If you’re seeing a neurologist for peripheral neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, stroke-related damage, migraine headaches, epilepsy, or a movement disorder such as Parkinson’s disease, you should know that good nutrition and certain nutritional supplements are proven to help these problems. They can reduce pain, slow the progression of nerve damage, help you reduce your drug dosage, and remove toxins from your body that may be contributing to your health problems.
I’ve helped a number of people with neurological problems, working with them and their doctors to safely combine their medical care with natural, nutrition-based treatments.
If you have peripheral neuropathy, for instance, consider taking alpha lipoic acid, a nutritional supplement that can work as well as the drug Neurontin–without the side effects. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B12, folate and Coenzyme Q10, which can help relieve some forms of neuropathy. And if you’re taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, you need to be aware that these drugs greatly increase your risk for developing neuropathy, and can also cause muscle weakness and mood changes. Getting your cholesterol down with a healthy, plant-based diet can help you lower your dosage of statin drugs and reduce your risk for developing these troubling symptoms.
People with MS often do better when they start on an anti-inflammatory diet, getting more omega-3 fats and fewer omega-6 and saturated fats. They also benefit from other nutrients: vitamins D, E and B12, n-acetyl-cysteine, phosphatidylserine, CoQ10 and alpha lipoic acid.
People with Parkinson’s disease often have had exposure to toxic chemicals, such as solvents, herbicides or pesticides, and may benefit from an evaluation to reduce ongoing environmental toxin exposure. They also often improve by following a detoxifying diet and supplements to help their bodies break down and remove brain and nerve-damaging toxins.
People who’ve had a stroke, who have high blood pressure, or who are at risk for having stroke because of clotting problems can reduce their blood pressure with a diet high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, getting more omega-3 fats, and cutting back on sodium and saturated fats. This kind of diet can also help restore normal heartbeat in some people who have heart arrhythmia problems.
People with migraines and epilepsy sometimes find that they are reacting to certain foods or food additives. A little detective work can help pinpoint these foods, but sometimes people need to get food allergy testing to figure out what is going on. I’ve found people often improve once they stop eating foods, or, especially, food additives like sulfites and MSG–and aspartame!–that are making them sick.
Gale Maleskey, MS, RD, is an Integrative Nutrition Counselor and Certified Wellness Coach