The old cliché states that "you are what you eat." Scientists and nutritionists have known for a long time that there's a grain of truth in that tired old saying. If a person eats poorly, he'll feel poorly. The link between food and pain is readily apparent in a condition termed nutritional neuropathy. When a person doesn't get the proper nutrients, neuropathy, or nerve pain, results.
A number of nutrition disorders can lead to nutritional neuropathy. Anorexia, bulimia, anemia, autoimmune diseases, gastritis, Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis are just some of the disorders that can cause nutritional peripheral neuropathy, another name for the nerve pain caused by a lack of nutrients. Nutritional neuropathies can develop from a lack of any one of a number of key nutrients, including vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, potassium, sodium or phosphorus. There are different types of neuropathy and the symptoms of nutritional neuropathy vary by the nerves affected.
When nutritional neuropathy affects sensory nerves, even the smallest touch can cause pain, such as when a bed sheet touches a leg. Tingling and burning sensations can also occur, along with shock or numbness. When the nerves that control motor function are affected, a lack of muscle control, cramps and spasms can appear, as well as clumsiness. Still other types of this condition that affect the autonomic nervous system may lower or elevate blood pressure, interfere with perspiration, urination, defecation and sexual performance.
The biggest step to preventing the disease is education — knowing the link between nutrition and neuropathy and how a body reacts to a nutritional deficiency. Eating a quality diet and visiting the doctor at the first suspicion of a problem are two more key steps in prevention. If a person suspects he might be suffering from nutritional neuropathy, he should speak to his doctor or healthcare provider immediately.
The condition is diagnosed with a blood test to check levels of key vitamins and nutrients. Patients are screened for underlying conditions that may cause a nutritional deficiency. Blood and urine tests are two major lab work procedures used in the diagnosis of the disorder and its underlying causes, but these aren't the only ones used by healthcare professionals. The initial treatment focuses on resolving the symptoms, while further treatment works to manage or resolve the underlying cause of the disease.
If left unchecked, nutritional neuropathy can develop into more severe, debilitating and potentially life-threatening illnesses. It is imperative to speak to a doctor as soon as an illness appears to rule out nutritional neuropathy as a cause. Most people recover from nutritional neuropathy if treated early in the course of the disease.