Alcohol and Nerve Damage

    • Anonymous
      July 4, 2007 at 1:02 pm

      A few days ago I was taking a shower in the evening after I had a few drinks. When moving the shower head without looking, I dropped it. It startled Carol and her first reaction was: “You had too much to drink.” I got ticked off; probably because I wasn’t sure it didn’t really have anything to do with the extra big glass of wine.

      After we “settled down”, she raised a question not really related to my dropping the shower head. She was wondering if alcohol could cause damage to peripheral nerves that already lost their myelin sheath. I didn’t know the answer but agreed to post it here.

      We all know that excessive alcohol consumption can cause neuropathy but not our auto-immune peripheral neuropathy. But what happens if the nerves are already stripped of myelin caused by CIDP? Does this make them vulnerable to alcohol, in small amounts, or large amounts? Can alcohol actually destroy the exposed nerves? I know they say this happens in the brain but what about peripheral nerves without or even with the myelin?

      I would be interested in your opinions but most of all any conversations you had about this with your neuro or references you may have found on the internet.


    • Anonymous
      July 4, 2007 at 2:42 pm


      i really don’t know. for years after gbs i was afraid to take a drink for fear of who-knows-what [prolly making my difficult condition worse]. anyway, when i finally went back to the occasional, i never noticed any difference. i stopped my heavier drinking 10 years before getting gbs. take care. be well.

      gene gbs 8-99
      in numbers there is strength

    • Anonymous
      July 4, 2007 at 7:42 pm

      I’m not sure. I’ve asked several doctors and have gotten just as many answers. Most of their answers were based on their personal feels about drinking.

      From what I have experienced a drink or two will not hurt me [of course that depends on the size of the glass 🙂 ]. I would not want to extend that to include everybody, because there are so many variables [physical condition, meds, etc.]

      I’m interested in hearing other opinions.

    • Anonymous
      July 4, 2007 at 10:08 pm


      I don’t think an extra big glass of wine could cause axonal damage, but its all about balance. Here are a few things that may provide a few clues to your question. Hope this helps.

      Alcohol, by way of additional simple carbohydrates to a typical western diet of refined foods is known as a form of malnutrition leading to a state of chronic subclinical thiamin deficiency (leading to neurological disorders). Thiamine is used up by the body to metabolise carbohydrates – so there is a direct relationship of (empty) carbohydrate intake and thiamin requirement. Also, alcohol reduces thiamine absorbtion.


      Symptoms of alcohol neuropathy seem to be associated with the [B]lifetime consumption of alcohol[/B]. This article indicates a risk for axonal sensorimotor peripheral polyneuropathy.



      Happy 4th everybody! (rained out – 24″ in 3 days)

    • Anonymous
      July 4, 2007 at 10:10 pm

      I don’t believe that moderate alcohol comsumption is particularly harmful. As a matter of fact, knowing that I drink wine daily, the neuro told me after my first course of IVIG that, aside from avoiding salty foods for a day or so, he had no reason to tell me to avoid anything else. I do, however, notice, that excessive alcohol (yes I admit to losing control at times — my bad!) combined with lack of sleep can heighten my symptoms, especially hand tremor. But lack of sleep alone can do that, so the jury’s out. My personal philsolophy is that I can do everything “right” — avoid alcohol, salt, fatty foods, carbs, etc, etc — and still get hit by a truck driving to work on the highway. Not to advocate complete decadance, but life should be enjoyable, even with the problems that we face — or maybe especially with the problems that we face! This opinion may not be popular, but it’s mine. I would just say to be careful not to hurt yourself or others.

      Cheers! 😉

    • Anonymous
      July 5, 2007 at 12:27 am

      Norb, I read something about alcohol and nerves don’t mix well, but I don’t remember what it said or where it was. I drink strawberry diacquries (usually a few doubles) occasionally, I call them my pain killers!;) They work on my pain when all the other things need a break, stopped working or when I just don’t want to feel it anymore. I drink the same now as I have for over 20 years, not alot but just enough. I don’t think it is having any effect on my nerves in a bad way because I can drink quite a few doubles and walk out of the bar better then I had walked going in.:D Straighter and in alot less pain.
      It would be interesting to hear from others on this topic.

    • Anonymous
      July 5, 2007 at 4:57 am

      Norb, alcoholic neuropathy is an axonal neuropathy resulting from chronic alcohol poisoning as a result of excess intake (usually more than half a bottle of spirits a day) for a prolonged period, at least ten years. In the malnourished alcoholic beri beri, or thiamine deficiency may contribute to the neuropathy.
      I have looked after down and outs who rely on alcohol for their calorie intake and well to do well fed alcoholics and have seen alcoholic neuropathy and D.Ts in both. (D.T. is delirium tremens due to acute on chronic alcohol poisoning of the brain) DocDavid

    • Anonymous
      July 5, 2007 at 10:12 am

      Dear Norb,

      My treating doctor gave me some real good advice about alcohol and reasons to avoid it in conditions such as MS and CIDP:

      Alcohol is sugar and alcohol tends to give you a buzz quickly indicating that this sugar enters the nervous system rapidly just like barbituates and other medications to mediate neurological or neuropsychiatric conditions. What this means is that sugar alcohol crosses the blood brain barrier quickly.

      This barrier is compromised in individuals that have conditions such as ours, there is a build up of protein in our CNS this sugar binds to these proteins making the toxin build up even more harmful and there is no way for the nervous system to clense itself from this build up. It is not like the other parts of our body that can be filtered through organs such as our kidneys and liver. This allows for this build up to remain in the tissue of the nerves causing further demylination.

      There are neurotoxin absorbing supplements that can be quite effective and natural antioxidants one of which is blueberries are really effective in removing these free radical molecules from your CNS.

      I have personally had one sip of cognac and one glass of wine in the last 1.5 years I eat a diet that is immune boosting and avoid all sources of food or drink that can cause my condition to worsen. Despite all of these efforts I am still deteriorating. You have to see for yourself and how you feel if your body is giving you signals that this does not feel right I would not drink if having a glass of wine once in a long while seems to feel okay then I would indulge. You are the best judge but as far as alcohol goes it definitely has a negative effect on CNS tissue.

      They say a glass of wine is good for you but indvidulas with compromised blood brain barriers instead of wine it is healthy to have at least 3 teaspoons of red or white wine vinegar daily and this has the same effect of improving vascular functioning that a glass of wine a day does for someone who is healthy. Improved vascular functioning results in better cardiac functioning, more energy less Chronic Fatigue. There are a lot of other supplemets to help with that aspect of care but it is best to stay away from alcohol.

      Hope this helps,

      Best wishes,


    • Anonymous
      July 5, 2007 at 6:30 pm

      Thanks for all the feedback. I hope there will be more.

      Gopal, I am not sure that the blood-brain barrier is compromised in CIDP cases. The CNS is involved in MS patients and usually not with us. Of course, too much alcohol affects the CNS regardless. We all know that.

      I couldn’t remember the connection with Thiamine (B1 vitamin). Thanks for pointing it out. [B]compactdisc[/B], I looked at the article you mentioned but it was a bit too technical for me so I just skimmed it. I found some others, though, that explained the connection in terms I could understand.

      In all it sounds like there is no easy answer and we need to use our own judgement. My specific question if a demyelinated nerve presents an easier target for whatever alcohol does is still open.

    • Anonymous
      July 5, 2007 at 9:52 pm

      While we are waiting for more replies how about a wee dram of single malt 🙂

    • Anonymous
      July 5, 2007 at 11:02 pm

      ‘toxic’ neuropathies…It’s all about the quantities and how it affects the body chemistry. It is the chemistries and especially if one is diabetic or pre-diabetic that it seems to take hold and do the ‘toxic’ number on you. To me it seems that some doctors always BLAME it on the alcohol, and put you on neurontin with a simple toxic neuropathy and leave it at that. It IS an easy out for them. Give credit to the ‘good guys’ who go that extra step or ten to really truly diagnose.
      But, read all the medication brochures about all the medications you are on….each and every one- has sometimes Black Box notices or warnings in the very fine print about how that one particular medication reacts with it. I will bet that each and every medication has some form of warning…
      One has to accept that the current and future generations of neuros and docs are going to simply ‘accept’ this past ‘protocol’ of TOTAL abstinence as a ‘given and proven’ protocol.. It is not in the least. So, I guess we all have to carefully assess our own situations individually and go from there. Especially IF you are on three or more key meds for all the different issues.
      I for one, do not PRETEND to be a lab rat, I do not live in a controlled environment. I am merely trying to LIVE!
      Norb I know that you have been thru more than one mortal should ever be subjected to! I also have a great deal of faith that you will make the best decisions based on your life! Sooo. Promise tomorrow that you will go to the Ice Cream Store and get a double-scoop cone with sprinkles on top! It’s not an every day thing, but it IS good for the Spirit? You only go around once!

    • Anonymous
      July 10, 2007 at 10:00 pm


      Ben tends to stick to OJ and Gatorade. One tiny sip of alcohol makes him feel and walk like he has a hangover the next day, which is interesting when you read Gopal’s post.


    • Anonymous
      July 18, 2007 at 4:40 pm


      I really don’t think that alcohol causes more nerve damage, but it certainly affected my balance when I had one beer after 2 years of no alcohol at all. I was just learning to walk again at the time, with very limited balance. I got up from the couch and walked into the kitchen, caught my toe and down I went, on both knees, that hurts. “Lost my nerve” for about an hour to try to walk again, but no no other nerve damage. The beer must have relaxed me too much!


    • Anonymous
      July 20, 2007 at 12:09 pm

      Paul, after 2 years of abstinence it doesn’t surprise me that the beer affected you that much. Alcohol goes to the brain very quickly and supresses the central nervous system. This does not translate to damage to otherwise intact nerves. For that to happen you have to be a heavy drinker over a long period of time.

      Good thing you didn’t hurt yourself any more than you did. The evening when I came back from Thailand a few months ago, two strong drinks and a sleeping pill before bedtime (dumb thing to do), caused me to fall and hit the wooden bedframe. The result was a severe hemorraghe in my brain that almost cost me my life. Symptoms didn’t show up until a few weeks later and a CT scan showed that the right side of my brain was pushed to the side and probably down. I had an operation right away and a follow-up scan this week showed everything is back to normal.

      [B]Shannon[/B], good for Ben. This way he doesn’t have to worry about possible nerve damage. Sometimes I wished I could lay of the stuff. I am not an alcoholic but I just enjoy my drinks too much to give them up.

    • Anonymous
      July 20, 2007 at 1:38 pm

      Hey Norb,
      I like you enjoy a glass of wine or two (perhaps a beer either/or not both) just my little happy hour. Not every day but probably at least 4 times a week. My neurologist has always known this and actually makes a point of saying “Joyce, you will like this prescription because you can still drink alcohal!” I sometimes want to tell him “hey, I’m not an alcoholic” but I guess that’s debatable..hee hee. So I guess what I’m saying is either I have a really bad doctor or alcohol in moderation isn’t so bad. In my world it’s the latter.
      I have enough problems!


    • Anonymous
      July 25, 2007 at 6:49 am

      This is all very fascinating as I have a combination of problems that lead to me needing more Vitamin B overall (a genetic deficit). It has been difficult for them to determine the impact my MTHFR enzyme mutation has had on my recovery, if any, however the addition of Foltx, a B vitamin combo, RAPIDLY improved my symptoms – like within two weeks I stopped shaking and was able to stand for more than 2 minutes. For a long time while recovering I did not drink alcohol or coffee but depression plays an equal role in your physical state and my neurologist granted me permission to have an occasional alcoholic beverage and cup of coffee in lieu of me staring at the walls sobbing. Based on this my feeling is that alcohol may not set me back by damaging my nerves anymore but it makes it more difficult for them to heal. In addition while I get some energy from drinking alcohol it’s only temporary and is usually followed by me passing out from exhaustion and having to spend the next day glued to my chair. Still… it’s worth it sometimes. 🙂

    • July 24, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      Alcohol has definitely made the nerves in my feet flair. I like the theory Norb puts forth about myelin stripped nerves. The days they flared was when I went over the line. Some days I forgot my meds, etc. Alcohol is like throwing gas on the fire. People do not understand parethesia. I tell them it’s like when your foot fell asleep at the movies. Except we have it 24/7. My feet (both drop foot)are humming all the time.Numbness and tingling. Nprb is on the right track. Cause and effect.; I drink too much and the feet flair. High pitch pain as opposed to low pitch numbness.