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Muscle Cramps/Neuropathy

Before reading this page please know that I am not a medical doctor nor medically trained in any way.  This information is here so that you have printable data that you can bring to your doctor for consultation.  None of this replaces a doctor or what instructions a doctor gives you. Your doctor will need to see these studies to decide whether or not you can take these supplements.

Kayla’s Neuropathy started the first week of treatment. Her symptom showed up as severe muscle cramps in her legs right after she started chemo.  These progressed into severe pain in her feet that became so bad she could not touch her feet to the floor.  It was another cancer survivor who saw the trouble Kayla was having and decided to tell me about neuropathy. Up until this point none of the medical staff ever thought to mention it, which after-the-fact was really annoying!  Finally I had some information along with a newfound understanding of neuropathy’s effect on a patient.

After a lot of research and help, eventually we were able to get rid of all neuropathy despite continued treatment with chemo.

Below  are all of the medical quotes covering the specific supplements we used to correct neuropathy. Included is a tip from Chinese medicine that brought immediate improvement while being the cheapest solution found.

WHAT IS PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY?

“Peripheral Neuropathy is one of the most common diseases most people have never heard of…and yet, upwards of 20 million Americans have it. Peripheral neuropathy is caused by damage to your body’s peripheral nerves. This damage disrupts the body’s ability to communicate with its muscles, skin, joints, or internal organs. It is like the body’s wiring system breaking down. If ignored, neuropathy can lead to numbness, pain, weakness and incoordination. However, diagnosed and treated early, peripheral neuropathy can often be controlled, slowing the disease’s progression.” Definition taken from www.neuropathy.org

The first thing people think is that drugs are the only answer. Of course, this type of thinking is the result of fifty years of slick marketing pounded on us through all media, print and radio. Marketing is a method of capturing your mind without you knowing it and a lot of money is paid to produce that result!  Heaven forbid there was a natural answer that is non-addictive and having no side effects.

Please note that Neuropathy is a temporary condition caused by chemotherapy and will go away after treatment is done. Other diseases such as diabetes can cause various types of neuropathy, due to actual nerve damage caused by the disease.

Regarding cancer patients I read two books that describe varying degrees of symptoms caused by chemo-induced-neuropathy. Both patients described a type of burning pain. One author said it felt like his socks were bunched up in his shoes. He would look down to check his feet and much to his dismay his socks were perfect. His burning pain progressed until he was limping with agony every step causing shooting pain. Kayla’s worsened to the point of not being able to apply any pressure on her feet. Simply put she could no longer walk at all.

Patients can experience neuropathy in other areas of the body as well.  One of our cancer- patient-friends was a violinist who could no longer play her instrument due to burning pain in her hands.  She also had it on one side of her jaw.

Side Effects of Neuropathy Medication

Neurontin, is a medication prescribed for Neuropathy to alleviate the nerve pain associated with Neuropathy. Also known as Gabapentin (Gralise, Horizant, Neurontin).  Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; fever; swollen glands; painful sores in or around your eyes or mouth; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor, such as: mood or behavior changes, anxiety, depression, or if you feel agitated, hostile, restless, hyperactive (mentally or physically), or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself.

SIDE EFFECTS: Drowsiness, dizziness, loss of coordination, tiredness, blurred/double vision, unusual eye movements, or shaking (tremor) may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.

Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

Tell your doctor right away if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: swelling of the hands/ankles/feet, signs of infection (such as fever, cough, persistent sore throat).

A small number of people who take anticonvulsants for any condition (such as seizures, bipolar disorder, pain) may experience depression, suicidal thoughts/attempts, or other mental/mood problems. Tell your doctor immediately if you or your family/caregiver notice any unusual/sudden changes in your mood, thoughts, or behavior including signs of depression, suicidal thoughts/attempts, and thoughts about harming yourself.

Get medical help right away if you have any serious side effects, including: unusual fever, swollen glands, yellowing skin/eyes, unusual tiredness, dark urine, change in the amount of urine, chest pain.

A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.

This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist. [A.]

I gladly got the prescription for Kayla.  It did help but at the same time the side effects were taking a toll. She had blurred vision and anger.  Over time the anger issues worsened to a point that necessitated research of other options that were more natural.

Below is a list of key supplements that helped me get Kayla of off Neurontin successfully and at the same time completely getting rid of any signs of neuropathy.

There are specific nutrients that may help muscle cramps and/or neuropathy. Below are specific, quoted medical references, cited for your doctor to read.  Your doctor is more likely to approve of supplements if he/she is given medical information with references. Please print out the sections below for medical consultation. These are the supplements that we used.

Magnesium: What is it?

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. Approximately 50% of total body magnesium is found in bone. The other half is found predominantly inside cells of body tissues and organs. Only 1% of magnesium is found in blood, but the body works very hard to keep blood levels of magnesium constant [1].

Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis [2-3]. There is an increased interest in the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Dietary magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines. Magnesium is excreted through the kidneys [1-3,4].

When can a magnesium deficiency occur?

There is concern about the prevalence of sub-optimal magnesium stores in the body. For many people, dietary intake may not be high enough to promote an optimal magnesium status, which may be protective against disorders such as cardiovascular disease and immune dysfunction [7-8].

The health status of the digestive system and the kidneys significantly influence magnesium status. Magnesium is absorbed in the intestines and then transported through the blood to cells and tissues. Approximately one-third to one-half of dietary magnesium is absorbed into the body [9-10]. Gastrointestinal disorders that impair absorption such as Crohn’s disease can limit the body’s ability to absorb magnesium. These disorders can deplete the body’s stores of magnesium and in extreme cases may result in magnesium deficiency. Chronic or excessive vomiting and diarrhea may also result in magnesium depletion [1,10].

Healthy kidneys are able to limit urinary excretion of magnesium to compensate for low dietary intake. However, excessive loss of magnesium in urine can be a side effect of some medications and can also occur in cases of poorly controlled diabetes and alcohol abuse [11-18].

Signs of Magnesium Deficiency

Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. As magnesium deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can occur [1,3-4]. Severe magnesium deficiency can result in low levels of calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia). Magnesium deficiency is also associated with low levels of potassium in the blood (hypokalemia) [1,19-20].

Many of these symptoms are general and can result from a variety of medical conditions other than magnesium deficiency. It is important to have a physician evaluate health complaints and problems so that appropriate care can be given.

Who May Need Extra Magnesium?

Magnesium supplementation may be indicated when a specific health problem or condition causes an excessive loss of magnesium or limits magnesium absorption [2,7,9-11].

Some medicines may result in magnesium deficiency, including certain diuretics, antibiotics, and medications used to treat

cancer (anti-neoplastic medication) [12,14,19]. Examples of these medications are: Diuretics: Lasix, Bumex, Edecrin, and hydrochlorothiazide Antibiotics: Gentamicin, and Amphotericin Anti-neoplastic medication: Cisplatin

Individuals with poorly controlled diabetes may benefit from magnesium supplements because of increased magnesium loss in urine associated with hyperglycemia [21].

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an important supplement for nerve health.  Even now, 1 year after treatment Kayla is taking a mega dose of vitamin B12 on a daily basis as the neuropathy continued to linger long after completion of chemotherapy.

What is vitamin B12? Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells [1-4]. It is also needed to help make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. Hydrochloric acid (digestive acid)  in the stomach releases vitamin B12 from proteins in foods during digestion.

What foods provide vitamin B12? 

Vitamin B12 is naturally found in foods that come from animals, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. Fortified breakfast cereals are a particularly valuable source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians. [5-7]

When is a deficiency of vitamin B12 likely to occur? 

Results of two national surveys, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III-1988-94) [8] and the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII 1994-96) found that most children and adults in the United States (US) consume recommended amounts of vitamin B12 [6-8]. A deficiency may still occur as a result of an inability to absorb vitamin B12 from food and in strict vegetarians who do not consume any foods that come from animals [9]. As a general rule, most individuals who develop a vitamin B12 deficiency have an underlying stomach or intestinal disorder that limits the absorption of vitamin B12 [10].Sometimes the only symptom of these intestinal disorders is subtly reduced cognitive function resulting from early vitamin B12 deficiency. Anemia and dementia follow later [1,11].

Signs, symptoms, and health problems associated with vitamin B12 deficiency: include anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss [1,3,12].

Deficiency also can lead to neurological changes such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet [7,13]. (Emphasis mine.) Additional symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are difficulty in maintaining balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue [14].

Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency in infancy include failure to thrive, movement disorders, delayed development, and megaloblastic anemia [15]. Many of these symptoms are very general and can result from a variety of medical conditions other than vitamin B12 deficiency.

I added the highlighted emphasis above (bolded words) because the symptoms highlighted are particular to patients receiving chemotherapy, which may cause deficiencies.

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A Workable Tip

A Chinese doctor gave us the following tip and it helped immensely. We had to find a large dry sponge. Then we were instructed to take this sponge and run the dry sponge over the area of pain. In Kayla’s case this was the bottom of her foot on up the calf, in an

upward stroke. . We were told to do this several times and hour. This remedy is thousands of years old from Ancient Chinese Medicine and is a means of trying to train the nerves to follow their correct path and stimulate function. Since our medication was no longer working we decided to try it. The sponge produced results in the first week, with less pain and the ability to apply small amounts of pressure to her feet. Kayla did this for a couple of minutes, countless times a day.

Our program for Neuropathy is as follows;

(PSST – This information is not here to replace the advice of your doctor!  This is not a prescription and just because this worked for Kayla does not mean that this is safe for you. Print off these pages and consult with your healthcare practitioner.  All of this information is here for educational purposes only.)

Anyone with neuropathy should consult his or her medical team about this self-prescribed program.  Our oncologists approved of this even while my daughter was on heavy chemotherapy.

Sponge massage many, many, times a day.

B12 lozenge 2500 mcg in the morning

Peter Gillham’s CALM magnesium powder every night,

1 tsp, before bed.

(Start magnesium with a low dose like 1/4 teaspoon, to ensure this does not upset your stomach and some people may need to take it with food!)

We also were on a good diet of home cooked meals, salads, fruits, vegetables, no sugar and very little junk or processed food.  This routine also included good rest and 30 minutes of exercise a day through swimming.  If weather was bad then a stationary bicycle was used instead.

If you are on Neurontin and would like to wean off of it check how to do so with your doctor. We safely weaned off using the above supplements, food and exercise.

B12 is one of those vitamins that if you take too much the body just flushes it out through urine.  I do not think that there are any issues regarding toxicity.

There has been no sign of Neuropathy in Kayla for two months. She is now walking and we have been able to reduce the Neurontin from three doses a day, to two doses a day. This makes us both very happy. I think we see a light at the end of the tunnel : ) I hope you do too.

Update: Kayla has been off Neurontin for 8 months now.   While getting off the Neurontin and for a while afterwards, Kayla was taking a high dose (2500 mcg) of B12.  This dose worked to stop the pain and the only time the pain comes back is if I try to get her off of the B12.  We slowly lowered the dose of B12 and now she only takes it the day before chemo and for a couple of days after. Her feet are now returning to normal with no pain at all!


References:

A. RX List, The Internet Drug List.  All italicized descriptions and side effects taken from website.  http://www.rxlist

.com/neurontin-drug.htm Internet August 2014

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2. Wester PO. Magnesium. Am J Clin Nutr 1987;45:1305-12. [PubMed abstract]

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4. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 1999.

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12. American Diabetes Association. Nutrition recommendations and principles for people with diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care 1999;22:542-5. [PubMed abstract]

13. Rude RK and Olerich M. Magnesium deficiency: Possible role in osteoporosis associated with gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Osteoporos Int 1996;6:453-61. [PubMed abstract]

14. Bialostosky K, Wright JD, Kennedy-Stephenson J, McDowell M, Johnson CL. Dietary intake of macronutrients, micronutrients and other dietary constituents: United States 1988-94. Vital Heath Stat. 11(245) ed: National Center for Health Statistics, 2002:168. Copied from the National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. August 2008

B12

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Zittoun J and Zittoun R. Modern clinical testing strategies in cobalamin and folate deficiency. Sem Hematol 1999;36:35-46. [PubMed abstract]

4. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2003. USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 16. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl.

5. Subar AF, Krebs-Smith SM, Cook A, Kahle LL. Dietary sources of nutrients among US adults, 1989 to 1991. J Am Diet Assoc 1998;98:537-47. [PubMed abstract]

6. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 1998.

7. Bialostosky K, Wright JD, Kennedy-Stephenson J, McDowell M, Johnson CL. Dietary intake of macronutrients, micronutrients and other dietary constituents: United States 1988-94. Vital Heath Stat. 11(245) ed: National Center for Health Statistics , 2002.

8.Markle HV. Cobalamin. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci 1996;33:247-356. [PubMed abstract]

Carmel R. Cobalamin, the stomach, and aging. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66:750-9. [PubMed abstract]

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10. Bernard MA, Nakonezny PA, Kashner TM. The effect of vitamin B12 deficiency on older veterans and its relationship to health. J Am Geriatr Soc 1998;46:1199-206. [PubMed abstract]

11. Healton EB, Savage DG, Brust JC, Garrett TF, Lindenbaum J. Neurological aspects of cobalamin deficiency. Medicine 1991;70:229-244. [PubMed abstract]

Bottiglieri T. Folate, vitamin B12, and neuropsychiatric disorders. Nutr Rev 1996;54:382-90. [PubMed abstract]

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