If you’re living with diabetes, you know how important your food choices can be. But did you also know diet choices can impact diabetic neuropathy as well? If you’ve been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, then what you eat matters — a lot. So, here’s a handy list of foods to avoid if you have neuropathy to help manage your condition.
Why your diet choices matter
Nutritional deficiencies can result in a neuropathy diagnosis, so it doesn't surprise that not getting the right nutrients can also exacerbate your neuropathy symptoms. But why? The right diet can do two things:
- Lower your blood sugar levels
- Fight inflammation
Any diet that contributes to those goals can help decrease your risk for peripheral neuropathy. Monitoring your glucose levels and consistently making healthier diet choices are also some of the most important elements in managing diabetes and neuropathy pain.
Peripheral neuropathy foods to avoid
If you’re wondering, “What foods should I avoid with neuropathy?” then we’ve got the answers you’ve been looking for. Here are six of the most common foods that aggravate neuropathy.
- Alcohol— Too much alcohol can be detrimental even to those without neuropathy. But if you’re already living with nerve damage, overconsuming alcohol can worsen your symptoms. Alcohol can cause inflammation and lead to nutritional deficiencies and toxicity.
Alcohol consumption, even in moderate amounts, can have harmful effects on the body, including damage to the liver, brain, and other organs. When consumed in excess, alcohol can cause various health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. However, for people with neuropathy, which is damage to the nerves that transmit signals between the brain and other parts of the body, excessive alcohol consumption can worsen their symptoms.
Alcohol has been shown to cause inflammation in the body, which can worsen neuropathic pain and other symptoms associated with nerve damage. Additionally, alcohol can interfere with the absorption and utilization of essential nutrients, such as vitamins B1, B6, and B12, which are crucial for nerve health. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies that can exacerbate neuropathy symptoms.
Furthermore, alcohol is a toxin that can damage nerve cells, particularly in high doses. Over time, this toxicity can lead to further nerve damage and worsen existing neuropathy symptoms. This can cause problems with mobility, balance, and coordination, as well as numbness, tingling, and pain in the affected areas.
- High-GI foods— The glycemic index is a measure of how much a certain food will spike your blood sugar levels. Choosing foods with a low glycemic index (i.e. low-carbohydrate foods) will give you better control over your blood sugar levels.
When you consume high-GI foods, your body releases insulin to help regulate your blood sugar levels. If you frequently consume high-GI foods, your body may become less sensitive to insulin over time, which can lead to insulin resistance and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
On the other hand, low-GI foods are broken down and absorbed more slowly, which helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your body's insulin response in check. This makes low-GI foods a better choice for people with diabetes or those looking to manage their diabetic neuropathy.
Examples of low GI foods include non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and most fruits. High GI foods, on the other hand, include processed and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, sugary drinks, and candy. By choosing foods with a low glycemic index, you can help to maintain stable blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of exacerbating neuropathy and other health problems associated with high blood sugar levels.
- High-gluten foods— Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It's responsible for giving dough its elasticity and helping bread rise. However, for people with gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause a wide range of health issues, including neuropathy. Many people these days have a gluten allergy or intolerance. And when you combine gluten sensitivity with neuropathy, it’s a recipe for disaster. Choose gluten-free foods whenever possible to help fight inflammation and reduce neuropathy pain.
Fortunately, there are many gluten-free alternatives available today, including bread, pasta, and baked goods. You can also find gluten-free versions of many other foods, including snacks and condiments.
By choosing gluten-free foods whenever possible, you can help fight inflammation and reduce neuropathy pain. In addition to reducing your intake of gluten, consider adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish.
It's important to note that not all gluten-free foods are created equal. Some may contain higher levels of sugar, salt, and fat, which can worsen inflammation and neuropathy symptoms. When choosing gluten-free foods, read the labels carefully and choose products low in sugar, salt, and fat.
- Salty foods— High-sodium diets can restrict blood flow, damage nerves, and increase neuropathy pain. This is because sodium can cause the blood vessels to constrict, which makes it harder for blood to circulate properly. When this happens, it can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, neuropathy, heart attacks, and strokes.
Excessive amounts of sodium can disrupt the balance of fluids in the body, which can cause swelling and inflammation. This swelling and inflammation can, in turn, put pressure on nerves and damage them further over time.
Try to replace your salty foods with leaner, less-processed options. For example, instead of processed snacks and fast food that tend to be high in salt, you can opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources like fish and chicken, and whole grains. These foods tend to be lower in sodium and higher in nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which can help to improve overall health and reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. By making these dietary changes, you can help to protect your blood vessels and nerves and alleviate neuropathy pain.
- Saturated fats— Saturated fats are common in red meats, fried food, and high-fat dairy products and can contribute to a variety of health conditions. When consumed in excess, saturated fats can lead to an increase in blood cholesterol levels, which in turn can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. Furthermore, saturated fats can also contribute to insulin resistance, a condition closely linked to type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it is important to limit the intake of saturated fats in order to maintain optimal health.
A healthier option for obtaining protein would be to consume lean proteins such as legumes, fish, and low-fat dairy products. Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans, are an excellent source of plant-based protein, as well as being high in fiber and other important nutrients. Fish, especially oily fish like salmon, are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and are a great source of lean protein. Low-fat dairy products, such as skim milk and low-fat yogurt, are also good sources of protein without the added saturated fats found in full-fat dairy products.
By choosing lean proteins over foods high in saturated fats, you can improve your overall health and reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions.
If you can cut out most of these foods, you may see a marked improvement in your neuropathy symptoms. And remember, no matter what you’re eating, it’s important to carefully monitor your blood sugar levels every day and keep an eye out for trends and patterns that may be a cause for concern.
Combat neuropathy pain with a healthy diet and high-quality socks
Now that you know what foods to avoid with neuropathy, managing your pain and discomfort should be a bit easier. But making better diet choices isn’t the only thing you can do to help manage neuropathic pain. Medications, therapies, massage, and other treatment options are also available. However, if you’re looking for a simple and fast solution to help reduce neuropathy pain in your feet and legs, it might be time to invest in some diabetic socks.
Shop online at Viasox today
Viasox is the proud provider of North America’s first – and finest — fancy diabetic socks. Whether you’re looking to buy in bulk or just want a single pair to show off your unique style, we can help! From fun designs to classic neutrals, ankle socks, knee lengths, compression socks, non-binding options, and so much more, you’ll find the perfect pair for your needs at Viasox. Shop online with us today, or reach out to our friendly team to learn more!