Written by Benjamin Semmens, Registered Nutritionist (BHSc)
Welcome back to another edition of Friday Q&A where every Friday our Head Nutritionist Ben gives you an in-depth answer to your nutrition and health questions!
This week’s question came from Nathan who asked, “Can hemp seed oil treat neuropathy?”
Those who have neuropathy will tell you how difficult this condition is to live with that’s not only extremely painful but can also negatively affect both their physical and mental health in many ways!
For those who don’t know, neuropathy is a group of conditions that are characterised by nerve pain that can make even simple life tasks extremely difficult such as getting out of bed, walking, exercising and even sleeping!
In most cases neuropathy can be managed depending on the type of neuropathy you have to make your life less painful to be able to appreciate the finer things in life, but what effect does hemp seed oil have on neuropathy?
In this blog you’ll learn about what neuropathy is, what causes neuropathy, how hemp seed oil may help, and how to manage neuropathy naturally!
Congratulations to Nathan who won a $20 gift voucher just for asking Ben a question! You can send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
What is neuropathy?
Neuropathy is a group of conditions that are characterised by nerve pain that can be caused by health conditions, infection, medications, chronic alcohol abuse, physical injury and many other causes.
Neuropathy can sometimes be difficult to treat as in some cases there may be no known cause. The good news is that in most cases neuropathy can be managed through medical treatment with a doctor or neurologist and the support of a healthy diet and lifestyle!
What are symptoms of neuropathy?
Nerve damage in neuropathy can cause pain, weakness, numbing or tingling in one or more body parts. Other symptoms of neuropathy include:
- Gradual onset of numbness, prickling or tingling in your feet or hands, which can spread upward into your legs and arms
- Sharp, jabbing, throbbing, or burning pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Pain during activities that shouldn't cause pain, such as pain in your feet when putting weight on them or when they're under a blanket
- Lack of coordination and falling
- Muscle weakness
- Feeling as if you're wearing gloves or socks when you're not
- Paralysis if motor nerves are affected (1)
What are the different types of neuropathy?
There are many different types of neuropathy, with diabetic neuropathy being one of the most common that include:
- Diabetic neuropathy - caused by high blood sugar in diabetes that commonly affects nerves in the hands and feet.
- Peripheral neuropathy - affects the nerves in the outer (peripheral) parts of the body such as the hands, arms, legs, and feet.
- Autonomic neuropathy - occurs when there is damage to nerves that control the body’s automatic functions, such as digestion, blood pressure and bladder function.
- Proximal neuropathy - affects the muscles of the hips and the shoulders.
- Focal or mononeuropathy - affects only one nerve (eg. carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Polyneuropathy - affects several nerves. Most people with neuropathy have polyneuropathy (2)
What causes neuropathy?
There are multiple known causes for neuropathy that include:
- Medical conditions (eg. diabetes, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, multiple myeloma, and other types of cancer).
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Chemotherapy and radiation
- Vitamin Deficiencies (eg. B vitamins, vitamin D)
- Certain medications
- Spinal tumours
- Pressure on a nerves
- Thyroid problems
- Autoimmune conditions
How is neuropathy treated?
The type of treatment for neuropathy will generally depend on the cause. If neuropathy is caused by a disease, then medical professionals typically aim to treat the disease to improve symptoms of neuropathy.
For example, if diabetes is the cause of neuropathy, a doctor or neurologist will most likely try to improve blood sugar levels through medications, diet, or exercise.
Unlike most other painful conditions, pain medications like paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioid medications don’t usually work for nerve pain. The best medications for nerve pain prescribed by a doctor are usually anti-depressants and anti*seizure medications (3).
If there is no known cause for neuropathy, then medications (eg. antidepressants), physical therapy and psychological support may be used to help improve symptoms.
How can I manage neuropathy naturally?
There are many natural approaches that may help to reduce neuropathy. However, some may be irrelevant based on the type of neuropathy:
1. B Vitamins – B vitamins are essential for nerve health. A deficiency of B vitamins (in particular B6) can cause nerve damage. A doctor will be able to assess if you are deficient or not (4).
2. Vitamin D – vitamin D can help to prevent nerve pain, while a deficiency of vitamin D can cause nerve pain. A vitamin D supplement may be used in people who are deficient to reduce nerve pain (5).
3. Warm bath – warm water increases blood circulation in the body. Having a warm bath can help to reduce symptoms of neuropathy. Many people report benefits from using Epsom salts in their bath.
4. Exercise – Exercise may be beneficial in certain types of neuropathy. Exercise increases blood flow, reduces stress, and regulates blood sugar that can help reduce neuropathy symptoms (6).
5. Meditation – Meditation can help to reduce stress, improve coping skills, and reduce symptoms of pain in neuropathy in some people (7).
6. Acupuncture – Acupuncture may promote healing by stimulating the pressure points in the body. These tiny needles trigger the nervous system to release chemicals that may alter pain signals and improve nerve pain (8).
7. Essential oils – Some people take essential oils such as peppermint oil, roman chamomile oil and lavender oil to manage their neuropathy. However, there is limited evidence for these claims (9, 10).
8. Quit smoking – Smoking affects the circulation of your blood. When you have poor circulation, this can increase numbness and pain from neuropathy. Quitting smoking can reduce these effects (11).
Can hemp seed oil treat neuropathy?
Now you know some different ways of managing neuropathy, but this leads back to this week’s question - “Can hemp seed oil treat neuropathy?”
One of the unique factors about Hemp seed oil is its essential fatty acid content. Hemp seed oil contains an impressive amount of omega 3, omega 6 and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) that have an important role in regulating inflammation in the body. These essential fatty acids have shown to be beneficial for different types of neuropathy.
A 2010 study conducted by The Clinical Journal of Pain treated neuropathic pain in 5 patients with different conditions (cervical radiculopathy, thoracic outlet syndrome, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, burn injury) with high doses of omega 3. These patients had a significant reduction in pain and improved function. While this was only a small study, these were interesting results! (12)
A 2020 review that assessed 15 different studies found that omega 3 supplementation can reduce sensory loss and reduced nerve pain after the use of chemotherapy drugs (13).
Hemp seeds are also one of the best food sources of GLA. Multiple studies have shown that GLA had a beneficial effect on diabetic neuropathy. This may be because people with diabetes have shown to have difficulty converting linoleic acid (omega 6) to gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) (18, 19).
While most of these studies are still in their early stages, essential fatty acids that are found in hemp seed oil may be beneficial for different types of neuropathy and are safe to consume in the diet!
Neuropathy is a condition characterised by nerve pain that can have many potential causes. The type of medical treatment recommended will differ based on the type of neuropathy.
While there are many natural approaches to manage symptoms of neuropathy, you should discuss further with your healthcare professional to understand the cause and what treatment option is best for you before implementing any of these strategies above.
Hemp seed oil has shown to be beneficial for different types of neuropathy in early human studies and animal studies. Hemp seed oil is safe to consume and should be considered for anyone suffering from neuropathy.
If you have any questions or need support with your health, feel free to email our head nutritionist Ben at email@example.com
This article does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your personal circumstances. Please see your medical professional before implementing the above