The foods you eat directly affect every aspect of your health. Nutrients have the power to energize, heal, build tissues, and promote optimal well-being. Or they can cause inflammation, illness, aging, and nerve damage.
Your nerves are especially vulnerable to nutrients, making your diet an important tool for preventing neuropathy or slowing progressive nerve damage after neuropathy develops.
As peripheral neuropathy and wellness specialists, Henry Horrilleno, MD, and Alma Horrilleno, MD, at Infinity Regenerative & Neuropathy Center in Plano, Texas, follow a holistic approach to your care. In addition to treating neuropathy, they assess your nutritional status and recommend dietary changes and supplements that support healthy nerves.
Here are four essential dietary steps you can take to prevent or improve neuropathy:
1. Manage blood sugar
Diabetes develops when your body doesn’t produce or can’t use insulin. Without insulin, blood sugar (glucose) rises. Over time, high blood sugar damages your nerves, causing diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Following a diet that keeps blood sugar in the normal range can prevent peripheral neuropathy. You can meet that goal by avoiding the following foods:
Sweets send blood sugar skyrocketing, whether in the form of cookies, cake, candy, or pie. (If you make sweets with an artificial sweetener, they won’t affect your blood sugar.)
Foods and beverages with added sugar
Many foods and beverages contain added sugar. Of those, sugar-sweetened sodas are one of the biggest culprits. It’s also important to know that the type of sugar doesn’t matter. Honey or agave nectar may sound healthier, but they have the same effect on your blood glucose as table sugar.
Refined carbs send a blast of sugar straight into your bloodstream. Examples of refined carbs include products made with white flour (like bread and crackers), white rice, and pasta. By comparison, whole grains provide complex carbs for energy together with dietary fiber that prevents sugar spikes.
2. Reduce inflammation
Nerve damage always results in inflammation, and body-wide (systemic) inflammation also causes some types of neuropathy. Your diet has a role in this with chronic inflammation, too.
Foods and beverages with added sugar and processed, smoked, and fried foods contribute to systemic inflammation and aggravate neuropathy.
An anti-inflammatory diet fights the problem and helps reduce inflamed nerves. Good choices for an anti-inflammatory diet include fish, lean meat and poultry, vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, seeds, and unsaturated fats like olive oil.
A few of the top anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Red cabbage
- Green and red peppers
- Leafy greens
- Green tea
Salmon and other fish are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats are crucial for cellular function and reduce inflammation, including painful, inflamed nerves.
Be cautious with fish
People with neuropathy need to be careful about the type of fish in their diet. Some fish are high in mercury, a neurotoxin that damages or destroys nerves.
Salmon is much lower in mercury compared to most fish. Though tuna is high in omega-3, it’s also the most common source of mercury exposure.
3. Get enough vitamin B12
A deficiency in vitamin B12 causes neuropathy. Vitamin B12 comes from fish and meat, with a smaller amount in dairy products and eggs. You may need to take dietary supplements if you don’t get enough of these foods in your diet or you’re over 50.
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you’re at risk of a deficiency. Anyone over the age of 50 can also develop a deficiency because age-related changes in their gastrointestinal tract limit the absorption of vitamin B12.
4. Watch your fat intake
Consuming high-fat foods or a diet including too many saturated fats may cause peripheral neuropathy. On the other hand, emerging studies report that a low-fat diet and consuming unsaturated fats can prevent neuropathy and may even help reverse existing nerve damage.
Healthy unsaturated fats come from walnuts, avocados, and vegetable oils (peanut, olive, sunflower, corn, and canola).
If you have symptoms suggestive of neuropathy, such as tingling and pain, or want to learn more about how your diet can improve nerve problems, call Infinity Regenerative & Neuropathy Center or request an appointment online today.