VITAMINS B1, B6 AND B12 CRUCIAL FOR IMPROVING NERVE HEALTH
JULY 4, 2019 @9.22 PM
A healthy nervous system is crucial for our wellbeing – transmitting signals in our bodies to help us perceive, comprehend and respond to the world around us. The central nervous system that includes the brain and spinal column, and the peripheral nervous systems made up of nerve cells and nerve fibres or neurons, work together to coordinate our voluntary actions like walking and involuntary actions like breathing. Yet, disorders of the nervous system often receive less attention than other health conditions, despite how an unhealthy nervous system can seriously impact our quality of life.
Neuropathy is a disorder affecting nerves - disrupting its function and transmission of information. Due to its low profile and the similarity of its symptoms to other pathologies, neuropathy can be difficult to detect and is often undiagnosed. A common type of neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy, a mostly chronic condition characterised by progressing nerve damage. As the disease can have various causes and can affect different types of nerves in different parts of the body, this condition can also impair various functions.
“Among the general population in Malaysia, risk factors of peripheral neuropathy such as ageing and diabetes are constantly growing, so it is crucial for healthcare providers and the general public to pay more attention and work together to raise awareness on peripheral neuropathy. As it is a progressive condition, early detection and management or treatment is a must to preserve the quality of life and even the physical independence of those at risk,” said Dr Hiew Fu Liong, consultant Physician and Neurologist, Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
According to reports, the number of Malaysians aged 60 and above is projected to reach 3.5 million in 2020 and 6.3 million in 2040. Meanwhile, approximately 3.6 million Malaysians are estimated to have diabetes – the highest rate of incidence in Asia and one of the highest in the world, and by 2025, the number of Malaysian adults with diabetes is expected to rise to seven million, a prevalence of 31.3%.
Symptoms and risk factors
The symptoms of neuropathy can be wide and varied. Often, those who have this condition do not realise the significance of their symptoms and thus do not seek medical advice. They may report minor discomfort or irritation at their symptoms, yet tend to ignore them.
Symptoms can include pain to the touch, sensation of pins/needles, burning sensation/burning pain, reduced sensitivity or decreased ability to feel pain, reduced sense of touch, loss of sensation, numbness, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, tingling, tickling. Other more noticeable symptoms may include difficulties when walking or climbing stairs, increased heartbeat, bladder dysfunction, dizziness or unstable gait. Sometimes, symptoms like dizziness, tachycardia or muscle weakness may be misinterpreted as signs of other diseases.
There are a number of known risk factors for neuropathy, such as health conditions where nerve damage can be a secondary complication. Nevertheless, in more than a fifth of cases, the cause of peripheral neuropathy is unknown. Risk factors for neuropathy include:
The benefits of neurotropic B vitamins
Neurotropic B vitamins are a mixture of vitamins that benefit the health of the nervous system – by nourishing, enriching and helping to regenerate nerves in those who have compromised nerve health or neuropathy. Vitamin B deficiency is commonly linked to nerve issues and when this is the case, neurotropic B vitamin supplements can be used as a treatment.
Early detection and treatment or prevention in those with higher risks of Vitamin B deficiency is crucial to avoid irreversible damage to nerves. When used for treatment, B vitamins have been shown to improve peripheral nerve function.
Each vitamin plays a unique role in the health of the nervous system, working together in biochemical synergy via different modes of action and complementing each other, thus a combination of the vitamins may be needed to treat deficiency. The vitamins function as follows:
“In modern societies, the idea of the average person suffering from deficiencies seems unthinkable, yet many people may be walking around with insufficient levels of key nutrients that can help them stave off chronic health conditions that can adversely affect them in later years. For example, it can be so easy to have sufficient intake of neurotropic B vitamins, however, in certain populations – such as those with diabetics or the elderly, the need for these vitamins is higher than the amount we may be getting from food. Deficiency can happen and lead to health impacts. Especially for the nervous system, B vitamins are essential,” said Dr Inna Eiberger, senior global medical manager, Procter & Gamble Health International.
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