Peripheral Neuropathy After Gastric Bypass Surgery

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)
  • Copper
  • Vitamin C
  • Multi-Mineral Supplement (that includes copper)
  • Co-Q10
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid


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6 responses to “Peripheral Neuropathy After Gastric Bypass Surgery

  1. I recently had a gastric bypass like last month now my legs get this burning numb tingly like sensation I have been taking multi vitamin..calcium..zinc.. b12 and potassium folic acid I also have homozygous a rare blood disorder I am going to mention this article to my Dr. and surgeon tomorrow how do I get the pain to stop??

    • Heidi Kemp

      I recently have been diagnosed with polyneuropathy from bypass surgery. Unfortunately there was no over the counter medication that did anything to help the pain. When they say its very painful…they arent kidding, its extremely painful and constant. I was prescribed Neurontin ( an anti-eplileptic drug) Ive been on it a few weeks now without much success. Saw a neurologist and am having complete bloodwork (27 vials) biopsy and electro stimulation testing done next week. elevation of your legs may help, but i found nothing really every takes it away. some days my legs will “jump” on their own like i have electric shocks running through them. Night time is worst. My hands will drop things without any warning, and even walking and climbing stairs is a struggle now. Please see your Dr as soon as you can if you haven already. Its best to get on this as soon as possible.
      Best of luck

  2. Tiffiney

    I had a gastric bypass in 1991 two months after I had the surgery I couldn’t keep any food down and I a short time later I would be walking and my knees would buckle, then I noticed it getting difficult to get out of chairs. I at that point had no insurance and I would go to the emergency room and they would give me B 12 shot and send me home. Then after a couple more months I slowly lost the use my legs and my left hand. After I was admitted into the hospital finally it took 30 days of testing to tell me I had metabolic neurapathy. They said I would never walk again but after 3 months of inpatient Rehab and one year out patient. I am now able to walk. I weighed 560 lbs when I had the surgery and Now I weigh 230 lbs. Please think twice before having this surgery.

  3. kim

    I had gastric bypass in 2006. I followed every single rule left no wiggle room. It was a success. Fast forward to 11/30/2010. I had a partial knee replacement. My quads were slowly waisting. Now I am completely paralyzed in that region of my leg,have had extreme nerve pain all this time. many surgeries which included full knee replacement and finaly on jan. 30 2015 removale of my knee cap. My surgeon on many occasions said he beleaves it’s all from gastric bypass….I beleave,since my extreme nerve pain stopped after my last surgery,that opinon is wrong. I am still paralyzed. I am also healthy and weight is under control still.



  5. Leah

    I was born with GERD and I had gastric bypass November 2015 then noticed occasionally my leg would stop in the middle of my step for a second then go back to normal. When the stomach pain with the inability to eat much of anything led to a barium study the next month which showed a stricture, swelling around all of the sutures (turns out I’m allergic to what they used so he replaced them with silk), and an ultrasound which showed a gallbladder full of stones. After the 8 day stay in the hospital and a week of rest I have now experienced excruciating pain in my left forearm with numbness and pain to three fingers which after several hours has finally gone away. I am exhausted from all of the arm, fingers, stomach, chest, and back pain as well as seeing my surgeon every week and each time being threatened with a feeding tube. I’m 19 years old and only after the surgery did I find out that the younger patients have a lot more complications such as severe-continuous nausea that only mildly improves with a patch that dries the mouth, eyes, and even the nose so I have frequent nosebleeds that I never had before. I love the weight loss but so far I’m worse off then before the surgery in health, my mother had the surgery when she was 24 and dealt with severe nausea for the entire first year then nothing till she kept breaking her bones and developed moderate-severe osteoporosis, my sister who is 25 had the same surgery a month before me without any complications. For most who have gastric bypass they will have one or two small complications and live a richer life and while personally I would have waited several more years if I was able to look into the future and see myself as I am now but in the end I would still go through with gastric bypass so that I could (eventually) ride horses, go on roller coasters, go into a regular store to buy clothing and to enjoy all of what life offers.

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