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Nerve pain and nutrition


Are you suffering from chronic prickling, tingling, or burning sensation in your nerves? Is this hindering your day to day life? If so then this blog is for you! Read below and find out what you can do to manage and minimise your nerve pain today!

What causes nerve pain?

Nerve pain can be caused by an umbrella of problems in the central nervous system, mainly consisting of the brain and spinal cord, as well as the nerves that run to the muscles and organs.

This unpleasant sensation can be caused by a disease or injury; some examples include:

  • Injury to the brain, spine or nerves
  • Stroke
  • Poor blood supply to the nerves
  • Trapped nerves
  • Heavy drinking
  • Vitamin B12 or thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency
  • Medication
  • Infections
  • Diabetes

How can nutrition help nerve pain?

Good nutrition is usually the first line of defence to prevent and manage many diseases, including nerve pain.

Studies show that nerve pain is caused by a lack of blood flow to the nerves; a lack of blood flow creates little to no circulation in specific areas such as your hands and feet. Salty foods, fizzy drinks, and carbohydrates get digested quickly which increases the blood sugar levels and contributes to inflammation in the body. A high level of sodium in the bloodstream can result in elevated blood pressure, which slows blood flow and generally causes peripheral nerve damage.

Certain foods also cause inflammation as well as elevated blood sugar levels, which disrupt the circulation of blood flow to the nerves, creating nerve toxicity and more pain. These foods include white bread, pasta, and pizza which contain gluten; gluten contains a protein called zonulin which is infamous for its pro-inflammatory properties. Some of the symptoms gluten can trigger include digestion issues, headaches, pins and needles and skin issues (itchy dry skin). Scientists have found a strong correlation between gluten sensitivity and nerve pain, so if you suffer with any of the above, fixing the gluten sensitivity via your gut is essential.

To control the symptoms of nerve pain, it is best to avoid sweets, ice cream, soft drinks, fruit juices, cakes and pastries, processed meals and refined carbohydrates. Instead opt for wholegrains.

What should I be eating?

Foods high in B vitamins are excellent in treating neuropathy since they support healthy nervous system function.

Vitamin B1 is vital in feeding your nervous and muscular systems; it does this by converting carbohydrates into energy for the nervous system. As we are unable to absorb high amounts of this vitamin through food, it is important to take a supplement. Food sources include:

  • Seeds, particularly sunflower
  • Navy and black beans
  • Lentils
  • Green peas

Vitamin B12 aids in building, repairing and nutritionally feeding the myelin sheath (a layer of fat around your nerves that protects against deterioration). Research shows that higher than normal amounts of vitamin B12 can rebuild and repair damaged nerves. Rich food sources of vitamin B12 include

  • Fatty fish, including sardines, mackerel, tuna, cod, and salmon
  • Yogurt
  • Fortified cereals and breads

Vitamin B6 is necessary to absorb vitamin B12; in addition, it maintains healthy blood sugar levels. Food sources include:

  •  Tuna and salmon
  •  Chicken
  •  Spinach

*Note that too much B6 can damage the nerves, so instead of supplementing with, get your B6 from food sources only.

Vitamin B2 is crucial for absorbing vitamin B6. Get your vitamin B2 from food sources like:

  • Soybeans
  • Spinach
  • Almonds
  • Asparagus
  • Beet greens

Aside from B vitamins, antioxidants are great for nerve pain as they have the ability to reduce any damage in the myelin sheath created by free-radicals. They can also reduce neuropathic pain. Excellent antioxidant foods are:

  • Blueberries
  • Dark leafy vegetables
  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Walnuts

Omega-3 fatty acids can efficiently recover damaged nerves as well as reduce pain by repairing damaged myelin sheaths. Foods rich in this essential fatty acid are:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Sardines and salmon
  • Soybeans
  • Walnuts

Minerals like magnesium and potassium help to relax your nervous system and reduce muscle tension. Deficiencies can result in fatigue and lethargy, increased cramping and pain. To prevent this, consume:

  • Dark green leafy veg like spinach, kale, bok choy
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Beans and peas

Ginger is one of the best anti-inflammatory plants due to its proven pain relieving compounds known as gingerols. Include ginger in a variety of your meals, or enjoy it as ginger tea.

Last but not least – water! Water can reduce inflammation which reduces pain; dehydration can thicken blood and increase muscle spasms which increases inflammation meaning more pain. To ensure you get the right amount of water, check out some tips below that will help:

  • Keep a bottle of water on your desk at work, or fill a jug of water to drink during the day at home. Seeing it is a reminder and this way, you can monitor how much you have drunk as opposed to keeping a score of how many glasses you have had.
  • Eat foods that have higher water content like cucumber, watermelon, lettuce, celery, grapes, oranges, tomatoes.
  • If drinking water becomes boring, try some variety like spa water or herbal and fruit teas.
  • Either add a squeeze of lemon or lime to your water or add a slice of fruits and herbs to water and leave in a jug or bottle overnight to allow the flavours to infuse into the water.
    • Oranges, lemon slices, strawberry and basil, and mint and cucumber make great, refreshing drinks.
  • If cold drinks are not your thing, then add apple slices and a cinnamon stick in hot water, or even ginger and lemon!

If this resonates with you then…

Take advantage of our 15-minute sessions with a Nutritionist, designed to give you the support you need with your concerns and to get you started on your road to recovery. Find very quick and effective results!

This article was written by our team of specialist therapists at Perfect Balance Clinic. If you would like more specific advice about how our team can help you with this condition or symptoms you may be having, please complete the contact form below and one of the team will get back to you shortly.

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