A few days ago when I finally was able to see a neurologist for the headaches that started four months ago, the first part of his examination was of my feet. I had heard of referred pain, but this seemed extreme to me, and I told him so.
The doctor replied that he would get to my head. In the meanwhile he gave me a complete examination. He used a tuning fork, similar to what musicians use. I could feel it as he went down my legs. But when he got to each of my feet, I felt nothing.
Then he worked down my legs to my feet with the side of a pin. Again, my feet I had no sensation.
He told me that I had peripheral neuropathy. And I could see it for myself. None of my other doctors had ever told me that before.
Since my diabetes diagnoses in February 1994, this was the first complication that I know I have. Neuropathy is the most common complication of diabetes. The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse says that between 60 and 70 percent of us have one form of neuropathy or another.
Maybe I was in denial. But I told him that Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, the author of Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, says that he reversed his neuropathy and we can too.
Not surprisingly, my doctor disagreed. Few people are able to reverse any form of neuropathy, probably because they aren’t able to reduce their blood glucose levels enough.
If our blood glucose levels have been elevated for years, as Dr. Bernstein said on one of his recent webcasts, we may have autonomic neuropathy, which is the actual destruction of nerves causes. If our neuropathy is autonomic, the nerves have to regrow. That takes time, but isn’t impossible.
“In a young, healthy non-diabetic, nerves regrow at the rate of a millimeter a day,” Dr. Bernstein explained. “So to get from the tip of your toe to your spine might be one meter — a thousand millimeters. That would be a thousand days, and if you were in poor health and older, it might be 2000 days.”
I am in good health, but at age 73 I qualify as a senior citizen. So it may take me 2000 days of extremely good control for the nerves to regrow. That’s about 5 1/2 years.
Now that I am following a very low-carb diet, my most recent A1C was 4.8 percent. But only in the past 2 1/2 years, shortly after I started taking Byetta — has my A1C been consistently below 6.0 — the normal level.
This means that I wasn’t controlling my diabetes well enough for the first 13 years after my diabetes diagnosis. And for perhaps 10 years before my diagnosis, if my experience was typical, I probably had diabetes and high blood glucose levels too.
Just as it took me years of discipline to get down to a low normal weight, I expect that I will need to take several more years of extremely tight control to reverse the peripheral neuropathy that the neurologist told me that I have. Then, I expect that the poor circulation I already knew that I had in my feet will be a lot better, and I will no longer need to wear socks to bed to keep warm.
Meanwhile, my neurologist did eventually get to my head. He ruled out migraine as the cause of my headaches, because my symptoms didn’t fit. My primary care physician had ruled out a brain tumor on the basis of the CAT scan that he had ordered immediately. Then, an ear, nose, and throat specialist ruled out sinus or nasal polyps after examining me.
But the neurologist suspected that I might have an aneurysm and immediately ordered an MRI and MRA with and without contrast. This Friday I got the results back, and fortunately they ruled out this serious cause.
A friend told me this morning that doctors have established 150 causes of headaches. Only 145 to check out now!
Meanwhile, my headaches are getting much shorter and less severe than they were four months ago. In fact, since I learned two days ago that I don’t have an aneurysm, I have felt great. Maybe that’s because the report lifted all that worry from my head.
I don’t worry about my feet either. I know that I can continue to maintain tight control over my diabetes and expect to reverse my peripheral neuropathy in a few years. Watch for a positive follow-up report here in 2012.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.
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Hi David, this is an old article and thread and hope your neuropathy has stabilized. I too have a little neuropathy similar to yours.
A little background, my 2010 pre-diabetes diagnoses A1c was 5.7. According to Dr. Bernstein that is probably sufficient to lead to neuropathy, but at the time I did not think so. I saw a neurologist and he did all kinds of tests and didn’t really find any reason for my neuropathy. I did a GTT and my scores were normal, and he stated I was not diabetic, and ruled out that as a cause. The only tests that revealed any possible cause were that my B6 & B12 levels were very high, actually off the charts, so I had to stop all supplements with any B6 or B12. Both can cause neuropathy if too high, of course one can have nerve problems if too low also.
But anyway, today I ran across this Dr Bernstein article with a relationship between statins and neuropathy. I was on a statin at one time, until I told my doctor NO!, because I was having muscle and joint pain side effect. And since then, I have also found out it can cause T2 diabetes and now neuropathy. I was also on a BP med which masked high blood sugar and other meds that have can have nerve complications. So I stopped all meds and my neuropathy has stabilized, and of course I follow a VLC diet. My last A1c was 5.4, better but not where I would like it to be at 5.0 or under.
Here’s the link to article on statin relationship to neuropathy:
Tuning Fork More Aggressive Screening Tool for Neuropathy Then Monofilament
Your other article about normal A1Cs in non-obese, non-diabetic individuals said that the +/- 2 SD range is from 4.7 to 5.7. With an A1c of 4.8, you are better than almost 98% of non-diabetics. Your A1C is probably what a normal individual has when eating a very-low carb diet. All this information is interesting.
I very much enjoy your articles and the information you provide to diabetics. I have been a follower of Dr. Bernstein for a little over 2 years now and wish more people could know about him. I am a very skeptical person but he certainly has me convinced. I’m convinced that high carb diets are at the root of the American edidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes. My last A1C was 5.2 but I still need to lose weight and I’m not at the 4.3 yet. I am considering trying Byetta and I know you had very good results with it. Dr. Bernstein recommends it to lose weight but not to control blood sugar. How long were you on it and did you have any side effect? Thank you for helping diabetics like me.
As Dr. Bernstein says, Byetta and a very low-carb diet go very well together. However, I did them one at a time. I started Byetta in February 2006 when my BMI was 39.5 and my A1C was 6.2 and stopped Byetta to go very low-carb in December 2007 when my BMI was 21.3 and I had an A1C of 5.3. Now, after almost two years on a very low-carb diet my BMI is 19.6 and my A1C is 4.8. Many people tell me that I’m too thin. But I don’t think so.
The biggest side effect of Byetta is nausea. But I knew to expect it and avoided it by eating very little in my first days of using it.
Oh, one more thing — we had this testing done by a type of MD I had never heard of before — her specialty was integrative medicine. In the past few months, we have also discovered that when my son eats cereals that contain BHT, that he starts getting headaches again. We pretty much stick to pure foods, totally unprocessed, and that keeps us feeling well.
David, I am seeing your website for the first time, because I have been reading on the Internet about glycemic index, but read your article about peripheral neuropathy with interest, because my mother has this, but also I was very interested in reading about your headaches/migraines.
My son has always been “headachy”, but recently began suffering from severe migraines, and finally, a seizure. What we found out ended up being his main problem was, he was gluten intolerant. Once I cleaned up his diet (including other things he tested positive to, such as artificial dyes and high fructose corn syrup), his headaches completely went away.
In the process of learning more about gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, I found that many people with peripheral neuropathy also have gluten intolerance. This one discovery has brought a lot of help to many relatives in my extended family, as the vitamin deficiencies resulting from gluten intolerance leads to many and varied diseases. I would suggest you check this out as a possibility for you, if you have not already done so. Hope this is helpful!
Thank you for your thoughtfulness in writing that gluten intollerence might be the cause of my headaches. By coincidence, a good friend of mine suggested the same thing just yesterday. But I have carefully avoided gluten for about a year, ever since a test indicated that I am sensitive to it, althought not to the extent of having celiac disease. I have learned since then that many, many of us have this degree of gluten intollerence, and hopefully your message will help others.
I am probably one of the people who most avoids fructose and not just high fructose corn syrup. But I hadn’t watched my consumption of artificial dyes and BHT (which you wrote about in your next message). I definitely will now.
I don’t have diabetes but I since I have a problem with poor circulation I was wondering if I should take an Iron Suppliment. I have tinglings in my feet, ankles & legs sometimes. I do excercises regurlarly in the morning & even- ing. This use to take care of it but these ting- lings have gotten to be such a nusiance now in the past week or so that I wonder if I should do something more. An Iron Suppliment is avail- able at GNC for ’bout $10.00. I’m thinking I should get some soon, like today or tomorrow.
I have never heard that an iron supplement will help poor circulation. Sometimes menstrating women do need more iron, but for others it is precisely the wrong thing. Be careful. Ask your doctor before starting to take iron.
Have you tried alpha-lipoic acid for neuropathy. I have read that 300-600 mg/day can alleviate neuropathy, but it takes a few months.
Yes. Dr. Bernstein also recommends ALA for neuropathy, and I have started to take it in about the large doses you suggest. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing your positive story! I am happy for you, but don’t think that I would like to follow in your footsteps.
I have been receiving chemo for breast cancer. The chemo has a rep for neuropathy, but to my surprise, it reversed mine!!!!! I could not believe the delight i felt in feeling my toes in my shoes for the first time in couple of years. So far it still is reversed. I wonder why? I am done with the chemo and my prognosis is favorable.
Quite right! But even better, the headaches are now gone.
So, David, the headaches weren’t related to the neuropathy in your feet?
I guess the headaches are all in your head?
i was looking for a site like yours for 2 days; since i was diagnosed diabetes. I read this “Mu neuropathy”. I also respect your will to always fight.
Anyway, i will try to help. I m a new comer to your web site and to this world.
I am also optimist about how things will come out for me and you and hopefully for everybody.
It is 2:00 AM and i shall go sleep – since sleep helps as well.
Thanks for your interest. But, now, I don’t use any artificial sweeteners. I use nothing but pure stevia.
re: your headaches, do you use artificial sweeteners much? In going low carb myself I found started satisfying my sweet tooth more with diet colas and too much of that can give some people headaches.
Thank you. Yes, my control has been great for 2.5 years — but not before that! I never suspected neuropathy, because I certainly can feel everything except for subtle tests.
I was so surprised to hear about your neuropathy..especially after 2 1/2 years of good control. I thought of Bernstein’s claims also. I sure hope it’s true. With all of that hiking you do I’m surprised you didn’t suspect something earlier. This has given me quite a scary wake up call…you seemed to have avoided all of the other diabetic complications with your program. Please keep us posted. Thanks for all of your inspiration and information.