If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy, you have your radar up for anything that can help alleviate its symptoms. But can your diet impact peripheral neuropathy symptoms? Well, research indicates the certain nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate existing symptoms. Plus, an anti-inflammatory diet could improve nerve health. Best of all, blood sugar control, aided by diet, may also help you find relief. Especially if you have diabetes. But don’t take our word for it: in this post, we’ll review the literature on nutrition and peripheral neuropathy. 

 Is There a Diet for Neuropathy to Relieve Symptoms?  A pitcher filled with berries, a key piece of a diet for neuropathy

In the domain of nerve disorders, peripheral neuropathy stands out as a condition that often causes pain and numbness in your feet. The condition arises from damage to your peripheral nerves, since they serve as vital links between your central nervous system and the rest of your body. 

Peripheral neuropathy isn’t a single disease. It’s actually a term for a variety of disorders resulting from nerve damage. The symptoms you experience will depend on the types of nerves that sustain damage. Motor nerves control your muscles, giving them strength and tone. If they sustain damage, you may experience muscle weakness or even paralysis.  Sensory nerves allow you to feel things like heat, cold or pain. If they’re damaged, you may experience tingling, numbness or a complete loss of sensation.  And these are the most common types of nerve damage impacting the lower extremities. 

Symptoms of Neuropathy

Again, your symptoms will vary depending on the nerves impacted, and the underlying cause of your neuropathy, whether that’s diabetes, the side effect of certain medications, a b vitamin deficiency or something else entirely. But common signs include tingling or numbness, especially in your feet. Often, those sensations progress to a sharp, throbbing pain. Some people also experience extreme sensitivity to touch, while others have problems with muscle weakness or coordination. 

Often, symptoms progress gradually. And that means that you may not notice neuropathy until your condition is quite advanced. For that reason, you should maintain regular checkups with your Houston podiatrist, especially if you have an elevated risk for nerve damage. That way, we can provide early interventions to prevent symptom progression and further damage. But can diet improve peripheral neuropathy? The science seems to say that it can! 

Managing Symptoms with Your Diet for Neuropathy

Your diet can play an essential role in managing the symptoms of this nerve disorder. The foods you consumer directly impact your overall health, including your nerves. For that reason, research suggests that changes in your diet can improve nerve function, and relieve certain neuropathic symptoms. 

But what should you eat? Start with foods that are rich in vitamins B, D, E and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients support nerve health. Plus, they can help reduce inflammation, which is a common trigger for neuropathy pain. At the same time, you should avoid too much sugar or alcohol, since these can cause nerve damage over time, exacerbating your symptoms. Additionally, they may trigger weight gain. And, since obesity may trigger nerve compression—another possible cause of neuropathy—it’s best to steer clear of these calorie-rich dietary items. 

B vitamins play an essential role in nerve health—they create nerve cells and transmit signals throughout your body. As such, their deficiency can be linked to the onset of peripheral neuropathy. And adding them to your diet may help you find symptom relief. But what are the key B vitamins to focus on. 
Start with B1, also known as thiamine. It’s critical in preventing nerve damage, and can also promote nerve repair. B6 is also important, since it helps maintain the coverings of your nerve endings. (Medically referred to as your myelin sheath.) B12 is another important player. It works closely with closely with folate to produce red blood cells and works closely with iron in the body. 

But don’t forget about the other vitamins we discussed: D and E, along with omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin D promotes nerve growth, and can be found in cheese, egg yolks and fatty fish. Vitamin E, found in nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables, acts as an anti-oxidant, protecting your nerves from damage. And omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, chia and flaxseeds and walnuts, are essential for nerve function. Plus, they can reduce inflammation, making your neuropathy symptoms worse. 

Can an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Neuropathy Provide Relief? 

On that note, following an anti-inflammatory diet may help reduce neuropathy symptoms, since chronic inflammation can intensify your nerve pain. Load up on colorful fruits and veggies like oranges, berries and bell peppers. They’re packed with anti-oxidants and can reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. 
Leady green vegetables like spincach and kale—rich in vitamin K—are also great choices. And the omega-3 fatty acids in mackerel and salmon can also help. But, if you don’t like fish, you can still get these healthy fats from nuts and seeds. 

Herbs and spices like turmeric and ginger are also great anti-inflammatories. (Plus they add lots of flavor to your meal!) And don’t forget to drink green tea. It’s loaded with antioxidants that have been proven to reduce inflammation. 

Other Tips for Managing Neuropathy Symptoms 

Managing your blood sugar levels plays an essential role in helping diabetes-induced neuropathy. High levels can damage your nerve fibers, especially the ones in your feet. Your diet can help with this. You see, when you consume foods that are high in sugar or simple carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels can spike, leading to nerve damage. Instead, try to follow a diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. They’re not just low in sugar, they’re also packed with nutrients that promote nerve health. (Like those B vitamins we mentioned earlier.) 

Now, supplements such as alpha-lipoic acid may and acetyl-l-carnitine can help slow neuropathy progression. They can also reduce your symptom burden. Still, these supplements aren’t a magic bullet. They should complement (not replace) a balanced diet and exercise plan. And, for more information on managing neuropathy, or for treatment support, contact Dr. Andrew Schneider, your Houston-based podiatrist, and request an appointment

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