Imagine that your feet feel like they are asleep while simultaneously on fire, all the while 10,000 pins and needles are poking at them. Your toes and balls of your feet are numb to your touch, and over time this feeling is progressing in your legs and hands too. What if this feeling were chronic and never went away, causing misery both day and night? This is what 42 million Americans are dealing with everyday, it is a condition called “Peripheral Neuropathy” or PN.
President Clinton famously once said “I feel your pain”, and well, unfortunately I do too. you see, I have Peripheral Neuropathy, the condition listed above, and fortunately at this point I just have these awkward feelings in my feet but my fear is that over time it will spread into my legs and my hands and eventually become debilitating.
I had never heard of Peripheral Neuropathy until I started researching the nature of my symptoms. Consider that 42 Million Americans suffer from some form of peripheral neuropathy whether very light beginning stage symptoms or late stage debilitating symptoms. That is 14% of the American population. But hold on, that seems like a very high number for a condition that most people don’t even know how to pronounce let alone have heard of. Well the fact is that about half of the 14% or 7% (21 million Americans) just have a very mild form of PN that may manifest itself in just a few numb, tingly toes. Because of this the PN subject does not pay much attention to the symptoms to the degree that they don’t even mention it to their doctor during the official start of their symptoms. Given that, it means there are 21 Million Americans that suffer from much more sever symptoms of PN some of them debilitating to the degree that it affects mobility. Still, I am at a loss to understand why more people do not know about this condition. Several people I have talked to recently have never heard of it let alone pronounce it. With a world population of 7 billion people, more than 500 million people may have this condition today around the world. This is one of those conditions that can really make your life miserable. I know it sounds morose and negative but we suffer in silence, not really sharing our pain and frustration with anyone other than our doctor and close family most of the time. But I think it is time to elevate awareness.
Over time as Peripheral Neuropathy progresses it can become crippling and debilitating. Sure there are drugs that will relieve the pain and discomfort to some degree, often not much more than by a factor of 20%. That is partially due to the fact that many of these drugs were designed to control epileptic seizures that in essence slow down the rate at which the mind perceives pain so that sensation is also slowed and thus abated. The side effects inhibit the thought process of the brain and make people feel like they are zombies. Because of these irritating side effects we have no choice but to look for other alternative treatments.
Let’s first go on the hunt for the primary root cause of this condition. Although there are many contributing factors that cause Peripheral Neuropathy to develop, the leading cause is high glucose or blood sugar levels. You don’t have to be diabetic to be considered having high glucose levels anymore, pre-diabetics are also on the list. Higher than normal glucose levels damage the micro veins and arteries starting with those which are furthest from the heart and have the least amount of circulation, that means your feet and hands. Pre-diabetics and diabetics alike are predisposed to impairing the micro veins and arteries in their extremities.
Once the micro veins and arteries are damaged they no longer can supply oxygen to the nerves in the extremities which ultimately means that the nerve cells begin to die. As these nerve cells die they essentially create intermittent signals of sensation to the brain which are felt as pins and needles, burning, numbness and the occasional shooting of lightening pain in the feet and hands.
Diabetes is growing by leaps and bounds in the United States and many of the western cultures around the world. Fine, but how did we get here? Well it boils down to the fact that in order to provide foods that are fast and economical, our society has opted to consume processed foods over whole foods. Processed foods are foods that contain highly refined ingredients like white rice, bleached flour, white sugar or any unnatural form of food and more important they are extremely high in carbohydrates and low in fibre. Carbohydrates are what you have to keep at reasonable levels in your body because carbohydrates are converted to glucose by your body. Too much glucose in your body ultimately leads to glucose intolerance by your cells which is diabetes. Whole foods are those that are whole and cooked in the home like roast chicken with broccoli or green beans. And no, green beans are not whole if they are from a can because they often add salt and preservatives to the broth. Fresh green beans and other fresh produce from the grocer are what we need to be consuming.
The American fast food diet has been killing us and it is taking its toll, causing us to develop various miserable conditions ultimately related to our diet like Peripheral Neuropathy.
Our first lady, Michelle Obama, has been spreading the word to help our young generation have an appreciation for whole fresh foods and I think she is doing a great job by growing veggies in the White House back yard. What we are really facing here is a very influential processed food industry and lobby that does not want to behave in a way that will promote a healthy lifestyle.
If you really want to make a change with yourself and those companies that are supplying us currently with unhealthy processed foods, then you really need to consider making a change by reducing your carbohydrate intake by preparing your own whole foods. I know that we can’t always do that every single day and there are food deserts in America where it is very challenging. Let’s learn how to read food labels properly so that we really understand what we are about to put in our families bodies. Yes, there are actually good healthy foods that come in paper or plastic packages but you have to read the nutrition information to make sure that you are getting what you want and is right for you.
So now you understand that our love of excessive carbohydrates is what has lead most of us to develop the condition of Peripheral Neuropathy. Now that we know what to do to prevent it, what are we going to do about the millions of people that already have it or are in the process of developing it? Drug companies have medications available that will relieve the discomfort to some degree but you would have to weigh the benefits with the side effects, particularly the ongoing drowsiness and “the zombie lifestyle” you will experience. That is not to say that drugs will not work for some as it likely will be just right for some but a complete flop for others.
Those with PN (Peripheral Neuropathy) need to be on an exploratory quest to 1) stop the symptoms from spreading and 2) relieve the pain and discomfort.
There are many products and services available to those with PN. First and foremost, get as much information from various sources as possible. This will help guide the PN sufferer to make better decisions about treatment options.
Also PN sufferers need to open the lines of communication. The more interest around this topic the more likely that big money will be looking for a real cure. PN sufferers need to start local interest groups that meet regularly on the topic. There are great organization like the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy and the Peripheral Neuropathy Association that a PN sufferer or loved one can take part in.
A good source of information related to products and services for Peripheral Neuropathy can be accessed right here at “I Have Peripheral Neuropathy (www.ihpavepn.com)”