.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid, found in foods such as broccoli, yeast, and spinach, is an antioxidant—a substance that fights oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a process that harms tissues in our body, and is a factor in diabetic neuropathy onset and progression.
  • Though it’s generally safe when used as recommended, people with a thiamin (B1) deficiency, and heavy consumers of alcohol should avoid alpha-lipoic acid supplementation.
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine. A compound that’s naturally manufactured in the liver and kidneys, acetyl-L-carnitine works to diminish oxidative stress, and may contribute to nerve cell regeneration and function. Though considered safe when used as directed, some people report nausea, vomiting, or agitation when taking this supplement.
  • In a few research studies, people with diabetic neuropathy experienced pain reduction, sensory problem relief, and nerve function test improvements when treated with acetyl-L-carnitine. Therapeutic effects may be more pronounced when supplementation starts early in neuropathy’s progression.
  • People on the blood-thinner warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) should not take acetyl-L-carnitine. For those with hypothyroidism or a seizure history the supplement may trigger worsening symptoms.
  • Vitamin B12. Though we can get vitamin B12 by eating fish, lean red meats, and vitamin-fortified cereals, older adults - with and without diabetes - are at risk for B12 deficiency, as are vegetarians, vegans, and those on certain medications.
  • Metformin (e.g., Glucophage, Fortamet), a common type 2 diabetes drug is associated with B12 deficiency; so are stomach acid-reducing medications such as Prevacid, Prilosec, Tagament, Pecid, and Zantac.
  • It’s known that vitamin B12 supports healthy nerve function and red blood cell production, but there are only some small studies that suggest it lessens neuropathy symptoms. Those who get adequate B12 in their diet will likely see no benefit from supplementation.
  • Though the best neuropathy prevention and treatment remain nutrient-rich foods, plenty of exercise, and good glucose control dietary supplements can support our body’s efforts to thrive and heal. However, it’s important to check with our physician about possible medication interference, or other health contraindications before adding supplements to our diet.

    Source: Mayo Clinic
    Photo: Pixabay

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