In the United States, approximately 20 million people suffer from neuropathy. The most common form of neuropathy is diabetic neuropathy with over half of diabetes patients living with this condition. Neuropathy may also be caused by poor circulation, herpes outbreaks or can be drug induced.
Neuropathic pain is the result of degeneration of the outer sheathing or myelin sheath of nerve cells. This is analogous to an electrical wire that is covered with insulation, and the insulation is beginning to breakdown. Without insulation the unprotected wire will start short-circuiting. In the same way, when the sheathing of nerve cells degenerate, the signals being transmitted start to misfire, resulting in the body receiving signals that are interpreted as numbness, heat, cold, tingling and pain in the toes, feet legs, fingers, hands and arms.
Degradation of the myelin sheath results in unusual sensitivity of the neurons and abnormal excitability and heightened sensitivity to stimuli, also known as peripheral sensitization. The heightened sensitivity results in an increased demand and competition for nutrients involved with the pain receptors, particularly arginine, choline, GABA, glutamine, histidine, and serine.
The degradation of nerve pathways increases the turnover rate of the precursors needed for neurotransmitter function. This results in a reduction in the level of production of neurotransmitters. The nutritional requirements for proper neurotransmitter function are such that they cannot be achieved by the modification of diet alone.
Unfortunately, current neuropathy treatment exists primarily of palliative treatment of symptoms. There are a variety of treatments available that range from pharmaceutical drugs and creams to therapies that stimulate the nervous system. Antidepressants, especially tricyclics and selective serotonin-norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors (SNRI’s), have been mainstay treatments for neuropathic pain along with antiepileptic drugs such as Lyrica and Neurontin. Opioid narcotic treatments for neuropathy are used as well but are less favored because of the risk of dependency. Most topical treatments have been largely ineffective at improving symptoms or the disease.
Treatment that addresses the distinctive nutritional needs of adults suffering from neuropathic pain rather than treating symptoms alone is a rapidly expanding field of interest for podiatric medicine. The unique nutritional needs that arise in patients suffering from neuropathic pain cannot be satisfied through a conventional diet or through supplementation (i.e., use of a dietary supplement).
An open-label pilot study of an amino acid-based oral formulation was shown to reduce symptoms of pain and numbness related to peripheral neuropathy by supplying amino acids and other dietary factors which support induction, maintenance, and enhancement of the specific neurotransmitters involved in pain. Use of neurotransmitter precursors in a patented Targeted Cellular Technology system allows for smaller amounts of amino acids to be rapidly utilized by target cells making daily dosing more feasible and efficient. Supplying the nutrients involved with the various pain signaling pathways in a targeted delivery system can synchronize the availability of the precursor supply with the fluctuating demand for the corresponding neurotransmitters resulting in reduced pain, inflammation and numbness.
Neuropathic pain may not be completely preventable. Controlling blood sugar levels if you have diabetes, smoking cessation, alcohol moderation and regular exercise can help. In many cases a prescription nutrition program that addresses the increased requirements of the disease is needed for optimal clinical results and increased patient satisfaction.