Neuropathy and Diet: Because What You Eat Matters

You probably have heard this before, but what you eat does matter – and this is true whether you are simply trying to stay healthy or you are already dealing with a health problem.

Want to lose weight and build strength? Diet. Want to prevent heart disease and control diabetes? Diet. Want to manage – or even completely reverse – neuropathy? Dieting is an important step here, too!

Now, this doesn’t mean you won’t also need professional treatment. In fact, there are other aspects of foot care you will have to take into consideration when managing your neuropathy, including performing daily self-exams, wearing custom orthotics, and undergoing laser therapy. 

Fortunately, you can count on Dr. Harvey Danciger to provide the treatment options you need to reverse your condition, improve nerve function, and reduce or even eliminate your dependence on medications so you can get back to doing the things you love most.

But in the long run, developing a healthy lifestyle is going to be crucial if you want to keep those nerves as healthy as they can possibly be, as long as you possibly can – which brings us back to diet.

Eating for Healthy Nerves

So what does diet even have to do with nerve health?

Just like any other organ, system, or body tissue, your peripheral nerves need a variety of essential nutrients in order to operate efficiently. If you deprive your nerves of the nutrients they need, you can expect them to start to misfire, wither, and die.

Some of the nutrients most critical for nerve health include:

Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

Thiamine is used by the nervous system for the production and modulation of neurotransmitters, the structure of the myelin sheath surrounding nerves, and more. Lack of enough thiamine can lead to pain, numbness, burning and tingling sensations, and other problems in the peripheral nerves.

Found in: whole grains, legumes, beans, pork, beef, fish, asparagus

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is also valuable in the production of neurotransmitters, which are the key chemicals that allow nerves to communicate with one another. However, achieving the right balance is important. Too much B6 can be toxic to nerves.

Found in: bananas, fortified cereals, chickpeas, potatoes, pork, turkey, beef

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B-12 is essentially used by the nervous system to produce myelin, a protective layer of insulation surrounding a nerve that allows signals to transmit faster and with less “signal loss.”

Found in: many animal products, including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy

Antioxidants

Oxidative stress can be a contributor to the development of neuropathy and other nerve conditions. Antioxidants will prevent oxidation and help avoid cellular damage.

Found in: virtually all vegetables and fruits, as well as eggs, legumes, nuts, and vegetable oils

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for those struggling with neuropathy – they play a huge role in both reducing inflammation and helping to regenerate nerve tissue.

Found in: fish oil, soybeans, walnuts and many kinds of seafood (including salmon, mackerel, and herring)

Planning Your Diet

What you may have noticed, if you read the “found in” section, is that you don’t have to give up enjoying tasty meals! Yes, we recommend that you stay away from foods that contain excessive sugar and saturated fats, but this doesn’t mean your daily meals have to become a disappointment.

Here’s a basic diet guide that will keep you healthy, but also satisfied:

  • Lots of vegetables and fruits. Shoot for 5-10 servings per day.
  • Whole grains. This includes foods like rice, oats, barley, and quinoa.
  • Legumes. Good options include chickpeas, lentils, black beans, soybeans, and even peanuts!
  • Lean meats and low-fat dairy. Avoid saturated fats, trans fats, and Omega-6 fatty acids as much as possible. Instead, choose lean cuts and poultry, as well as fish.

… and, here’s what not to eat:

  • Sugars and refined grains. While whole grains provide important nutrients, refined grains and added sugars not only offer little nutritional value, but also cause your blood sugar levels to spike.
  • Too much sodium. This can have adverse effects on nerve health. Try to keep it under 2,300 mg per day.
  • Saturated and trans fats. Fatty meats and dairy can be highly inflammatory, which can irritate and damage nerves.
  • Excessive alcohol. Alcohol impairs the proper absorption of many nutrients essential for nerve health.

That said, if you have certain dietary restrictions (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, etc.) we may recommend some nutritional supplements or a more specialized diet plan to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need.

Visit Our Office for a Comprehensive Neuropathy Plan

While we stand by the basics included in this blog post, we also understand that every case – and every person – is different. That’s why the best thing you can do if you are living with peripheral neuropathy is to schedule an appointment at our office.

We can provide you with more specific advice about diet, as well as exercise and other healthy lifestyle choices that will be tailored to your condition, age, and goals. We also provide a wide range of advanced treatment options that will help reduce discomfort and even reverse the effects of your condition – from custom orthotics and laser therapy to corticosteroid injections and surgery.

So don’t delay getting the relief you need today – give us a call at (760) 568-0108 or simply fill out our online contact form to have a member of our staff reach out to you.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle
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