Neuropathy is a term used to describe several conditions that affect the nerves and can cause irritating and painful symptoms. Neuropathy is a particularly common complication of diabetes and a side effect of chemotherapy.
Conventional treatments are available to treat neuropathy. However, research is underway to investigate the use of supplements. You may find these supplements preferable to other treatment options since they have fewer side effects. They may also benefit your health and well-being in other ways.
Always talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements or changing your treatment plan in any way. You may wish to combine these supplements with complementary therapies, pain medication, and adaptive techniques to help to manage your symptoms, but be cautious. Herbs and supplements can interfere with each other and with any medications you’re taking. They’re not meant to replace any doctor-approved treatment plan.
B vitamins are useful in treating neuropathy since they support healthy nervous system function. Peripheral neuropathy is sometimes caused by a vitamin B deficiency.
Supplementation should include vitamin B-1 (thiamine and benfotiamine), B-6, and B-12. You may choose to take these separately instead of as a B complex.
Benfotiamine is like vitamin B-1, which is also known as thiamine. It’s thought to reduce pain and inflammation levels and prevent cellular damage.
A deficiency in vitamin B-12 is one cause of peripheral neuropathy. Left untreated, it can cause permanent nerve damage.
Vitamin B-6 may help to maintain the covering on nerve endings. But it’s important that you don’t take more than 200 milligrams (mg) of B-6 per day. Taking higher amounts can lead to nerve damage and cause symptoms of neuropathy.
Food rich in B vitamins include:
- meat, poultry, and fish
- low-fat dairy foods
- fortified cereals
A 2017 review indicates that supplementing with B vitamins has the potential to promote nerve repair. This may be because B vitamins can speed up nerve tissue regeneration and improve nerve function. B vitamins may also be useful in relieving pain and inflammation.
The results of studies showing the benefit of benfotiamine in treating neuropathy have been mixed. A 2005 study and a 2008 study found benfotiamine to have a positive effect on diabetic neuropathy. It was shown to decrease pain and improve the condition.
But a small 2012 study found that people with type 1 diabetes who took 300 mg a day of benfotiamine showed no significant improvements to nerve function or inflammation. People took the supplement for 24 months. Further studies are needed to expand upon these findings. It’s also important to examine the effects of benfotiamine in combination with other B vitamins.
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that may be useful in treating neuropathy caused by diabetes or cancer treatment. It’s said to lower blood sugar levels, improve nerve function, and relieve uncomfortable symptoms in the legs and arms such as:
It can be taken in supplement form or administered intravenously. You may take 600 to 1,200 mg per day in capsule form.
Foods that have trace amounts of alpha-lipoid acid include:
- red meat
- brewer’s yeast
- Brussels sprouts
Alpha-lipoic acid has been shown to have a positive effect on nerve conduction and reduced neuropathic pain. A small 2017 study found that alpha-lipoic acid was useful in protecting against oxidative damage in people with diabetic neuropathy.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid and antioxidant. It may raise energy levels, create healthy nerve cells, and reduce pain in people with neuropathy. It can be taken as a supplement. A typical dosage is 500 mg twice a day.
Food sources of acetyl-L-carnitine include:
- dairy products
According to a 2016 study, acetyl-L-carnitine significantly improved:
- chemotherapy-induced peripheral sensory neuropathy
- cancer-associated fatigue
- physical conditions
Participants received either a placebo or 3 grams per day of acetyl-L-carnitine for 8 weeks. Significant differences between the groups were noted at 12 weeks. This indicates that the neurotoxicity persists without further clinical intervention.
N-Acetyl cysteine is a form of cysteine. It’s an antioxidant and amino acid. Its many medicinal uses include treating neuropathic pain and reducing inflammation.
N-Acetyl cysteine isn’t found naturally in foods, but cysteine is in most high-protein foods. You can take it as a supplement in amounts of 1,200 mg once or twice per day.
Results of a 2010 animal study showed that N-Acetyl cysteine may be useful in treating diabetic neuropathy. It reduced neuropathic pain and improved motor coordination. Its antioxidant properties improved nerve damage from oxidative stress and apoptosis.
Curcumin is a cooking herb known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and analgesic properties. It may help to relieve numbness and tingling in your hands and feet. It’s available in supplement form, or you can take 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder with 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper three times per day.
You can also use fresh or powdered turmeric to make tea. You can add it to foods such as curries, egg salads, and yogurt smoothies.
A 2014 animal study found that curcumin reduced chemotherapy-induced neuropathy in mice who took it for 14 days. It had a positive effect on pain, inflammation, and functional loss. Antioxidant and calcium levels were significantly improved. Larger studies on humans are needed to expand upon these findings.
Research from 2013 indicates that curcumin is helpful when taken during the early stages of neuropathy. This may prevent chronic neuropathic pain from developing.
Fish oil is useful in treating neuropathy due to its anti-inflammatory effects and its ability to repair damaged nerves. It also helps to relieve muscle soreness and pain. It’s available in supplement form. You can take 2,400 to 5,400 mg per day.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are also found in these foods:
- canola oil
- chia seeds
- cod liver oil
A 2017 review examined the potential for fish oil as a treatment for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Studies have shown that fish oil can slow progression and reverse diabetic neuropathy. Its anti-inflammatory properties are useful in reducing pain and discomfort. Its neuroprotective effects can help to stimulate neuron outgrowth.
While the results are promising, further studies are needed to expand upon these findings.
Talk to your doctor before starting any supplements for your neuropathy symptoms. They can provide personalized information about safety and efficacy given your health situation. If you’re given the go-ahead, you may find that some of these supplements ease the discomfort associated with the condition.