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Dear Pharmacist,

Please help me with pins and needles and burning. I have diabetes and it feels awful now. I take metformin and glyburide. What can I do?

--S.L. Boulder, Colorado

Answer: Millions of people have painful nerve sensations -termed neuropathies- and there are many causes for this including diabetes, shingles, Celiac, heavy metal toxicity, nutrient deficiencies, autoimmune disorders and neurological conditions.

Other neuropathy symptoms include burning, shooting pain, tingling, numbness, feeling like you got stabbed by an ice pick, cystitis, urinary urgency, vibration/buzzing sensations, erectile dysfunction and loss of bladder control. Other symptoms include poor coordination, muscle pain, weakness, trigeminal neuralgia, dizziness when standing up. There are medications, just make take the lowest effective dose, so as to minimize side effects.

The number one thing you can do to reduce pain is to lower your blood sugar so please read my Diabetes Without Drugs book (Rodale 2010). Also, see if you take a statin cholesterol drug which is known to cause neuropathic sensations. Right now, I’d like to offer you a few inexpensive over-the-counter solutions to ease the pain. The supplements that I recommend help shuttle more oxygen to your cells, reduce inflammation, protect the myelin wrapper around your delicate nerves, quench toxic free radicals and reduce protein kinase C (PKC). These could all be taken together:

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)- This antioxidant squashes free radicals that attack your myelin sheath and ‘fray’ your nerve wiring. You may notice effect in a few days, though most people require several weeks. Try 200 - 250 two to four times daily or half that dose if you take R lipoic acid. To boost this antioxidant’s effect, take it with fish oil, krill oil or DHA extract about 500 mg with food.

Curcumin- Found in the spice turmeric and it reduces blood sugar. Curcumin chases away a pain-causing chemical TNF as well as nitric oxide. It helps to cool the burn you feel in your nerves. Cook with turmeric spice, but also take a supplement, 500 mg twice daily. Effects take about a month.

Methylcobalamin (B12)- When your body starves for B12, you lose the myelin sheath and your nerves short circuit. This can cause neuropathy and depression. There are dozens of drug muggers of B12, including the diabetic medications that you take as well as processed foods, sugar, antibiotics, estrogen hormones and acid blockers.

Thiamine- A glass of wine every night can steal this nerve-protective nutrient. Candida overgrowth can snatch it too. Run low on thiamine and you will absolutely suffer with bizarre neuropathic sensations. I’d suggest about 50 to 100 mg daily for a few months, along with a low dose B-complex so you have all the other Bs on board.

Neuragen- It’s a topical ointment sold at pharmacies and online. A study showed that it might be helpful for shingles neuralgia, diabetic or HIV neuropathy or trigeminal neuralgia.

Did You Know?

A natural plant-based bug spray is now available, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Pump Insect Repellant.

Suzy Cohen

Suzy Cohen, is known as America’s Pharmacist. She has been a licensed pharmacist for 24 years and is a Functional Medicine practitioner. She’s the author of 6 books, including her most recent Amazon #1 best-seller, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

She was the host of The Thyroid Summit which broadcast worldwide in June 2014. Suzy has been a syndicated columnist for 19 years reaching 20 million in circulation each week. She is a Huffington Post writer, and also hosts her own syndicated medical minute on TV. Suzy has been featured on The Dr OZ Show 6 times, and has appeared on The View, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors and hundreds of other networks. She is a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine, also the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, The American Pharmacists Association and ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. You can read free articles and receive your free newsletter by visiting her website,

Books authored by Suzy Cohen include:

  • Thyroid Healthy
  • Headache Free
  • Drug Muggers
  • Diabetes Without Drugs
  • The 24-Hour Pharmacist
  • Eczema: Itchin’ for a Cure (kindle only)
  • Understanding Pancreatitis & Pancreatic Cancer (kindle only)