Madhureeta Achari, MD
What is Nutritional Neurology?
Neurologists have always understood the role of diet in disease. Our oldest definable diseases are caused by nutritional deficiencies. Beri-beri, which causes nerve and brain dysfunction, is due to thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency may cause dysfunction of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. Zinc and copper deficiencies can cause multiple neurological issues. Too much of many vitamins and minerals may also cause neurological illness.
We have depended on supplemented and plentiful food sources to prevent nutritional illness. However, that is not how things have turned out. For a variety of reasons, including highly processed foods, long term cold storage of food, restrictive diets and use of over-the-counter supplements and medicines, nutritional illnesses have made a comeback. But the issue is a complex one and doctors are so busy treating the consequences of poor diets (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.) there is little time to discuss or determine an individual’s nutritional status.
My creation of Nutritional Neurology as a specialty came about as a result of diagnosing several vitamin and mineral deficiencies in patients starting over 15 years ago. All had been extensively evaluated previously with no diagnosis or cause found to explain their symptoms and illness. One patient had brain fog and numbness and tingling in his arms and legs. He underwent a variety of testing for a year without any cause found. When he came to my office, I was also at a loss. In asking if he had done anything different before the issues began, he said he had not. Several days later, he called to tell me he had adopted a gluten-free diet with absolutely no grains 6 months before his problems started. I ordered a blood level looking for vitamin B1, which was deficient. I gave him a few injections and oral supplements for vitamin B1 and asked him to bake bread with whole grain four, yeast, salt and water. He returned to normal in 6 months and has been well ever since. He’s also an accomplished baker!
My degree in biochemistry affirms that proper nutrition in essential not only for the nervous system, but for all the cells in our bodies. Good health begins with good nutrition. It is the fundament on which our bodies and lives are built.
Nutritional Neurology is the diagnosis and management of neurological issues due to micronutrient deficiencies or toxicities. It is also the practice of promoting brain health. Whether the problem is headache, memory issues, vertigo or numbness and tingling, optimizing the micronutrient status of the body may help to alleviate the issue, if deficiency is the cause. If another cause is found, supporting the function of the cells is helpful in treatment, recovery, or management.