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Freezing cold hands on a warm day.
Numbness in your legs.
Weak muscles, even after taking it easy all day.
You might think that something’s wrong with your limbs, but those are all just symptoms.
And they point to the same disorder: peripheral neuropathy.
But there’s good news.
Neuropathy can be prevented and even reversed.
Best of all, it can be managed naturally, and we’ll explain just how.
What Is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy, sometimes called peripheral neuropathy, is a neurological disorder caused by damage to your peripheral nervous system. It’s characterized by weakness, numbness, or pain in your extremities, particularly in your hands and feet.
To better understand neuropathy, it helps to understand its origins within your nervous system.
Your body’s nervous system, which transmits signals from your brain to the rest of your body, is made up of two parts, the CNS and PNS.
- Your central nervous system (CNS) includes your brain and spinal cord.
- Your peripheral nervous system (PNS) is made up of the nerves that connect your CNS to other parts of your body, such as limbs, organs, skin, eyes, and more.
When the nerves in the peripheral nervous system are damaged or destroyed, they’re unable to properly relay messages from your brain to other parts of your body—particularly to your arms, legs, hands, and feet.
This causes the discomfort and/or pain associated with peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy can affect one specific nerve group (mononeuropathy) or multiple nerve groups (polyneuropathy).
Carpal tunnel syndrome (pain in the wrist or hand due to repetitive stress) is the most common mononeuropathy; most people experience polyneuropathy.
Symptoms of Neuropathy
Now that you have a better understanding of where neuropathy comes from, let’s explore some of its symptoms.
Because of the way neuropathy disrupts the brain’s signals, you’re most likely to feel the initial sensations in your extremities. That is, you’ll experience symptoms in your arms, hands, legs, and feet. Often, the symptoms will begin in your hands or feet then travel to your arms or legs.
Here is what you might feel in those areas when you’re suffering from neuropathy.
- Extreme temperature sensations (hot or cold) regardless of ambient temperature
- Pain, which can be sharp, throbbing, or persistent
- Sensitivity to touch
Depending on which nerves were damaged, neuropathy can be felt in other parts of the body. These could be some of the symptoms.
- Bowel or bladder issues
- Digestive issues
- Heat intolerance
- Inability to regulate sweat: either sweating excessively or being unable to sweat
- Low blood pressure, which can also cause dizziness or lightheadedness
What can damage the peripheral nerves and cause these symptoms? Let’s explore how neuropathy begins.
Causes of Neuropathy
As we mentioned earlier, neuropathy is the result of damage to your nerves. But what can cause that damage?
Believe it or not, Type 2 Diabetes is the most common cause of neuropathy. Having high blood sugar for an extended period of time can cause damage to your peripheral nerves, particularly those that extend to your legs and feet. In fact, 60-70% of people in the U.S. with diabetes also suffer from some form of neuropathy.
Here are some of the other common causes of neuropathy.
- Alcohol use
- Autoimmune or inflammatory diseases
- Medications, such as chemotherapy or certain antibiotics
- Metabolic issues
- Traumatic injury
- Vascular disorders
- Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, particularly vitamins B1, B6, B9, B12 and E, copper, and folic acid
In addition, neuropathy can also occur with no known cause. This is called idiopathic neuropathy.
Does Gut Health Affect Neuropathy?
All of these strategies for healing neuropathy lead to one burning question. Can your gut health impact neuropathy?
The answer is a resounding yes!
Gut health is overall health. Many seemingly unrelated conditions originate in your gut microbiome.
Your gut microbiome houses trillions of microorganisms, including the vast majority of the bacteria living within your body.
But that’s a good thing! Many of those bacterial colonies are beneficial, or “good” bacteria. However, there are also colonies of pathogenic, or “bad” bacteria.
As long as the good bacteria outweigh the bad, you can enjoy a healthy gut. Unfortunately, the opposite is more likely to occur: thriving colonies of pathogenic bacteria will crowd out the beneficial bacteria, leading to a gut imbalance.
Since this is happening within your gut, it’s to be expected that an unhealthy gut will lead to digestive issues.
But the effects are more far-reaching than you might think.
Let’s look at some of the ways your gut health affects your well-being and how that can impact the development or treatment of neuropathy.
For starters, about 70-80% of your immune system is located in your gut. When your gut microbiome is unbalanced, with more “bad” than “good” bacteria, it can devastate your immune system.
This can lead to an unresponsive immune system, which increases the likelihood of certain infections and illnesses, including those that can damage peripheral nerves.
It can also cause the opposite, an extreme immune response. When this occurs, your immune system mistakes your body’s healthy cells for invaders such as bacteria or viruses and attacks them.
This can trigger the development of an autoimmune disease, a common cause of peripheral neuropathy.
Insulin is a hormone that your body produces and secretes naturally. Your body uses it to manage your blood sugar levels.
When your body is sensitive to insulin, it reacts appropriately and keeps your glucose at an acceptably lower level.
If your body is resistant to insulin, it’ll be less able to control your blood sugar level, letting it get higher than it should. Left untreated, this can result in type 2 diabetes, the biggest cause of neuropathy.
Recent studies also show the correlation between gut bacteria and type 2 diabetes.
- Certain colonies of pathogenic bacteria were found to be present in larger numbers in the gut microbiomes of individuals with lower insulin resistance.
- In contrast, colonies of beneficial bacteria were present in the gut microbiomes of individuals with higher insulin sensitivity.
While more studies are needed, it does indicate that managing gut health can help prevent type 2 diabetes and the peripheral neuropathy it often leads to.
Probiotics and Neuropathy
Knowing the role that bacteria play in the development versus treatment of neuropathy, then, it’s easy to see that managing your gut health can be an effective natural treatment for neuropathy.
One way to do this is by taking probiotics.
Probiotics are similar or identical to the beneficial bacteria already living in your gut. When you consume them, they strengthen the colonies of good bacteria and restore the right balance to your gut microbiome.
You can find probiotics in many fermented foods and drinks, including:
But not everyone likes the unique flavors and scents of fermented foods. And unfortunately, studies show that most of the time, the probiotics in foods and drinks don’t make it to your gut alive (meaning their impact is slim).
For these reasons, a probiotic supplement would be an excellent alternative, or addition, to probiotic foods.
We’re big fans of Just Thrive Probiotic.
Unlike most brands on the market, Just Thrive is clinically proven to navigate through your body’s harsh stomach acids, bile, and more, arriving at your gut 100% alive to get your gut in tip-top shape.
And remember the nutrient deficiencies that can lead to neuropathy? This probiotic also helps with nutrient absorption.
Plus, if you don’t like taking pills, you can break open the probiotic capsule and sprinkle its contents into your favorite delicious, nutritious recipe.
Healthy gut = healthy you, and that includes your peripheral nervous system!
Other Natural Treatments for Neuropathy
Along with maximizing your gut health, here are other natural ways to treat neuropathy.
- Eat a balanced diet. Make sure you’re getting all of the vitamins and nutrients required to stay healthy and avoid peripheral nerve disorders. And avoid food and drinks high in sugar.
- Get enough exercise. This can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, which can lead to neuropathy. Exercise also delivers oxygen-rich blood to your extremities, which can lessen the symptoms of neuropathy.
- Drink alcohol moderately or not at all. Excessive alcohol consumption is a proven cause of peripheral neuropathy.
- Avoid tobacco products. Smoking constricts blood vessels, which can result in some of the vascular conditions that lead to neuropathy.
- Practice relaxation techniques to lessen the discomfort of neuropathy symptoms. Meditation, in particular, is proven to help manage pain.
No one wants to live with the pain and discomfort of peripheral neuropathy…and you don’t have to!
Getting your gut microbiome in tip-top shape is the first step to overcoming peripheral neuropathy.
And in general, do your best to lead an active, healthy lifestyle. Not only can it help manage, prevent, and even reverse peripheral neuropathy, it can do the same for other medical conditions.
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