Vitamin E and Nerve Health

With neuropathy, if you lack vitamin E, it will be impossible for your nerves to heal and function properly.

Vitamin E is an essential nutrient for all of us, especially those who suffer from many forms of peripheral neuropathy.

As a member of the fat-soluble vitamin family that includes vitamins A, D, E and K, it is also lacking in many modern diets.

Doctor WritingThis is also one key nutrient that occurs in eight different forms; two are the most biologically active. The most common are gamma and alpha. In your diet this will be found primarily in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which basically means it helps prevent cells from damage due to “free radicals”, or cell destruction generated by some biochemical reactions.

Although Vitamin E is best known for its role as an antioxidant, it does have some profound roles in protecting the nervous system. Vitamin E is essential to helping healthy nerve function, as it helps us repair and protect myelin, the sheath that insulates our large nerves.

Healthy myelin is largely responsible for normal nerve conduction.

In fact, studies suggest that Vitamin E, when given to diabetics can improve nerve conduction significantly1.

But there are some precautions: First, there are no overnight miracles. Supplementation for months may be necessary to see a significant effect. Too much Vitamin E can cause the blood to thin; this has an additive effect for anyone who takes Coumadin and other anticoagulant medications, including aspirin. Be especially careful here!

In addition to seeds and nuts (almonds and sunflower in particular), there are some other good dietary sources of Vitamin E, such as palm oil, the principal ingredient in “Earth Balance”, a butter substitute and line of products we recommend. To a lesser extent, leafy green vegetables and avocadoes will provide some active vitamin E.

Generally, safe supplementation is in the range of 2 to 400 international units of mixed tocopherols for most patients.

There maybe other occasions where your physician may want to prescribe larger amounts of the d-alpha tocopherol form. This is sometimes done in other neurologic conditions including multiple sclerosis.

As we say all the time, there is no one single magic nutrient. But if you lack vitamin E, it will be impossible for your nerves to heal and function properly.

This is another reason why multiple nutrient components are necessary for effective health maintenance and treatment of disease; this is not a short-term proposition.

As always, with neuropathy it is important to work very carefully with your physicians and therapists and make sure that your progress is monitored.

1. 10.2337/diacare.21.11.1915 Diabetes Care November 1998 vol. 21 no. 11 1915-1918

Dietary antioxidant interventions in type 2 diabetes patients: a meta-analysis The British Journal of Diabetes & Vascular Disease March 1, 2011 11:62-68

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