Non-Traditional Ways to Manage Diabetic Neuropathy

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According to a CDC report released in July 2017, an estimated 30.3 million Americans have diabetes — about 9.4 percent of the total population. Diabetes can be managed through changes to diet and physical activity, but it can also lead to serious complications, such as diabetic neuropathy. In fact, about half of patients with diabetes have some form of neuropathy. The most common kind is peripheral neuropathy, which leads to numbness, pain, and weakness in the arms, legs, hands, and/or feet. For patients with diabetic neuropathy, these symptoms can significantly interfere with overall quality of life, and they are also notoriously hard to treat. If you are finding pain medications to be ineffective, you may want to consider supplementing them with reflexology treatment. You can also use nutritional strategies to help relieve your symptoms.

Using Reflexology to Treat Diabetic Neuropathy

Reflexology is a unique massage modality that focuses on improving energy flow in the body through the targeting of specific trigger points in the feet, hands, and/or head. By targeting these trigger points, the massage therapist can relieve tension and promote healing. Both anecdotal evidence and rigorous research studies have shown that reflexology is effective for treating a wide range of mental and physical health conditions — including diabetic neuropathy.

One of the most convincing studies on the effectiveness of reflexology for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy was published in 2014 in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The researchers had previously observed that painkillers were often ineffective for treating peripheral neuropathy, they set out to conduct a randomized, controlled clinical trial on the effectiveness of foot reflexology. For their study, they recruited 58 diabetes patients who had been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and divided them randomly into a control group and and intervention group. The control group received conventional therapy with standard painkillers. The intervention group received the same pharmacological treatment, but they also received foot reflexology therapy from a trained caregiver — once a week for the six month study period.

After the study period was over, the researchers determined the effectiveness of the reflexology measures by comparing key outcome measures between the control group and the intervention group. For each of the following outcome measures, they noted greater improvements in the reflexology intervention group than the control group:

  • Pain reduction
  • Glycemic control
  • Nerve conductivity
  • Thermal sensitivity
  • Vibration sensitivity

Therefore, the authors concluded that foot reflexology treatment has benefits for peripheral neuropathy patients when provided alongside conventional treatment.

Nutritional Strategies for Patients with Peripheral Neuropathy

As every diabetes patient knows, making healthy eating choices is an essential aspect of diabetes management. However, there are also specific steps you can take to reduce the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, including taking dietary supplements and adding particular foods to your diet.

One of the nutrients that you need to include in your diet if you want to treat (or prevent) peripheral neuropathy is vitamin B12. Deficiency in vitamin B12 is relatively common among older adults and people who take metformin, a common diabetes management medication, and studies show that vitamin B12 deficiency can also worsen the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. An easy way to address vitamin B12 deficiency is to take a complete B vitamin supplement. You can also consider one of these creative ways to add more vitamin B12 to your diet:

  • Change up your dinner routine by serving steamed mussels with olive oil as your main dish. A single serving of mussels contains 340 percent your daily vitamin B12 needs.
  • Add shrimp to your salad at lunch. From one serving of shrimp, you can get 80 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin B12.
  • Choose cereal with skim low-fat milk as a nighttime snack. Many whole grain cereals are fortified with vitamin B12, and milk provides 20 percent of your daily vitamin B12 needs in a single cup.
  • If you’re looking for a vegan option, stir nutritional yeast into your oatmeal or sprinkle it on whole grain toast at breakfast.

There are also several other dietary supplements that may help reduce the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. These include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, which can reduce inflammation and improve blood flow, thereby lessening symptoms like tingling and numbness
  • Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), which supports the healthy functioning of nerve cells by acting as an antioxidant
  • Curcumin, a compound naturally found in tumeric, which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects when taken in supplement form

 

If you are a diabetes patient looking to prevent or relieve peripheral neuropathy, Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness is here to help. Our massage therapists provide reflexology treatments, and we also offer nutritional counseling that can help you develop a dietary strategy that supports the effective management of your diabetes and your peripheral neuropathy. At Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness, you can also purchase any of the dietary supplements discussed in this post. Contact us today for more information about our products and services!

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