Coconut oil is often linked to medical benefits such as heart and brain health. Yet it might be useful in treating peripheral neuropathy, a nerve disorder that causes burning, stinging sensations.
What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral Neuropathy (PN) occurs when the peripheral nerves experience damage. These nerves connect to the brain’s nervous system to emit signals throughout the body.
Damaged or malfunctioning peripheral nerves cause tingling and numbness, usually in the hands and feet. Countless conditions lead to peripheral neuropathy, diabetes in particular. Some people experience PN due to trauma, toxic exposure, alcoholism, or inherited disorders.
Treating Peripheral Neuropathy
Not only does this ailment bring tingles and weakness but pain as well. Patients often feel a sharp, burning pain in the affected areas. These symptoms can cause people to lose their balance and have to rely on canes or wheelchairs.
The ailment can also keep them up at night with the feeling of pins and needles. When left untreated, people with PN can experience hopelessness and endless frustration. It’s a disease that can leave doctors, neurosurgeons, and chiropractors at a loss.
Along with physical therapy, medications can help alleviate the discomfort. Doctors prescribe a wide range of drugs to relieve patients of the burning and weakness of peripheral neuropathy.
Sometimes patients take antidepressants to help their nervous system respond differently to the pain. While the exact reason isn’t known, anti-seizure drugs may help PN patients. These anti-convulsants interact with overactive pain signals to provide relief. Over-the-counter pain medications can also work to alleviate PN symptoms.
Coconut Oil’s Beneficial Properties
Coconut oil had a moment a few years back. It was one of the most popular superfoods on the market as well as a healthy fat source.
Its healthy saturated fatty acids can provide benefits to the brain. When ingested, these medium-chain triglycerides travel to the liver.
The organ converts the fat to energy and ketones, which boost brain health. Studies suggest that ketones can decrease the plaque that forms in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains.
Similar research shows positive effects for those with epilepsy and other forms of dementia too.
Another beneficial component of coconut oil is lauric acid. It comprises about half of the fatty acids in the oil and possesses antibacterial properties. Lauric acid becomes monolaurin in the body, a substance that fights bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These medicinal benefits can be useful for PN patients with autoimmune diseases or infections.
Nerve Pain and Coconut Oil
This oil plays a large role in the lives of diabetes patients. The healthy fats in coconut oil are a great substitute for other saturated fats. In one study, participants who used coconut oil as their primary fat source dropped more weight. Diabetes can get worse in overweight and obese individuals so losing weight can be a good strategy.
Furthermore, a large number of people with diabetes also experience peripheral neuropathy. Coconut oil fuels the brain and may help regulate cell signals to the body. This in turn could ease PN symptoms.
Individuals can ingest the coconut oil or apply it as a topical ointment. The oil is a natural moisturizer so it’s ideal for hands and feet, which happen to be common PN pain points. Some people combine coconut oil with essential oils to create a topical treatment. For example, a mixture of coconut and primrose oils can relax muscles and reduce inflammation.
Coconut oil is usually not the first solution that doctors and patients try. It’s seen more as a supplement to other remedies and lifestyle changes. Part of its appeal is that it is widely accessible and more affordable than ever before. Not only is there coconut oil but coconut meat and water as well. Ingesting coconut in any of these ways can provide ample health benefits.
Other Treatment Options
Right now, there aren’t any over-the-counter or prescription drugs for PN. While doctors may prescribe certain medications to their PN patients, there aren’t any drugs specifically for the condition. Anti-seizure medicine and antidepressants may help but they’re not right for everyone. Moreover, the long-term effects of these drugs aren’t well known.
Does this mean that there’s no hope for people struggling with peripheral neuropathy? Some patients receive this news but it’s not the whole story. There are several factors that can ease PN symptoms or make them worse.
The trouble with medicine is that it masks the issue. Most people have PN due to an underlying condition. This could be diabetes, some kind of trauma, or even poisoning or toxicity. When doctors prescribe pain relievers, they aren’t addressing the whole problem.
Besides medicating the condition, people can try lifestyle changes to relieve symptoms. Loose footwear and clothing can ease the throbbing sensations brought on by PN. The tried-and-true method of eating a healthy diet can ensure that individuals get the vitamins and minerals they need.
Vitamins & Herbs
In particular, they want magnesium, B vitamins, and gamma linoleic acid. Individuals may also try Epsom salt baths to relax the body and muscles. They should be careful not to stand or walk for long periods of time.
Alpha lipoic acid has anti-inflammatory properties while gamma linoleic acid may reverse symptoms. Some test subjects showed nerve repair after applying primrose oil, which contains gamma linoleic acid.
Gingko biloba contains compounds that may regenerate nerves and ease the pain. Magnesium also shows promise as a nerve regenerator.
It can replenish lost magnesium in the nervous system and regulate cell signals. This may help decrease the pain that PN sufferers feel.
Alternative and herbal remedies may offer relief for some PN patients. Some people with diabetes find B vitamins useful in easing nerve pain. B vitamins such as biotin, choline, and thiamine seem to produce the best results.
Coconut oil isn’t the only supplement tied to nerve pain treatment. The capsaicin in cayenne pepper removes pain-causing chemicals from nerve receptors. People can try adding cayenne to their meals or taking capsaicin in tablet form. Fish oil also comes in tablets and it has anti-inflammatory properties that might help.
Electronic Signaling Treatment
An interesting option for patients is electronic signaling treatment. It uses electric cell signals to tighten the synapses between nerves. The procedure performed well in a study of patients with PN, helping them regain feeling in their hands, feet, and extremities.
This is a method that is gaining more traction as a non-invasive and drug-free way to treat PN. In fact, the procedure isn’t used only for peripheral neuropathy patients but those with back pain as well. As with most of the PN solutions proposed here, more scientists need more research to determine the long-lasting effects.
The Dangers of No Treatment
People should seek professional advice for their peripheral nerve damage as soon as possible. Peripheral neuropathy is a common indicator of diabetes and can help doctors with the diagnosis. Nerve damage can point to other illnesses that require medical attention.
For instance, poisoning, tumors, infections, and vitamin deficiencies can cause PN. It’s dangerous to ignore the symptoms of tingling, burning, numbness, weakness, or muscle paralysis.
Peripheral neuropathy in the feet is a particular medical concern. The peripheral nerves here need to send signals to the brain when something’s wrong in the lower body.
PN disrupts this communication and can lead to even more problems such as injury. Individuals who lose feeling in their feet are prone to losing their balance and falling. Other foot conditions or pain might not be recognized due to PN, further exacerbating the ailment.
People who ignore their PN symptoms might be missing out on an important diagnosis or underlying complications. In spite of there being no drugs to specifically treat PN, sufferers should get some form of treatment.
This might be another medication, different shoes, dietary supplements, or oils. Treatment varies by the patient but it shouldn’t be an option or light suggestion. If left untreated, PN can get worse and limit people’s quality of life.
Final Thoughts on Coconut Oil
While coconut oil has many medicinal properties, it doesn’t compare to more trusted PN remedies. Certain medications and supplements hold more benefits that can improve PN symptoms. That being said, coconut oil works well as a mixer for massage and essential oils. Massaging with these oils can help alleviate pain and discomfort associated with PN.
The oil’s medium-chain triglycerides may boost brain health and clear away plaque caused by dementia. However, it’s also calorie-dense, which could pose a problem for those with diabetes who are trying to lose weight.
Whether coconut oil is ingested or applied topically, it can’t perform magic on peripheral nerves. The real problem is the disruption in signals between the nervous system and these nerves. Coconut oil is similar to drugs in that it treats the symptoms, not the condition.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that peripheral neuropathy is typically an indicator of something else. Coconut oil can be a natural way to ease the pain and numbness but it won’t cure PN. It is an effective remedy in combination with a healthy diet and good quality supplements for nerve pain. Sufferers should get thorough checkups from their doctor to rule out other possibilities of disease. Only then can they start to develop a feasible treatment plan.