Monday, 30 May 2016

Was The Cuban Neuropathy Crisis Solved By Vitamins?

Today's post from (see link below) is nothing more than a press story with exaggerated headlines that will undoubtedly lead people to think that vitamin supplements are the answer to all their neuropathy problems. That's nonsense of course but the story is fascinating none the less and makes you think. It talks about the embargo on trade with Cuba during the cold war years and how  enormous numbers of neuropathy patients were faced with little choice but to be given vitamin injections for their nerve damage because all other drug options were simply not available. The crux of the story claims that despite this limitation in treatment, up to 50,000 people were cured of their neuropathy. It's all extremely debatable but does raise questions as to whether the treatment we currently receive could be boosted by vitamins or other supplement options to achieve better results. The problem with current neuropathy treatment is that it does little to 'cure' the problem and at best, subdues the symptoms. Whether we believe the Cuban story or not, the point is that current medications are little more than stop-gap treatments and combination treatments are probably far more effective. The problem is finding the right combinations.

Fifty Thousand Cured of Epidemic Nerve Disorder with Vitamin Supplements
By Kerri Knox, RN on September 27, 2010

For those that do not think vitamin supplements are effective, all one has to do is to look at he U.S. embargo of Cuba between 1991 and 1993. This embargo caused more than just economic consequences for the tiny island nation; it also caused interesting medical consequences that wealthier nations could learn from. The medical consequences of the embargo included an ‘outbreak’ of a painful nerve problem called ‘neuropathy’ that ended up affecting over 50,000 people.

While it was determined that this ‘epidemic’ was caused by a virus, this virus was not treated with antiviral medications, antibiotics or any other pharmaceuticals. This epidemic was completely stopped in its tracks and the more than 50,000 people affected were CURED simply by taking vitamin supplements. This phenomenon of nutritional deficiencies leading to viral infections is not new, and has been shown to be the case with a type of Heart Failure from Selenium Deficiency, known as Keshan disease, is actually caused by a viral infection that is ‘cured’ with selenium supplementation as well.

Peripheral Neuropathy is a nerve condition that causes pain and decreased sensation in many parts of the body but typically affects the lower extremities where it is called Peripheral Neuropathy. However, it may also affect the hands, the hearing, the face and even the nerves of the eyes causing not only pain and decreased sensation, but also deafness and blindness as well. The Cuban Neuropathy Epidemic, as this outbreak was later called, affected a combination of the extremities, the hearing and the eyes – sometimes in the same person. Young and old alike were affected and medical care was scarce due to many factors related to the embargo:

The poor economic conditions
The limited medical supplies entering the country and
The vast numbers of people that were seeking medical attention for the epidemic

But in this environment of minimal funds in a so-called ‘third world’ country, the majority of the 50,000 people affected were completely cured of their neuropathy with nothing more than plain Over the Counter Vitamin Supplements. Even those who were so severely affected that they required hospitalization simply received intravenous vitamin infusions in the hospital while the government instituted a free multivitamin distribution program for the rest of the population. Those with neuropathy were ‘cured’ and the neuropathy ‘epidemic’, except for a few isolated cases, ended completely.

Today in the US, there are tens of thousands of people – primarily diabetics and the elderly – who are suffering with neuropathy and are told that there is no cure. They have blood tests, CT scans, perfusion scans, electrical muscle tests and nerve conduction tests. In the end, they are given pain pills and told that they will have to live with excruciating nerve pain and decreased sensation for the rest of their lives. For diabetics, this decreased ability to feel their feet can mean wounds that don’t heal and amputated limbs; for the elderly, the ever-present risk of falling and breaking a bone is compounded.

Certainly not ALL cases of neuropathy can be cured with Multivitamin Supplements, but as the Cuban Neuropathy Epidemic teaches us, there certainly are some cases that CAN be improved or cured with vitamin supplements. Yet there are almost no doctors in ‘first world’ countries that will discuss vitamins for neuropathy despite the lessons from Cuba and from some liberated prisoner-of-war camps where the same phenomenon has been observed. Doctors in western countries require formal double-blind placebo-controlled trials to perceive a therapy as being worthwhile.

So the lack of studies using vitamins to treat Peripheral Neuropathy ensure that people in western countries with this debilitating life-altering illness will not be given the same option of simply trying a safe and inexpensive multivitamin supplement as they would be if they lived in a third world country.

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