Small Fiber Neuropathy and Naturopathic Medicine – A Review of My Experience

After I had originally been told by a neurologist that my Small Fiber Neuropathy case is “idiopathic” and there is little that modern medicine can do, I revisited a journey towards naturopathic medicine.   Having little-to-no medical knowledge, I was open to exploring any path that might lead me to an answer.

I had originally seen a naturopathic doctor back when my symptoms first began several years ago.  Well meaning, and well intentioned, she spent a lot of time talking with me, and seemed to show a level of care and concern for my holistic situation – which I had not experienced in the traditional medical world (and would not until my SFN diagnosis).  She ran a bunch of tests to see which minerals and vitamins my body was lacking or had too much of.   She had me take a bunch of supplements to “correct” these “imbalances”, however it did not seem to solve my problem.   After months of visiting, I stopped going. At that time, my emphasis shifted to cognitive behavioral therapy, as I became convinced in the allopathic explanation that my condition was purely “anxiety”.

Like her allopathic counterparts, this naturopathic doctor was not able to correctly diagnose my situation at that time.   I don’t hold this against her, as it was obviously beyond her scope of expertise.  As for the tests she ran regarding vitamin and mineral imbalances, I was later told by a number of mainstream doctors that those tests often report inaccurate results.

My next experience with a naturopathic doctor came after my Small Fiber Neuropathy diagnosis, after I was told there was little that modern medicine could do.   This new ND I visited, again, took the time to hear my entire story, which I appreciated.  And she seemed to have an optimistic air that the condition was treatable, which gave me some hope – unlike my experience with traditional medicine.   She began to run various tests, and concluded that the cause of my condition was likely a series of “infections” and “co-infections” that my body was fighting.   She said that each “infection” was not serious, but combined they were causing a problem.   She prescribed for me a regime of supplements, and if that failed to produce desired results, she talked of using antibiotics to treat this.

Being that I still suspect my condition may have been triggered, in part, by an antibiotic I had taken several weeks prior to when my symptoms began, this caused an immediate red flag to go up in my mind.

I had taken her results to various neurologists as well as a few general practitioners.   They all told me that there is zero evidence that I currently have an infection, and said that all the results indicate is that I previously had some common infections to which my body had produced antibodies, but that there is no evidence that those infections are active at this point in time.

When I asked the naturopathic doctor about the differences in viewpoints between hers and the many mainstream doctors I spoke with, she replied telling me about new “research” in this area that validated her views, and claimed perhaps the other doctors were not current with this “research”.

Also, at the same time, I had been taking the supplements she prescribed.   One of them was super high levels of vitamin B, and I noticed when I took it, I often felt worse.   When I complained about this, she told me I needed to take more, and upped the dosage.  At this point, I stopped taking it altogether, and stopped seeing her.   I felt she was playing “doctor” with my life, and that there was a degree of arrogance in essentially telling me not to listen to what my body was loudly conveying.

Around this time, I had spent a lot of time online reading through various online blogs and forums, and noticed that people with mysterious conditions who go to naturopaths are often diagnosed with similar sounding terms such as “co-infections”, or told they have “lymes disease”, etc. and are prescribed intensive, expensive, ongoing treatments.  It seemed to be a trend.   Perhaps in some situations these diagnosis and treatments may be correct and helpful.    However, in my situation, it seemed that this line of thinking appeared to be more based on an ideological way of thinking on the part of the ND more than anything else.  And it made me wonder, how many people are out there who have been misdiagnosed by a naturopath, and prescribed treatments that are at best, ineffective, and at worst, dangerous?

I feel the need to share this, as I know how scary things can be when you have and/or are diagnosed with a condition, of which there is limited knowledge, and has no known cure.  It is natural that any human being is going to look to unorthodox places for answers.    Unfortunately, there are industries and individuals that feed off this desperation, either knowingly or unknowingly.   It is important to be aware of this, to be mindfully skeptical of the information you receive from others, and to analyze things from multiple vantage points.

With that said, I have nothing against naturopathic medicine as a concept, and would remain open to seeing an ND again in the future if I felt it was the right doctor and there was something new to be learned or gained through the experience.  However, I would do so with very tempered expectations and a hearty dose of skepticism.

Treatment Review: Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber

Over the past month I have been trying mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy. I have completed around 9 sessions, and had been going 2x per week. My naturopathic doctor had recommended that I try this. She said it wouldn’t cure my condition, but that it might help to stop its progression as well as promote nerve regeneration. I had read some studies on this that were positive, and so I thought it was worth a shot.

As I researched this further, I learned there are 2 types of hypberbaric oxygen treatments, soft-chamber (mild) and hard chamber. The hard chamber requires a doctor’s prescription, and is the more potent of the two. It can also be a lot more costly. Being that Small Fiber Neuropathy is an “off label” use, it is not covered by insurance.

I decided to try the mild chamber at a place that is about a 30 minute commute from where I live, per my naturopathic doctor’s recommendations. It was very expensive, with a 30 minute session costing me $90.00. And so I searched online,and found an alternative place that offers 3 1-hour sessions for $99.00. This equates to around $33 per session, which ends up costing a fraction of the price. However, the downside is that this place is 1 1/4 hours commute each way by bus from where I live. Being that I work for myself and can do my work remotely, I still had the ability to go to this place, however, it is an inconvenience for me. Nonetheless, when you are in pain and are desperate for a solution, you will do whatever it takes. I figured I would try this out, and if it worked – I would buy a mild chamber I can use at home, which would cost a few thousand dollars.

The first couple times I tried the therapy, I would say the results were subtle and mild. My body seemed to like the therapy, but at the same time, it didn’t seem to have any effect whatsoever on my nerve pain. Nonetheless, I wanted to give it a fair and proper try, and so I kept with it.

After having completed around 9 sessions so far, I have come to the conclusion that it’s a nice supplemental therapy, which probably produces some helpful benefits. However, in my case – it doesn’t seem to be slowing my condition, nor improving my nerve pain. Therefore, I no longer feel as motivated to spend the time or money further persuing this. I may at some point, go to a doctor specialized in this area to try the hard chambers.

In the meantime, I’ll likely devote my time and resources to trying other modalities of therapy.