Nutrition, Neuritis and Neuropathy

 

Good nutrition and life style choices can in many cases help prevent, delay, or reduce inflammatory nerve diseases such as: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tinnitus, Optic Neuritis, Ischemic Optic Neuropathy, Diabetic Neuropathy, Retinopathy, Macular Degeneration, symptoms similar to Multiple Sclerosis, and other diverse nervous system diseases.

 

Most human diseases are either caused, aggravated or made worse by poor lifestyle choices, including: nutrition, hygiene, toxin exposure, environmental pollution and improper use of risky prescription and over-the-counter medications. Even if you have a family history of certain diseases, poor lifestyle choices unnecessarily accelerate aging, the progress of disease, and make the impact much worse. In fact, many diseases that are common to family members are caused not by DNA-transmitted genetics, but by exposure to poor lifestyle habits of parents and siblings. The choices that you make often influence people around you. We must learn to identify previous mistakes and do what is necessary to prevent, delay or reduce unnecessary discomfort, disease and untimely death.

 

The number of avoidable human diseases is very large. Joyful Aging (or any other human organization) does not have the capacity or resources to describe how to prevent all unnecessary diseases. None of the following material is an attempt to diagnose or treat any specific individual. It is offered for educational purposes only.

 

Modern medicine can help with many different diseases. However, in many cases, medical specialists have little or no training in nutrition. Joyful Aging has chosen to write this material about the relationship between Nutrition, Neuritis and Neuropathy to point out some critical issues and limitations of modern medicine. We offer knowledge and hope where Board Certified Medical Specialists can offer no effective treatment. Medical doctors are trained in the use of prescription drugs and surgery, with very little information about things available in common grocery stores. In fact, for decades, M.D.’s resisted the use of vitamins and food supplements. We now have solid proof that they were often quite wrong. Federal legislation now blocks medical doctors from their incorrect previous practices of resisting alternative medicine, including proper selective applications of nutritious foods and food supplements. This legislation has encouraged a small (but increasing) number of medical doctors to independently study nutrition, far beyond anything required in the institutions that issued their medical degree. Joyful Aging applauds the efforts of pioneers like Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. and Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, MD. We encourage other medical doctors to follow in their footsteps.

 

Neuritis and Neuropathy

 

In simple terms, neuritis is inflammation of nerves. Inflammation is the characteristic reaction of bodily tissues to injury or disease. The tissues are trying to increase their blood supply to accelerate the healing process or the effectiveness of the natural immune defense system. Inflammation often involves a “histamine” hormonal response (similar to adrenaline), which causes vasodilation (blood vessels open wider) and blood vessel walls become more permeable. This is a natural attempt to deliver more red and white blood cells to the affected area. Inflammation is characterized by swelling, redness, heat, and pain.

 

Inflammation is both a symptom that results from injury or disease, and a source of further injury and disease. When blood is cut off from a single nerve fiber (by traumatic injury such as an impact, blood vessel hemorrhage, ergonomic errors like improper use of a tool or keyboard, disease, virus, bacteria, toxic poison, pollution, etc), then a histamine response occurs, which triggers increased blood flow in an attempt to (1) avoid starvation and (2) deliver antibodies to attack foreign substances.

 

In the case of neuritis, the inflammation of one nerve often pinches the blood supply to adjacent nerves in the bundle, causing a cascading negative response, which can result in irreparable nerve damage (such as ischemic neuropathy) if not dealt with quickly. Once dead, a nerve generally cannot be replaced (unlike muscles). Before neuropathy (nerve death) occurs, the nerve sends out many signals during the pre-death phase of neuritis. There accelerated nerve firings are interpreted by the brain as pain, tingling, heat, pressure, ringing/buzzing sounds (tinnitus), blinking/flashing visual images (optic neuritis). As neuritis progresses, starved nerves die (neuropathy), which results in permanent (partial or total) loss of feeling in the affected area, motor control (as in advanced carpal tunnel syndrome), deafness (of some or all sound frequencies) or visual field loss (gray spots in part of what one sees).

If the nerve bundle inflammation/disease cycle is broken, some adjacent nerve function may be restored, but the dead nerves typically will not be replaced. (Stem cell research offers limited hope for the future, but for now the progress in this area is slow and even constrained legally).

 

In the case of optic neuropathy of the optic nerve in one eye, the optical cortex of the brain will learn to to fill in missing visual fields from one eye with information received from the other eye. However, people who experience optic neuritis in one eye, frequently have a similar experience in the other eye within four years, which can eventually progress to the end state of total blindness where one cannot tell the difference between day and night. In sever cases, total blindness can result in one or two months. The point here is that optic neuritis MUST be dealt with rapidly, as soon as the first sign of a blinking/flashing spot is sensed in one’s vision. It may look like a small pin wheel flashing in one eye, or a tiny old-time flickering movie frame. The pressure of closing the eyelids and rolling ones eyes up/down, left/right and to the corners may cause increased pain or bright flashes.

 

Similar strange sensations can occur in the ears or throughout the entire central nervous system sensory and motor control paths, as a result of localized neuritis which can eventually lead to neuropathy. If someone is suffering from inflammation of nerves and the best medical specialists have run appropriate tests (blood, internal image scans like computed axial tomography magnetic resonance imaging, spinal fluid tap, etc.) and the can offer no safe or effective treatment (as in some cases of optic neuritis), then one should consider rapidly doing significant research into alternative forms of nutrition and lifestyles changes before permanent irreversible nerve damage occurs.

 

There are good and valid arguments about whether lifestyle changes should be pursued as preventative measures, or only after serious disease has been diagnosed. But, if one solution prescribed by a health specialist does not work, or a medical doctor offers you no hope of a cure for your progressive neuritis / neuropathy, then seriously consider other alternatives that have a scientific basis for hope of a partial or complete cure. Do NOT just “wait and see” if neuritis goes away on its own, unless you are certain that you have removed the original source of the problem. Altogether too often, patients and medical professions do NOT fully understand the underlying cause and effect or how to eliminate unnecessary avoidable neuritis through a variety of lifestyle changes.

 

IF inflammation is caused by ischemic neuritis (micro vascular hemorrhages or pinching that cuts off the blood supply) and causes like viral infection have been ruled out by the best tests available, then significantly improved nutrition MAY be an effective treatment.

 

AVOID KNOWN NEUROTOXINS AND EXCITOTOXINS !

 

In general, you should absolutely avoid known “neurotoxins” (poisons that kill neurons) such as smoking, intoxicating alcohol, and “excitotoxins” (including: MSG, aspartame, NutraSweet, Equal and other sugar substitutes). Many forms of pepper are at least mildly neurotoxic. Heavy metals like lead and mercury (in fish, metal tooth fillings, etc.) are known to kill neurons. The more neurotoxins consumed, and the longer the exposure, the more significant the rate of progressive irreversible neuropathy.

 

Since the impact of environmental and food-based neurotoxins takes place over a long period of time, the underlying cause-and-effect is often difficult to fully understand. The precise reason for a “last straw that broke the camel’s back” acute episode of neuritis may actually be a minor event, which causes a long-term neurotoxin exposure (or ergonomic repetitive strain injury - RSI) to surface as an irritating neuritis episode.

 

Even a minor case of neuritis (like a small flashing sparkle in one eye) should not be taken lightly. It could very well be the first clear signal of the damage caused by long-term bad habits, which will soon result in significant nervous system damage, such as partial or complete blindness, deafness and progressive loss of sensation or motor control (similar to multiple sclerosis) in part or all of the body. Localized small-area neuritis may be a first-or-last warning of much worse neuropathy in the near future.

 

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

 

Merely taking an over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory drug is merely dealing with the symptom, while ignoring the root cause disease, injury or toxin that triggered the inflammation. Self-prescribed painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen are conceptually similar to removing the battery from a smoke detector, while ignoring the fact that your house is burning down. If you ask an American “What should you do if you have pain?” they will probably say “Take a (pill)” instead of “Study the root cause of the pain and correct the problem that caused it.”

 

Medically prescribed anti-inflammatory adrenal steroid hormones (like dangerous cortisone, corticosteroids like prescription methylprednisolone (medrol, meprolone), prednisone (deltasone, orasone) can greatly aggravate and complicate problems that are linked to nerve inflammation.

 

If a doctor prescribes anti-inflammatory drugs for you, discuss the known side effects and contraindications carefully (or consider getting a second superior medical opinion). Corticosteroid anti-inflammatory drugs are known to cause or increase: diabetes, osteoporosis, elevate LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides and reduce HDL (good) cholesterol, causing heart attacks, brain strokes, etc. Corticosteroid impact on the central nervous system often triggers mild to severe confusion, depression, mania, psychosis and even suicide.

 

These over-used prescription anti-inflammatory drugs are very addictive, almost immediately creating a state of dependence on them. When the adrenal gland senses excess hormones, it shuts down, as do other healthy bodily functions. A period of gradual detoxification is required, while the adrenal gland relearns to produce its own replacement hormones. During the process of excess steroid detoxification, disease-causing inflammation can rage throughout the entire otherwise healthy body, triggering many unnecessary and avoidable medical symptoms in the joints and most internal organs.

 

The use of prescription steroids is generally a medically myopic shortsighted symptomatic approach (promoted and encouraged by profit-motivated pharmaceutical companies), which metaphorically removes smoke detector batteries, while pouring alcohol on a house fire. For decades, intelligent organizations like the Consumers Union, have warned against such powerful prescription medications that cause unnecessary disease and even iatrogenic death.

 

Vasodilators

 

IF someone is having neuritis or neuropathy caused by vascular deterioration micro hemorrhages, it is very important to avoid vasodilators and blood thinners, which are in many prescription drugs used to treat high blood pressure, etc. Examples of popular but dangerous vasodilators include hydralazine, minoxidil and sodium nitroprusside. Vasodilators have other negative effects. Hydralazine and minoxidil cause: (1) a reflex tachycardia - that is often profound requiring beta-blockade; (2) rebound Na retention that antagonizes their hypotensive action and requires aggressive use of a loop diuretic while may have another negative impact on proper cellular hydration.

 

Food supplements like Ginkgo Biloba (used indiscriminately to maintain alertness) are also vasodilators, which is known to increase bleeding in some cases. Combining prescription vasodilators and some concentrated food supplements can be unpredictably dangerous, particularly when the prescribing physician does not know it is being done, or has no knowledge of food supplements (which is a common situation).

 

Blood Thinners

 

Prescription blood thinners are used to break up or help prevent blood clots in mild heart victims, but they may be the wrong thing to prescribe for someone suffering from mild or severe vascular hemorrhage. Some foods like alfalfa-based products are also blood thinners.

 

Most over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like: aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, and their various particular brand names (check the label) are blood thinners. Taking one of these over-used heavily-advertised products may temporarily silence your neuritis smoke detector pain, but it may also be like pouring flammable alcohol on a house fire in a stupid attempt to put out the flames.

 

Thinner blood and dilated blood vessels INCREASE the probability of micro hemorrhages, particularly during periods of elevated exercise activity, stress, high blood pressure and environment pressure changes caused by flying, mountain climbing, skiing and scuba diving.

 

Antioxidants - Slowing The Rate Of Neuron and Vascular Aging and Decay

 

Our cells, tissues and organs are constantly exposed to environmental toxins, pollution and internal metabolic processes that contain “oxidizers,” “free radicals,” pollutants, toxins, fumigants, heavy metals, preservatives and carcinogens, which accelerate the rate of aging, disease, and cellular decay. When blood vessel walls become weak, they break open. Blood released in a brain hemorrhage rips apart the neural network where memories are stored. Vascular hemorrhages anywhere in the body can cut off the blood supply to tiny neurons causing localize neuritis and cascading neuropathy.

 

To reduce (but not eliminate) the impact of environmental oxidative aging accelerators (in blood vessels, nerves, etc.), most people suffering from neuritis should increase their intake of high-pigment natural antioxidants. Fruits, fruit skins and seeds from blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, dark grapes, cherries and red tomatoes contain powerful antioxidants that protect the fruit and significantly slow down their aging process. Vegetables like kale, spinach, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli florets, and red bell peppers have similar protective antiaging benefits for most people. These foods can slow the onset, and significantly reduce the lifetime damage caused by, many different age-related diseases.

 

The dark pigments in some fruits and vegetables help keep them from decaying in the sun. If we consume fruit and vegetable antioxidants, we will visibly sunburn less rapidly, and also slow the rate of aging of our internal organs, including our cardiovascular system, from our heart and lungs, down to our smallest micro capillaries, like those that supply the individual neurons in our sensory organs (eyes, ears, etc.).

 

If a fresh, diverse supply of fruit and vegetable antioxidants is not immediately available, food supplements can be helpful for many individuals. For example:

 

Grapeseed Extract neutralizes free radicals 50 times more effectively than Vitamin E. Grapeseed Extract has the unique property of sticking to connective tissue, which is what blood vessels are made of. Thus, it reduces the rate of vascular aging (by slowing oxidation) and free radical damage.

 

One problem with the food supplement industry is that it is largely unregulated, with no assurance that the product contains what the label says. Grapeseed Extract pills should be a purple color. Some inferior grapeseed extract pills that are white in color probably contain a lot of filler.

 

Bilberry Extract (European blueberry) is an effective antioxidant that also provides essential nutrients, which the eyes and retina need, like retinol purple, etc.

 

Other fat-based and water-based antioxidants may be effective in reducing other forms of neuritis. Antioxidants should be spread out during the day, rather than all consumed at once. A goal should be to maintain a uniform level of antioxidants throughout the day. As antioxidants are “oxidized” or used up, they need to be replaced or recharged.

 

Antioxidants are used up when they contact free radicals. It is estimated that every cell in a human may be exposed to 10,000 free-radical hits per day (depending on our lifestyle, pollution/toxin exposure, and overall level of “oxidative stress”). Free radicals cannot be eliminated, but they can be greatly reduced and neutralized, which will slow many oxidative aging processes and greatly delay (or eliminate) the onset of many types of deadly diseases.

 

Oil-based antioxidants like Vitamin E, protect cell membranes (and nerve fiber myelin sheath). Water-based antioxidants like Vitamin C protect the internal chemical factories inside the cell. Water-based antioxidants can penetrate fatty cell membranes. Water-based antioxidants can “recharge” oil-based antioxidants. An excess of water-based vitamins can be flushed through the system rapidly, but oil-based vitamins accumulate in a variety of cells and organs like the liver.

 

Good Versus Bad Fats

 

Trans Fatty Acids (“hydrogenated” vegetable oil products found in a huge number of processed foods) are the NUMBER ONE SOURCE OF HEART DISEASE, which is the number one killer of Americans. Trans fats (in most margarine, fried foods, baked products, etc.) are the worst cause of clogged arteries, which prevents proper blood flow through micro capillaries to nerves, and every other type of cell in the body. The danger of deadly trans fats has only been fully understood recently. The FDA is requiring food vendors to add trans fat content to mandated food labels by 2006, but for now, avoid foods that have “partially hydrogenated” among their ingredients.

 

Essential Fatty Acids, like Omega 3 fatty acid found in walnuts and canola (rapeseed) oil are essential to life. Our entire central nervous system and especially our brain consists largely of structural fats. Every nerve fiber is coated with a fatty “myelin sheath,” which acts like the insulation around electrical wires. A NO FAT DIET IS EXTREMELY BAD FOR NERVES. Click on Good Versus Bad Fats above for a very detailed explanation. AVOID TRANS FATS AND COMSUME MORE ESSENTIAL OMEGA 3 FATTY ACID TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH OF YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM.

 

If You Have Neuritis, Avoid Sugar (and Sugar Substitutes)

 

Diseases related to inflammation are greatly aggravated by serum glucose (blood sugar). Plainly stated: SUGAR MAKES INFLAMMATION MUCH WORSE. It is extremely important to AVOID ALL HIGH GLYCEMIC INDEX FOODS (that release glucose into the blood shortly after consumption), such as potatoes, fructose, corn syrup, table sugar (cane, beet, etc. raw or refined), everything with any form of grass seed (like wheat, rice, etc.), starches like corn, roots like carrots, etc.

 

See www.JoyfulAging.com for many specific details and explanations

© Copyright Larry Hartweg JoyfulAging.com 2007

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