A new way to lower neuropathy pain in diabetes

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A recent study from the Salk Institute has found that altered amino acid metabolism is a contributing factor to peripheral neuropathy in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects approximately half of the people with diabetes and is characterized by weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet due to damage to peripheral nerves caused by high levels of sugar in the blood.

The researchers discovered that diabetic mice with low levels of two related amino acids, serine, and glycine, were at higher risk for peripheral neuropathy.

The study adds to growing evidence that some “non-essential” amino acids play important roles in the nervous system.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and sphingolipids, which are specialized fat molecules that are abundant in the nervous system.

Low levels of serine in the body force it to use a different amino acid in sphingolipids, which changes their structure.

These atypical sphingolipids accumulate and may contribute to peripheral nerve damage.

The researchers found this accumulation in diabetic mice, and the same amino acid switch and sphingolipid changes occur in a rare human genetic disease marked by peripheral sensory neuropathy.

This indicates that the phenomenon is consistent across many species.

These findings highlight the importance of amino acid metabolism and sphingolipid production in maintaining a healthy peripheral nervous system.

The study’s findings may provide a new way to identify people at high risk for peripheral neuropathy and could potentially lead to a new treatment option.

The amino acid serine is currently being tested in clinical trials for its safety and efficacy in treating other conditions, such as macular telangiectasia and Alzheimer’s disease.

This study underscores the importance of maintaining a healthy diet that provides essential amino acids, as well as the often-underappreciated “non-essential” amino acids, to support a healthy nervous system.

How to manage pain in diabetes

Neuropathic pain in diabetes is caused by damage to the nerves that control sensations and movements in the body, and it can be challenging to manage.

However, there are several strategies that can be used to help manage this type of pain, including:

Controlling blood sugar levels: Keeping blood sugar levels within a healthy range can help prevent or slow down the progression of nerve damage, which can reduce the severity of neuropathic pain.

Medications: Several medications are used to manage neuropathic pain, including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and opioids. These medications work by either blocking pain signals or by altering the way the brain perceives pain.

Topical creams: Capsaicin cream, which is derived from chili peppers, can be applied topically to the skin to help reduce neuropathic pain. It works by depleting a chemical called substance P that transmits pain signals to the brain.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): TENS is a non-invasive therapy that involves the application of electrical current to the skin over the painful area. It is thought to work by stimulating the nerves and blocking pain signals to the brain.

Exercise: Regular exercise can help improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and relieve stress, which can all contribute to reducing neuropathic pain.

Nutritional supplements: Some studies have suggested that certain nutritional supplements, such as alpha-lipoic acid and gamma-linolenic acid, may help reduce neuropathic pain in diabetes.

It is important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment for managing neuropathic pain in diabetes. A combination of these strategies may be needed to achieve the best results.

If you care about pain, please read studies about how to live pain-free with arthritis, and why long COVID can cause pain.

For more information about diabetes, please see recent studies about Vitamin D that may reduce dangerous complications in diabetes and results showing plant-based protein foods may help reverse type 2 diabetes.

The study was conducted by Christian Metallo et al and published in Nature.

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