Peripheral neuropathy is a condition in which nerve damage triggers a burning, tingling or numb sensation in your hands and feet. The specific cause can be difficult to pinpoint, but contributing factors include vitamin deficiencies, traumatic injuries, diabetes, alcoholism, infections, kidney disease, tumors and exposure to poisons. Treatment may include managing underlying causes, physical therapy, medications and dietary changes. For best results, seek guidance from your dietitian or doctor.
Foods affect people with neuropathy differently. If you have a gluten allergy, which is also known as celiac disease, consuming gluten can trigger and worsen your symptoms. Fifty percent of adults with celiac disease experience no gastrointestinal symptoms, according to "Peripheral Neuropathy: When the Numbness, Weakness, and Pain Won't Stop" by Norman Latov and Lisa M. Shulman. In these cases, tingling and numbness may be your only notable symptoms. Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Common sources include most breads, cereals, pasta, crackers, cookies, cakes, pastries and all foods containing white, wheat, cake or baking flour. Suitable alternatives include rice, potatoes and oatmeal, corn and rice-based cereals and breads clearly labeled "gluten-free."
Refined grains are high-glycemic, meaning they have a dramatic impact on your blood sugar. According to the Neuropathy Association, glycemic control is the No. 1 strategy for preventing the progression of neuropathy associated with diabetes, which is one of the most common causes. To improve the glycemic impact of your diet, 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 options include oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa and air-popped popcorn.
Added sugars, such as cane sugar, corn syrup and honey, add sweet flavor, but few nutrients, to foods. Similar to refined grains, they are high-glycemic and may interfere with blood sugar control. In addition, diets rich in added sugars are associated with poor nutrient intake. To guard against nutrient deficiencies, which can lead to neuropathy symptoms, choose nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, instead of sugary fare most often. 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.
Saturated fat is a fat form prevalent in fatty meats and dairy products that can cause inflammation and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease. To lower your risk for neuropathy the University of Virginia Health System recommends a nutritious diet low in saturated fat. Top sources of saturated fat include organ meats, beef, lamb, pork, dark-meat poultry, fried foods, butter, whole milk, heavy cream and full-fat ice cream and cheeses. For enhanced wellness, replace fatty protein sources with lean alternatives, such as fish, soy and lentils, and eat moderate amounts of healthy fat sources, such as nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.
- NYU Langone Medical Center: Peripheral Neuropathy
- "Peripheral Neuropathy: When the Numbness, Weakness, and Pain Won't Stop"; Norman Latov and Lisa M. Shulman; 2006
- Neuropathy Association: Preventing Diabetic Neuropathy
- Harvard School of Public Health: Added Sugar in the Diet
- University of Virginia Health System: Peripheral Neuropathy: Prevention