Peripheral neuropathy Research (PN) is about to take a novel turn thanks to a long covid study.

PN is as syndrome caused by damage to the nerves in the hand and feet in a “stocking and glove” distribution.  Symptoms include numbness, pins and needles, often with a troublesome feeling of burning known as hyperaesthesia. As it progresses muscle weakness, impaired balance and coordination can occur causing difficulty with walking and other movements. In the UK about 4% of the population affected any one time. That’s over 2 million people living in the UK with the distress of PN.

No underlying cause is found (idiopathic) in the majority but contributory conditions can be:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Vitamin B deficiency and mineral deficiencies
  • Diabetes
  • Chemotherapy such as cisplatin, taxanes and vincristine
  • Long covid-19

The underlying mechanisms of nerve damage, apart from these conditions are multifactorial.  Recently, scientific attention in addressing oxidative stress and excess inflammation in the erves. Both of these factors have been shown to accelerate spinal glial (nerve) cell degeneration and block repair of damaged nerves.

Phytochemical rich foods, have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation and in laboratory studies this effect correlated with improved peripheral nervous system functional recovery. There are some suggestions of benefits in humans with PN but until now robust clinical studies have not been forthcoming.  Recently, however, some exciting data has been gained from a scientific study involving people suffering from long covid:

The long covid study and Peripheral Neuropathy

This study, completed last year, involved 147 people with multitude of distressing symptoms including 6% with peripheral neuropathy, pins and needles or hyperaesthesia. Fortunately, these troublesome neurological symptoms improved in response to the intervention which consisted of two nutritional supplements. The first aimed to improve gut health and vitamin D levels with a capsule called Yourgutplus. The second, called Phyto-V, boosted the intake of specific natural nutrients in plants called phytochemicals known for their anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. In the final publication in the journal COVID, although these symptoms were noted, the emphasis was on the substantial improvements in fatigue, sleep, muscle aches, gut symptoms and overall wellbeing.

Since the trial completed, the trials unit started receiving emails from people across the world who had bought the supplements independently, letting them know that their long standing neuropathy had improved.

Rachael who took the time to email the trials unit,  said:

Following media reports of the study I decided to buy and take Phyto-v. I was nicely surprised that after 4 weeks my long standing neuropathy started to improve. When I stopped it, my pins and needles returned. Happily, when I restarted it again they disappeared – I won’t stop now”

Following these comments and the results seen in the trial the trials team decided to look into the causes and treatments for PN in more detail. The scientific committee lead by a team from Bedford and Addenbrookes Cambridge University Hospitals was therefore re-convened and a new trial designed. Participants with PN will be randomised to either placebo, Yourgutplus, Phyto-V or both which will be repackaged so the patients won’t know what they will be taking. Likewise, the medical team will not know – a design technique called double blind which aims to reduce any unconscious bias between the two randomised groups.

After 150 patients have finished the 6 month intervention, the blinding-codes will be cracked open and we will find, for sure, whether our suspicious are confirmed. We will also be able tell whether Phyto-V works on its own or whether it has to be combined with Yourgutplus as in the covid trial. This will be the largest and most robust nutritional intervention in the World addressing the discomfort of peripheral neuropathy and if positive could provide a practical, safe and low cost self-help strategy for millions.