* I am 78 years old and have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy. I do not have diabetes.
I have tingling and mild pain in my feet and in my fingertips. I wear thick-soled shoes to protect my feet. I am not on any medication but am taking vitamin D3, B complex and magnesium. I am waiting for an appointment with a neurologist. What are my long-term prospects?
>> Located outside of the brain and spinal cord, the peripheral nervous system is responsible for transmitting information from the central nervous system to the body. It follows that peripheral neuropathy, a problem in the functioning of the peripheral nervous system, has far-reaching effects.
This condition is linked with diabetes — 50% of people with diabetes suffer from neuropathy. In your case, it’s important this has been ruled out. Other common triggers include injury, infection, and exposure to toxins.
The sensitivity you describe, along with tingling, pain, and numbness are the most common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. As peripheral suggests, the most common location of these sensations is in the hands and feet, although other parts of the body can be affected.
You have good advice as to supplementation. Many people find that warming herbs also help, especially ginger — it not only helps to repair nerve damage, it also relieves pain and inflammation.
You can make a simple infusion by simmering an inch of ginger root in two cups of water (add honey to taste). Sip throughout the day, reheating as necessary. If you don’t have access to fresh ginger root, then use powdered ginger (one teaspoon per cup of water). A pinch of cayenne will supercharge this infusion, if you don’t mind the heat.
Acupuncture may improve quality of life for those with peripheral neuropathy. For information, see www.neurocentre.com
* I am 58-year-old woman and had a recent DEXA scan; I have a slight thinning of the bone. My consultant suggests I increase my calcium and take a 30-minute brisk walk every day. I started taking Holland & Barrett’s calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D tablets. Are these sufficient to increase calcium levels? Can too much calcium lead to heart problems?
>> DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scans utilise x-ray technology to measure bone-mineral density. The radiation dose from this procedure is about 0.01 mSv, which is comparable to daily background radiation.
Bones are not solid and lifeless; they are living tissue affected by diet and exercise. Cells, called osteoclasts, are continually breaking down old bone tissue, while osteoblasts stimulate the growth of new bone tissue.
Unfortunately, after the age of 30, bone tissue is being absorbed faster than it is being formed. Thinning of the bone, also known as osteopenia, is a pre-cursor to osteoporosis, so you are wise to addressing this immediately.
Regular walking is a great start to improving bone density, as is stair climbing and exercising with a rebounder. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, high in fresh fruit and vegetables, and essential fatty acids, found in nuts, seeds, fatty fruits, and oily fish. Supplements with magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D works well. The Holland & Barrett formulation provides good ratios of these nutrients.
Calcium supplements can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, but this appears to apply to men only; and supplements that combine calcium with vitamin D are considered to be safe.
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