If damaged myelin is at the heart of the trigeminal nerve’s short-circuiting pain, then fixing it seems to be a logical goal. Neurosurgeons address this problem by seeking to move a blood vessel away from the area where the vessel is hitting the nerve as blood pumps through it and consequently wears down the myelin sheath.
The nutritional approach encourages the body to heal injured myelin. Because Vitamin B-12 is thought to play a role in myelin production, it is one of the most common nutrients used in trying to combat TN and neuropathic facial pain.
Research Supporting the Use of B-12
Researchers explored Vitamin B-12 injections and pills as a TN treatment as early as the 1940s and 1950s. In three separate studies between 1952 and 1954, more than three-quarters of the 49 patient participants got complete or marked relief from Vitamin B-12 shots given daily for 10 days. The daily doses ranged from 100 to 1000 micrograms. The studies do not, however, follow up to determine the length of time patients received pain relief.
When Dilantin and Tegretol became available, B-12 research was largely abandoned. Therefore, the only recent study, from Japan, linked the methylcobalamin form of B-12 to the prevention and treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, neuropathies, Alzheimer’s disease, and muscular dystrophies. The researchers suggest that high doses of methylcobalamin may help regenerate myelin and nerve cells. Because there have been no detailed, double-blind studies of its effectiveness, there is no protocol for the use of B-12 in neuropathic facial pains like TN.
TN Patients Successfully Used B-12
Striking Back! The Trigeminal Neuralgia and Face Pain Handbook, references several TN patients who have reported good results from using B-12. FPA is compiling a list of patients who are willing to talk about their experiences.
High Doses of Vitamin B-12
Nutritionist Patricia Hausman reports in her book, The Right Dose: How to Take Vitamins and Minerals Safely, that there is little risk of taking too much B-12. She says that Swedish doctors found no problems in patients who took single doses as high as 100,000 micrograms or in patients who took 500 to 1000 micrograms daily for three to five years. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to discuss any therapy with a trusted health practitioner.
Different Forms of Vitamin B-12
The most common form of B-12 is cynocobalamin. This is also the least expensive and is found in most drug stores. However, nutritional experts suggest that the most effective form is methylcobalamin. The human body does not utilize cynocobalamin and must convert cynocobalamin to methylcobalamin. The most effective ways to utilize B-12 is by injection or by a sublingual form that is placed under the tongue until dissolved. B-12 also is available in the form of a gel that is placed in the nasal passages. Tablets that must be swallowed are usually distorted by stomach acid and have a very low utilization. Check with your local health food store for sublingual methylcobalamin. Injectable methylcobalamin must be made by a compounding pharmacist because it is not commonly available.
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