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Author: Lark Lands, Ph.D.

Biotin, choline, inositol, and thiamine are B vitamins that have all been found useful in treating the peripheral and autonomic neuropathies found in diabetes and may also help with HIV-related neuropathies.

Typical symptoms of peripheral neuropathy related to B12 deficiency include the type of leg and foot pains experienced by many. B6 deficiencies are also known to cause both carpal tunnel syndrome (with symptoms of numbness, tingling, and pain in the hands and wrists) and degeneration of peripheral nerves and may be responsible for some peripheral neuropathy problems.

Choline and inositol also seem to be very important parts of the combination of vitamins needed for neuropathy resolution. Diabetic neuropathy is known to be associated with a reduction in myo-inositol levels in nerves and tissues. The decreased level of myo-inositol is believed to cause a decrease in the activity of the sodium-potassium pump and, thus, to change the sodium permeability of nerves. Both diets high in inositol and inositol supplementation have been shown to improve diabetic neuropathy.

In addition to the use of inositol itself, treatment with acetyl-l-carnitine can help raise nerve myo-inositol content. Florida researchers have found that peripheral nerve function in diabetes is linked to nerve myo-inositol content and that acetyl-l-carnitine can raise the levels of myo-inositol in the nerves of animals with experimentally induced diabetes. It also apparently protects the nerve membranes from free-radical damage, as evidenced by reduced malondialdehyde levels in the animals treated with acetyl-l-carnitine.

Alpha-lipoic acid has long been used in Europe for the treatment of peripheral neuropathy in diabetics. A number of controlled clinical trials have shown its usefulness for reducing both the pain and numbness suffered by those with diabetic neuropathy, and its use for this condition is approved in Germany. Its antioxidant properties may help protect the nerves from the inflammation and oxidative damage that HIV induces, as has been shown to be true with diabetic neuropathy. Because of its liver protective and antioxidant benefits, it has been included as a component of the programs of many of my clients for several years now. It may have contributed to the success of the neuropathy elimination programs some of them have used.

Lark Lands, Ph.D., a well-known health educator and consultant, is the author of POSITIVELY WELL. Dr. Lands also has had lifelong diabetes, and is an expert on diabetic neuropathy.