All of the abnormal physical sensations discussed below should always be discussed with your doctor first. This information is not a substitute for a visit to your doctor.
Burning sensations in the feet or other parts of the body can be caused by a variety of factors, including nerve injury, poor circulation to a nerve, or a medical condition such as diabetes, but one of the most commonly overlooked causes is a B vitamin deficiency.
Though the burning sensation can come at any time of the day, it often increases just as you lay down to sleep. It may get worse when your feet are very cold or very hot and you may feel that the burning becomes less noticeable when your feet are cooled, like in cool water.
Possible Causes for Burning Feet (Burning Mouth)
Below, you will find a list of the most common causes of burning feet offered on other websites. In each case it is followed by a more in-depth explanation that will help you understand ways that you might be able to improve or even completely resolve your burning.
If you overuse alcohol daily you can develop burning feet, and in this setting it’s called alcoholic neuropathy. But beyond this diagnostic term– why would alcohol cause burning feet?
Alcohol prevents you from absorbing the B vitamins that are being made in the small intestine by your intestinal bacteria. You may have other problems such as memory loss and balance problems that come along for the same reasons, or you may be using alcohol every night to help you fall asleep.
Often we forget to ask the most important question: “What is the underlying problem that I am trying to fix with the alcohol I’m drinking?
If we explore the possibility that you might have an underlying sleep disorder that’s contributing to feeling depressed or anxious or lonely, and that you’re using alcohol to self-medicate that problem, then we have a path towards a more successful recovery by improving the sleep disorder.
Similar to alcohol overuse, abnormal eating behavior such as anorexia, or forced vomiting is considered by some to be a cause of burning feet. The reason given is that in this setting you’ll absorb fewer nutrients from your food.
But once again, in order to solve the eating problem and the burning that has resulted, it’s more helpful to concentrate on the underlying cause of your eating disorder. In my experience there is often an underlying sleep disorder that could be successfully treated if it is recognized. If you’ve read about the RightSleep program you’ll remember that the B vitamins are necessary for normal sleep and are also pivotal for making the neurotransmitters that we use to be happy and satisfied. So burning feet, mood issues and sleep all have an underlying connection to the proper intestinal production of the B vitamins.
Aging is a commonly-cited cause of burning feet because it’s more common in older people. But what is the mechanism that might be causing the burning?
Did you know that as we age, we make less vitamin D while we’re outdoors in the sun?
Lower vitamin D blood levels are the first step in a process that causes the loss of the healthy gut microbiome, and the healthy gut microbiome provides our B vitamins. So your burning can be a result, not of your age, but of a deficiency of the B vitamins.
Pregnancy is also a commonly-cited cause of burning feet.
But why would someone who is pregnant have burning feet? This also has to do with lower vitamin D blood levels and a changed microbiome (like in the example of the elderly).
In this case, instead of a lower D due to age, it is a lower D because mom must share her vitamin D with her baby while he grows and develops. Baby is also sharing the B vitamins that mom’s microbiome makes so if her microbiome is not normal she will use up her B vitamin stores and start to have burning feet or a burning mouth.
We are going to see similar root-cause patterns as we continue to list conditions associated with burning feet:
Burning feet often occurs in people with diabetes, where it’s called “diabetic neuropathy”. That said, there are many forms of diabetic neuropathy, burning is just one of them, and it happens frequently without diabetes. This might mean that it is not really from the “sugar hurting the nerves” (diabetes) but that the diabetes and the burning come together from a shared root cause.
I started to wonder about the possibility that the burning was not actually from diabetes when, surprisingly, some of my patients experienced reduction in their burning when they started to use CPAP for their sleep apnea. This suggests that sometimes a sleep disorder can be a root cause of both diabetes and burning feet. Many patients experience improvement or complete resolution of their diabetes when their sleep apnea is treated.
Small fiber sensory neuropathy
“Small fiber neuropathy” is the name Neurologists use for burning in the feet because the nerves that sense burning, as well as temperature, are tiny in comparison to those that sense movement or touch.
But again, the name doesn’t give insight into the root cause. And if the burning is a result of a B vitamin deficiency, then in many cases the symptom can be fully resolved by returning the intestinal microbiome to normal and providing extra B vitamins for a limited period of time.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome describes foot burning caused by compression of a nerve at the ankle.The nerve that runs just behind the ankle bone on the toe side of the foot is held stable by stiff, overlying ligaments. Those ligaments can compress the nerve and cut off the nerve’s blood flow, causing burning in the bottom of the foot.
Surprisingly, the root cause of this condition can also be related to insufficient restorative sleep with inappropriate foot movements during sleep.
Normally, while we sleep, the moving parts of our body become paralyzed so we can repair them.
Sometimes tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs because your feet are still moving (still walking) during sleep. Yes, you can be on your feet all day and then, instead of resting and letting your feet repair at night, you’re walking all night too. Repair can’t happen normally while the feet are still moving.
What do all of these examples have in common?
- Sleep problems,
- Low vitamin D levels,
- An abnormal intestinal microbiome
- B vitamin deficiencies from changed intestinal bacterial populations
How to improve your Burning Feet
I’ve just told you that I believe that many people who suffer from burning feet or burning mouth could be helped by B vitamin supplementation, and that’s good news. The more difficult news is that the amount of B vitamins that each person needs to return their nerves to a happy, normal state is different from person to person.
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but there is a path to follow that can get it done! That is why I’ve compiled years of experience and research to develop a program that helps determine the optimal dose and vitamin schedule for you.
When to See a Doctor
Burning sensations in the feet or the mouth can be caused by various underlying medical conditions, some of which, like strokes, may require prompt medical attention. While not all cases of burning sensations in the extremities are emergencies, there are situations in which you should visit a doctor or seek immediate medical care:
- Sudden pain or change in sensation on one side
- Trauma or injury, including nerve damage
- Diabetes or Peripheral Neuropathy
- Infection or inflammation associated with burning in an arm or leg
- Risk factors, such as family history of neuropathy, heart disease, or circulation problems
Depending on the cause, you might be able to reverse burning feet, burning mouth or burning in the hands. To learn more about the connection between B vitamins, healthy restorative sleep, and optimal health read more here.