Top six natural medical foods for treating numbness in your feet

Posted by

Diabetic neuropathy is caused by nerve damage which is the result of diabetes.  High blood sugar can reduce blood flow and injure nerve fibers throughout your body but most often the damage occurs in your legs and feet. At least 6/10 people with diabetes have some degree of neuropathy making it the most common complication of diabetes. As a St. Louis podiatrist focusing on diabetic neuropathy treatment and foot problems, I routinely recommend conservative treatment to help patients reduce pain and help reduce damage to the nerves of the lower extremity.  Some of the conservative diabetic neuropathy treatment include vitamin therapy, early diagnosis utilizing small nerve fiber density studies and nerve conduction velocity studies and EMG studies. Combating this disease at an early stage will help reduce the symptoms and complications that could occur later in the disease.


1. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

Lipoic acid, also known as alpha-lipoic acid, is a sulfur-containing fatty acid. It is found inside every cell of the body, where it helps generate the energy that keeps us alive and functioning. Lipoic acid is a key part of the metabolic machinery that turns glucose (blood sugar) into energy for the body’s needs.  Alpha lipoic acid is a very potent natural antioxidant. As a powerful antioxidant, it is important in providing positive aspects for diabetes including prevention and blood sugar control.  Sources of ALA are from organ meats such as the heart, liver and kidneys, and vegetables such as broccoli and spinach. ALA is also present in yeast, particularly brewer’s yeast.  I recommend 600mg per day as the dosage to treat neuropathy.  See this article from Dr. Allen Jacobs about ALA and neuropathy.

2. Acetyl L-Carnitine

L-carnitine is an amino acid, which is used in the body during the production of energy, to maintain normal nerve function, and to stimulate the production of other essential substances.   This supplement is known to have neuroprotective properties.  It is also very effective for patients that are on chemotherapy medications that causes neuropathy.  The recommended daily dose to effectively treat diabetic neuropathy is 2000mg/day.  Beef steak and ground beef have a high amount of the amino acid, but has a vegetarian, I would recommend a daily supplement or 1 cup of milk has 8mg of carnitine.

Vitamin B Complex

Vitamin therapy for neuropathy


All B vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is used to produce energy.  This is a big reason why B vitamins are a big component for treating diabetes and related issues such as neuropathy.






3. Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin)

Vitamin B12 has numerous functions with the body.  It helps form the sheath that surrounds nerves and it removes a destructive substance called homocysteine from the blood.  This is commonly talked about with the medical food called, Metanx.  Basically, the Vitamin B12 is mostly found in meats, liver, and clams, but also smaller amounts in some dairy products and fish.  For those of us that are vegetarians, it will be hard to find a natural product that contains Vitamin B12.  The original form of vitamin B12 is called cobalamin.  In order for this vitamin to be used in the body, vitamin B12 must combine with intrinsic factor, a substance released by the stomach cells, and is then absorbed into the bloodstream.  This form of the vitamin is called methylcobalamin.  (Do not get this confused with cyanocobalamin which is produced synthetically in the lab by bacteria.)  That’s why pernicious anemia, an autoimmune disease which destroys the parietal cells in the stomach that release the intrinsic factor, causes vitamin defiency and will need injections of the vitamin to treat the disease.

4. Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)

Folic acid plays a big role in brain function (think nerves) and plays an important role in mental and emotional health.  Folic acid also works synergistic with vitamin B12 to help make red blood cells and help iron work properly in the body as well as decreasing homocysteine levels (see the paragraph above on Vitamin B12 and Metanx).

Those who take ordinary folate supplements, however, may not be experiencing its full spectrum of effects. This is because once ingested, not everyone can convert folate to its biologically active form called  5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).  This is the one major reason that I consider Metanx “the Cadillac” of all neuropathy medical foods!  No other vitamin has this active form with vitamin B12 included.  However, the cost is about $50/month.  Some good sources for folate (not active form) include spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, sunflower seeds, rosemary, and lentils.

5. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Vitamin B6 helps your body metabolize proteins and red blood cells, while it also helps boost your immune system, maintain blood sugar levels and keep skin looking youthful. Crude rice, wheat bran, pistachios, dried herb like chili powder, and raw garlic are some food sources with the most vitamin B6.  Diabetic patients with neuropathy have been shown to be deficient in this vitamin and would benefit from supplementation.

6. Vitamin B1 (benfotiamine)

Vitamin B1 is also known as thiamin.  Benfotiamine is the fat-soluble precurser form of thiamin, that is used to treat alcoholic and diabetic neuropathies.  It has been licensed for use in Germany since 1993. It is prescribed there for treating sciatica and other painful nerve conditions.  Widely available in supplement form, benfotiamine is found naturally in garlic, onions, leeks, and other members of the allium family of vegetables. Many supplements contain a synthetic form of benfotiamine.

As a podiatrist, I recommend and regularly prescribe 2 similar medications called Metanx or NeuRx-TF which is a combination vitamin therapy focused directly on neuropathy and diabetes.  These two medications are known as supplements and may not be covered with typical health insurance but can be purchased at most podiatry offices including here at Arch City Foot & Ankle. If you would like more information or have problems with diabetic neuropathy in your feet please contact us or schedule an appointment.

Metanx contains:

  • L-methylfolate 3 mg
  • Vitamin B6 35 mg
  • Methylcobalamin (Vitamin B12) 2 mg

NeuRx-TF contains:

  • Alpha-lipoic Acid 350 mg
  • Acetyl L-Carnitine 250 mg
  • Methylcobalamin (Vitamin B12) 1 mg

Written by

Dr. Dennis Timko, is a podiatrist in the St. Louis, Eureka, MO. area. Dr. Timko specializes in diabetic foot care, foot surgery, AFOs, and orthotics. Dr. Timko is the solo owner of Arch City Foot & Ankle, which has been in business since 2003.


  1. do you prescribe neurx-tf and metanx together or do you prescribe one or the other?

  2. Dr.Timko I’am type 2 and i had a shock to my body by falling which brought on neuropathy in my feet i’am taking neurx-tf ,finding your site was great information to take the other vitamins. i’am in pa and seeing a foot doctor,but out here in the world you informed me greatly,THANK YOU! Is there no cure for this?Again you have no idea how much this helps people.
    Jim C

    • Thank you for your comment Jim. In my 12 years of practice I have not found a cure for diabetic neuropathy. However there are ways to minimize the symptoms and the pain. By taking the medication or the supplementation that you are taking with the vitamins are definitely a helpful way and safe way to decrease the pain. I have recommended to most of my patients to identify the type of neuropathy before you treat the neuropathy. Your doctor can order different tests such as a nerve conduction velocity study and an EMG study and in a addition a nerve fiber density studies and other types of bloodworm (Vit B12, Thyroid, Folate levels, Vit D, etc) that can help identify the type of neuropathy to focus in on the specific problem.

  3. The ALA+B6+B12 product NeuRx-TF is the best in my book.

    • I use that sometimes for patients. But it doesn’t have the active L-methly folate that has been studied to decrease homocysteine levels which cause damage to the nerves. I use NeuRx-Tf only if they can’t afford Metanx or the insurance won’t cover it. Metanx only costs about $60/month, which is only $10-15 more than NeuRx-TF.

  4. Dear Dr. Timko,

    MIne is alcoholic neuropathy in my feet. So I do know the specific problem as you stated. And I’ve quit drinking for a year now. What to do to fix the pain? Seems like no one knows.

    Thank you for any advice!


    • Ben,
      That’s awesome that you were able to battle the Alcohol and get your self on the right track. I see a lot of patient with neuropathy. Most of them are diabetic related but basically neuropathy is neuropathy. Damaged nerves can be caused by many things. Unfortunately, Alcohol is one of them. First thing to do is what you have already done is stop the cause of the disease. Next is to try and rebuild the nerves. I would also check and make sure the neuropathy is not originating from your lower back. Lower back and spinal disease can cause neuropathy. I tell patients to first try supplements such as L-Carnitine, Alpha-lipoic Acid, and Vitamin B12, B6. I use a lot of Metanx that can be prescribed by a physician. Also try acupuncture too. You want to try and build up your circulation to the nerve endings in the foot to help grow the nerves back.

  5. I have been using 1200 mg of alpha lipoic for 6 months with B complex vitamins and it completely got rid of the burning but not the pain..I stopped the Alpha Lipoic and the B complex today and started on Folinic Plus, but tonight my feet are on fire.. Can I take the 2 together the Alpha and the Folinic plus or will the Folinic plus start to work? I hear that this Folinic Plus is comparable to Metanx? I just want relief ..

    • I love Metanx. I recommend that a lot in my practice. Mostly because it has the most data and research to back it up and that some insurances with pay for the “food supplement”. Try adding L-Carnitine to your supplements with ALA. We do a test called Epidermal small nerve biopsy study before and after 6 months of metanx use.

Leave Your Comment