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Coping With Nerve Pain – B Vitamin Relief

Source: Energy Times, February 2001

Coping with Nerve Pain – B Vitamin Relief

When you lack B vitamins, you may suffer pain in your hands or feet, signs of what’s called peripheral neuropathy. The good news: B supplements can help your nerves calm down and stop screaming with pain.

About 15 million Americans suffer from neuropathy, a nerve problem that can damage the nervous system and cause unrelenting aches and pains. In particular, people suffering from diabetes may suffer peripheral neuropathy when the sugar in their blood reaches and remains at dangerous levels. Experts differ on why this nerve damage occurs. One theory: the sugar leads to a chemical reaction around the nerves that causes swelling and pinching. If not relieved, these changes can end in nerve death.

Because nerves send impulses throughout the body, this condition can leave you with a host of discomforts: pain in your face, hands and feet; digestive troubles; and incontinence. But taking extra nutrients may help soothe your nerves and relieve pain by repairing and rebuilding the protective structures that usually protect your nerves.


Nerve damage can be caused by vitamin B deficiencies. All the members of the B vitamin family play crucial roles in promoting and insuring nerve health:

Thiamine (B-1) and biotin (B-7) promote healthy nerves. Riboflavin (B-2) aids in nerve insulation. Niacin (B-3) assists nervous system function, while pyridoxine (B-6) helps the body use and absorb niacin and B-12.

A lack of B-6 may cause carpal tunnel syndrome, painful neuropathy in your hands that may make it impossible to type or grip heavy objects. Also important is cyanocobalamin (B-12), which helps nerves function and avoid damage. Both B-12 and folic acid (B-9) deficiency can give you neuropathic leg and foot pain.

Nerve Health

When Japanese researchers studied how B vitamins enhance nerve health, they found that supplements helped nerves repair themselves and transmit their vital information (Gen Pharmacol 1996;27(6)995-1000).

A German study found similar benefits (Ex Clin Endocrinol Diabetes 1996;104(4):311-6). Yet another study discovered that taking B-6 can relieve nerve pain (Adv Perit Dial 2000;16:308-12).

French scientists administering high doses of biotin to folks suffering from severe peripheral neuropathy noted marked pain relief within a couple of months. (The researchers kept giving the people in the study supplements for two years.) These scientists concluded that biotin is crucial for keeping nerves functioning properly, and they suggested that biotin be used routinely for the prevention and management of neuropathy (Biomed Pharmacother 1990;44(10):511-4).

Further proof of B vitamin help for nerves: In the 1990s Cubans suffered an epidemic of nerve pain. When medical experts gave them riboflavin and antioxidant nutrients, their problems decreased (Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:1676-81S).

Antidote B

Studies show that many people don’t get enough B vitamins in the food they eat. And since many experts believe that as we age our digestive systems absorb fewer B vitamins, B vitamin supplements are your best bet for cutting nerve pain. When you take supplements, include a B complex vitamin or a multivitamin that contains all members of the B family.

In addition you should eat plenty of legumes (nuts and beans), whole grains, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Lean meats also have B vitamins.

Vegetarians should eat heaping portions of soy, seaweed, algae and kelp to get B-12.

Of course, if you suffer serious nerve problems, consult with your health practitioner. And take your B vitamins.