Peripheral Neuropathy has been increasingly on my radar, with respect to side effects related to nutrient deficiencies in gastric bypass patients. This started for me a couple of years ago when my real good friend contacted me out of the blue. He had gastric bypass surgery less than a year after I did from the same surgeon. He emailed me out of concern to let me know he had been diagnosed with something called peripheral neuropathy. How he figured this out was he was shopping in the local home improvement store and then all of a sudden experienced this extreme pain in his legs, to the point he didn’t think he would be able to make it out of the store.
What I soon learned was that peripheral neuropathy is a very serious and painful condition of the peripheral nervous system which is responsible for transmitting information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. The Mayo Clinic found that as many as 16% of gastric bypass patients are developing nerve damage from problems associated with peripheral neuropathy.
The pain from neuropathy has been described as cutting, stabbing, crushing, burning, shooting, gnawing, or grinding, usually occurring on the extremities (arms and legs) . Other symptoms of neuropathy include extreme numbness, paralysis, tingling, and burning. In some cases, even just the weight of the bed sheet on the leg can trigger a pain event. To heal or regrow nerves is a very slow and painful process. This is definitely one of those cases – where an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure….
Think of peripheral nerves as the highways that transfer information back and forth from your extremities to the central nervous system (i.e., your big toe to your brain). Information moves along the peripheral nerve electrically (which uses calcium, potassium and sodium as ions) and between other nerves (using neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine). The nerve is protected by a sheath, which wraps around it and protects the fibers and keeps it from making abnormal transmissions. When there is a breakdown anywhere in this process you can end up with a neuropathy.
There are many things that can cause neuropathies so it is often difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. With that said, it is usually broken down to the following three causes:
- Acquired Neuropathies – caused by environmental factors such as toxins, trauma, illness , infection, alcoholism, as well as poor nutrition and vitamin/nutrient deficiency
- Hereditary Neuropathies
- Idiopathic Neuropathies – unknown causes
In gastric bypass patients (or gastric bypass patients who have become alcoholics), the most obvious cause of acquired neuropathies is vitamin and nutrient deficiency. Fortunately, peripheral neuropathies caused by nutrient deficiencies can be halted – even reversed – with vitamin/nutrient therapy. The typical nutrient deficiencies associated with peripheral neuropathy are B1 (thiamine), B-12, copper or, strangely enough, an excess of B6 (pyridoxine).
Some of the nutrients that can then in turn be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy (if caused by vitamin/nutrient deficiency) are:
- B-12 via injection (methylcobalamin or cyanocobalamin: methylcobalamin is the more absorbable of the two forms of B-12, so that may be the preferred form when recovering from peripheral neuropathy)
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin C
- Multi-Mineral Supplement (that includes copper)
- Alpha Lipoic Acid