Neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes, with symptoms that range from mildly annoying to completely debilitating. Regardless of which stage of neuropathy you’re experiencing, one thing is for sure: you don’t want to make it worse.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy, you may be wondering, does sugar affect peripheral neuropathy in the same way it does diabetes? Let’s look at how your diet may be impacting your neuropathy.
Can low blood sugar cause peripheral neuropathy?
First of all, what is neuropathy?
Neuropathy can be defined simply as nerve damage, but from there, it gets much more complicated. There are a variety of events that can trigger neuropathy, from sustaining a traumatic injury to undergoing chemotherapy. One of the most common causes of neuropathy, however, is diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease that is characterized by unhealthy blood glucose levels. There is some overlap in diabetic neuropathy symptoms and symptoms caused by blood glucose levels that are too high or too low.
High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, can result in complications such as vision problems, kidney damage, heart disease, and neuropathy (as well as neuropathy symptoms). On the other end of the spectrum, low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia, don’t cause neuropathy, but they can result in problems such as dizziness, headaches, anxiety, sleep disturbances, balance issues, and more.
So, while low blood sugar may share a few symptoms with neuropathy, it does not cause it. High blood sugar, on the other hand, is a much stronger indicator of peripheral neuropathy.
How does sugar affect peripheral neuropathy?
Now that we understand the interaction between high blood sugar levels and neuropathy, it’s easy to see how high-sugar diets can affect peripheral neuropathy.
When you consume sugar or carbs, your digestive system begins to break it down and it is absorbed into your bloodstream. This causes your blood sugar levels to rise.
Normally, your pancreas would then release insulin to help combat the increase in sugar — but if you’re diabetic, that doesn’t happen.
Instead, the excess sugar stays in your body, causing issues and increasing your risk of certain health conditions.
In other words, the more sugar you take in, the higher your blood sugar levels. The higher your blood sugar levels are, the more likely you are to develop neuropathy.
In addition to increasing your risk of developing neuropathy, sugar can exacerbate neuropathic symptoms. When you eat sugar or other highly processed carbohydrates, the sugar floods your blood and can cause nerve inflammation and pain. Consistently high exposure to sugar can damage your nerves in the long run.
Skip the sugar, stay healthy
Of course, it makes sense to steer clear of sweet baked goods, frozen treats, and candy — but sugar can still be lurking in the most unlikely places. So, the next time you make a grocery list or order at your favorite restaurant, think twice before going with these high-sugar food options.
- Breakfast foods: Cold cereal, instant oatmeal, granola bars, bagels, English muffins, etc.
- Lunch and dinner foods: Sauces (such as BBQ and ketchup), some soups, white bread, pasta, etc.
- Snacks: Commercial candies, chocolate, some yogurts, canned fruit, etc.
- Drinks: Fruit juice, milkshakes, soda, sports drinks, chocolate milk, cocoa, coffee drinks, smoothies, etc.
We know that cuts out a lot of the quintessential western diet, but there are still plenty of good foods that you can enjoy! Here are a few better choices for when you’re craving something sweet:
- Dark chocolate
- Greek yogurt
- Energy bites
- Cottage cheese
- Some trail mixes
Take another step in the right direction
Controlling your sugar intake and monitoring your blood glucose levels are both fantastic ways to manage your diabetes or neuropathy, but they aren’t the only things that you can — or should — be doing. In fact, if you have neuropathy, taking care of your feet is another important health consideration.
Neuropathy often targets your feet and legs, which means good foot care is an absolute must to avoid dangerous or painful foot problems and other neuropathy complications. In addition to checking your feet every day, exercising consistently, and having annual checkups, it’s also important to wear the right footwear.
A good pair of diabetic compression socks or non-binding socks can help support your feet, keep them safe from injury and infection, and encourage better blood flow to combat neuropathy pain. And if you’re looking for a good pair of socks, there’s no better place to go than Viasox.
When you shop online with us, you’ll gain access to a huge selection of some of the most fun and funky diabetic socks in the nation. Choose from a range of patterns, styles, and colors to find something that brings life to your wardrobe and relief to your feet.