Good nutrition is one of the first things most doctors will recommend for general good health and well-being, but it can be a particular benefit for those dealing with neuropathy.
A healthy diet has not only been found to reduce pain, but some foods are also great for supporting nerve health — while others have been known to worsen nerve damage.
Nutrition and Diabetes Research Study
A low-fat, plant-based diet was found to lessen nerve pain for those with diabetic neuropathy, according to a study published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes in 2015.
Participants were fed a vegan diet, that favoured products low on the glycemic index — that means low-carb foods that don’t significantly raise blood-sugar levels — like a vegetable stir-fry, lentil stew or oatmeal with raisins. They also took a B12 supplement vitamin each day.
Researchers gave the participants a questionnaire to find out how severe their pain was before they began the diet, and asked the same questions after they had been on the diet for 20 weeks. The randomized controlled trial found that not only did participants lose weight, but the decline in nerve function in their feet had slowed and they reported feeling significantly less pain.
“Complete remission of burning pain and an improved sense of touch was reported by 81 per cent of participants,” according to the study.
Vitamin B12 has been known to promote nerve growth, and a deficit of it can cause nerve damage over time. The average Canadian adult should consume 2.4 micrograms of the vitamin each day, Dieticians of Canada found. The vitamin is found in eggs, cheese, milk products, and fish, and plenty of vegan products have added B12, like some brands of tofu, soy burgers and almond milk.
Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids have also been known to help nerve function. A 2007 study from the European Journal of Neurology found that fatty acids promoted good nerve function in rats, but those with a low amount of fatty acids in their diet saw an accelerated nerve decline. Those, unlike some of the fats included in the Nutrition and Diabetes study, are known as “essential fats” — which, unlike trans fats, promote healthy cell growth. They can be found in nuts, seeds and fatty fish like salmon.
If that all seems like a lot to remember, those dealing with neuropathy should remember food writer Michael Pollan’s famous quote: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Stick to the outer aisles of the grocery store (avoiding the inner aisles of pre-packaged, processed food, and focus on the produce and seafood sections), and hopefully symptoms will improve.