Peripheral neuropathy is a medical condition where nerve damage or dysfunction occurs, triggering common symptoms such as tingling or burning sensations or numbness in the hands and feet. The source of the neuropathy can often be difficult to diagnose but some of the factors which can contribute to the development of the condition include: vitamin deficiencies, traumatic injuries, diabetes, chemotherapy, alcoholism, infections, kidney disease, tumors and exposure to poisons.
Although these are some of the most frequently reported factors responsible for the development of the condition, many of the common foods people eat on a daily basis and in large quantities can actually worsen peripheral neuropathy. The following are various of the foods which can aggravate nerve damage and dysfunction as well as increase the painful symptoms of neuropathy.
First of all, what is gluten? Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The most common sources of gluten include a majority of breads, cereals, pasta, crackers, cookies, cakes, pastries and all foods containing white, wheat, cake or baking flour.
People with celiac disease, best described as a gluten allergy, can trigger and worsen the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy if gluten is consumed. Approximately 50 percent of adults with celiac disease aren’t even aware that they have this autoimmune disorder. Celiac disease, as mentioned before, is an allergy to gluten, however, many individuals may have a sensitivity to gluten without celiac disease. As a matter of fact, 18 million people in the United States have currently been diagnosed with some form of gluten sensitivity. Both gluten sensitivity and celiac disease can cause or increase tingling sensations and numbness as well as other neuropathic symptoms.
If you have any type of gluten sensitivity or allergy, suitable alternatives to the storage protein include: rice, oatmeal, corn and rice-based cereals, breads labeled as gluten free and potatoes.
Refined grains can aggravate peripheral neuropathy because these are high-glycemic, meaning they can have a tremendous impact on your blood sugar levels. Because refined sugars cause a spike in blood sugar, inflammation throughout the body is increased, worsening any other symptoms associated with it. Chronic inflammation can both cause peripheral neuropathy and worsen nerve damage, resulting in increased pain and decreased function of many structures of the body.
According to the Diabetes Association, controlling glycemic levels in the body can be the most effective strategy for preventing the progression of neuropathy associated with pre-diabetes or diabetes, which is the most common reason for the disorder.
To control glycemic in the body, replace refined grains and products, including white and wheat bread, enriched pasta, white and instant rice, low-fiber cereals and processed snack foods, such as pretzels, potato chips and crackers, with whole grains. Nutritious whole grade alternatives include oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa and millet.
Supplementary sugars which are added to foods, such as cane sugar, corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup, add sweet flavor to many of our favorite snack but these supply very few nutrients to foods and can ultimately increase the symptoms associated with peripheral neuropathy.
Common sources of added sugars include: regular soft drinks, candy, milk chocolate, sugary cereals, pancake syrup, jellies, frozen desserts and commercially baked cakes, cookies, pastries and pies.Similar to refined grains, they are high-glycemic and can affect blood sugar levels in the body. Additionally, diets rich in added sugars are most commonly associated with poor nutrient intake.
To protect yourself against nutritional deficiencies which may lead to worsened neuropathic symptoms, choose nutritious foods with natural sugars, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, instead of sugary snacks.
Fats are as essential to your diet as protein and carbohydrates as these are necessary to provide energy to the body and to assist in processing a variety of vitamins and manufacturing hormones. However, when our diet is made up of mostly bad fats as compared to good fats, many complications can begin to affect the body.
The worst type of dietary fats are trans fats. Trans fats are commonly listed on labels as hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils. These can increase inflammation in the body, raise bad cholesterol or LDL, and may contribute to the development of insulin resistance which can harm small blood vessels necessary for delivering nutrients to the peripheral nerves.
Saturated fats commonly found in fatty meats and dairy products are often given a bad reputation within the medical field but research studies, including one study from Harvard Health Publications, show that a diet with a moderate amount of saturated fat from fruits, such as avocados and coconut oil, may offer extensive health benefits to the cardiovascular system. Further studies also concluded that a small to moderate consumption of animal saturated fat can also provide several health benefits. It’s recommended to eat moderate amounts of healthy fat sources, including: avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oils and ghee.
Dairy is one of the most inflammatory foods in our modern diet, second only to gluten. It causes inflammation in a large percentage of the population. Individuals who’ve already developed peripheral neuropathy have some form of nerve damage and inflammation can impact the nerves even further, subsequently increasing the pain and other symptoms associated with neuropathy. Inflammation caused by the consumption of dairy can also result in digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea and may worsen autistic behaviors.
Why the Food We Eat Impacts Neuropathy
Essentially, the food we consume provides our body with the necessary nutrients it needs to function properly. Without the proper nutrients, our metabolic processes can suffer and our overall health and wellness can decline. The food we eat is central to our well-being.
Nutrients are the substances found in food which are fundamental for the growth, development, repair and maintenance of the body’s functions. If an individual’s diet is deficient in nutrients, their health may be affected. Nutritional deficiencies occur by consuming a diet made up fast foods, junk foods or processed foods with very little whole foods. In addition, consuming regular beverages such as soda, coffee, energy drinks, sugary drinks and alcohol, can deplete essential vitamins and minerals in the body, including: vitamins B1, B6, B12, folic acid, calcium and magnesium, among others.
Nutrients are in charge of giving our bodies instructions about how to effectively function by also providing it with the necessary materials to carry out the appropriate functions to maintain overall health and wellness. In conclusion, its important to remember that the food we eat can act as a medicine to maintain, prevent, and treat diseases, such as peripheral neuropathy.
For more information, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
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