Within your body lie two nervous systems. The central nervous system (CNS) contains your brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system (PNS) connects the brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. The peripheral nerves also send information from your body back to your brain about physical sensations, such as temperature, texture, and pain.
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that occurs when the peripheral nerves are damaged or destroyed, interfering with normal function. For example, your feet and toes may become numb, making walking problematic and leading to falls, or the nerves may fail to send pain signals — or even send those signals when there’s no cause for pain — leading to chronic discomfort and an increased risk for injury.
Board-certified podiatrist Dr. Elliot Perel and our team at Monroe Foot & Ankle Care understand how debilitating peripheral neuropathy can be, and how it can increase your risk of sustaining foot and ankle injuries. That’s why we provide comprehensive treatment options for our patients in Jamesburg, New Jersey.
Nutrition plays a role in both health and sickness, so is it possible to improve your neuropathy by improving your diet? In short, yes. We explain how and why here.
Common causes of neuropathy
Neuropathy can result from a number of causes. The most common is physical trauma to the nerves. Trauma Is an umbrella term that includes events such as trips and falls, car accidents, and repetitive motion injuries.
Another major cause is diabetes. The high blood sugar levels that result from problems with the hormone insulin lead to nerve damage and symptoms including numbness, pain, and a loss of sensation. The University of Chicago’s Center for Peripheral Neuropathy (UCCPN) states that almost 60% of diabetics have some type of nerve damage of varying severity.
A number of other chronic medical conditions may lead to peripheral nerve damage, including hypothyroidism, kidney disorders, autoimmune-produced inflammation, vitamin deficiencies, and some infections; environmental toxins, such as heavy metal exposure, may also damage nerves.
Can improving my diet help with neuropathy?
Your nerves are like any other system in your body; they need specific amounts of certain nutrients not just to exist, but also to thrive, leading to better overall health. Knowing which nutrients support your nervous system and incorporating them into your diet can help reduce your chances of nerve-related problems.
A nerve-healthy diet is a lot like a heart-healthy diet. Your food choices should center around fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils, omega-3 rich foods (from fatty fish), and lean protein.
Aim for 5-10 servings of phytonutrients — colorful fruits and vegetables — a day, with 1 serving equal to a half cup (1 medium apple, orange, etc.). One-quarter cup dried fruit or 3/4 cup juice are also good choices.
Limit your alcohol intake, or avoid it altogether, as it has a toxic effect on nerve tissue. You should also watch your sodium (table salt) intake, as too much can also damage nerves. Try to keep consumption to less than 2,300 mg per day.
Lower the amount of saturated fats and trans fatty acids you consume by opting for lean meats and poultry, as well as low-fat or non-fat dairy products. And when looking at fat content, go for monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils) instead of saturated and trans fats.
Sugars and other caloric sweeteners can lead to obesity, heart problems, and type 2 diabetes, so choose low-sugar options, or, better yet, prepare your own foods, and don’t add sugar or sugary items.
Packages now contain nutrition labels that report the amount of fats, sodium, and sugar, so you can make informed choices.
Want to learn more about how you can battle your neuropathy with good nutrition? Monroe Foot & Ankle can help. To schedule a consultation, give the office a call at 732-978-9569, or book online with us today.