Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy develops in more than 60% of the people who have Diabetes1, and is more likely the longer you have had Diabetes and the longer you have had elevated blood sugar levels. Burning, shooting, electric shock-like or pins and needles pain can really affect your quality of life, day and night, and lead to serious complications such as skin infections, ulcers and amputation. That’s why it is important to do all you can to manage your Diabetes and nerve pain.
Go Vegan for DPN?
In a small pilot study, researchers tested whether a plant-based vegan diet could help people with Type 2 Diabetes and painful nerve damage in their legs and feet. They discovered over the 20 weeks of the study that the people assigned to the study lost an average of 15 pounds, experienced improved blood flow to their feet and their pain eased up. 2 While it is not conclusive that a vegan diet alone (no eggs, no animal products or dairy) is necessary, medical experts in Diabetes are certain that weight loss by itself can help with pain, since losing extra fat in the body reduces inflammation and improves mobility, also helping to ease nerve pain.
Healthy Eating for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
A healthy diet for diabetes is generally the same as healthy eating for anyone – low in saturated and trans fats, moderate in salt and sugar, and meals with lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and fruits. There are different approaches to creating a diabetes diet designed to keep your blood sugar in the normal range – key to reducing diabetic nerve pain. Work with your doctor or a dietician to help you create the best diet for your needs.
- Controlling portions and carbohydrate intake can help control blood sugar levels and in turn limit nerve damage and the resulting pain.
- Make low fat choices and make sure you include foods rich in Vitamin B12, necessary for optimal nerve functioning. Poultry, fish, lean meat, eggs and fortified cereals are foods high in Vitamin B12. So, you can see that if you do choose to go vegan, it is important to have your B12 levels checked and possibly take a supplement.
- Take it easy on alcohol. Alcohol can worsen numbness and pain and make it harder to control your blood sugar levels.
- Include fiber-rich foods such as vegetables, berries, nuts, beans, peas, lentils, whole wheat flour and wheat bran (these help control blood sugar levels).
- Include heart-healthy Omega-3-rich fish such as salmon, mackeral, tuna, sardines and bluefish.
- Include “good” fats in moderation such as avocados, almonds, pecans, olives and olive oils.
Think Delicious, not Diet for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
The term “diet” usually makes us feel that we are giving up something that we enjoy, rather than just eating healthy. So, try to think of your Diabetic nerve pain eating plan as a way you can incorporate all kinds of delicious and nutritious foods into your every day life. The only thing you are giving up is extra calories, fat, excess sodium and sugar! Once you get started, it will no longer be a “diet” but a healthier way of life for you.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/nerve-damage-diabetic-neuropathies. Accessed on February 1, 2018.
- Cameron Wells, M.P.H., R.D., acting director, nutrition education, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, D.C.; Maria Pena, M.D., director, Weight Management of Medicine – Endocrinology/Metabolism, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; May 25, 2015, Nutrition & Diabetes, online