7 Diet Dos and Don’ts for Diabetic Neuropathy

June 30, 2016

7 Diet Dos and Don’ts for Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by diabetes. You might feel tingling, pain, and numbness in your hands and feet. Diabetic neuropathy can also affect nerves all over your body, including those important for digestion. Up to 70% of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy. Diet is one way you can help prevent and control diabetic neuropathy.

 



1. Do Eat a Healthful Diet

Keeping your blood sugar level, as close as possible to normal, is the best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy. Do this with a diet plan for diabetes control: Limit sugar and fat, have more frequent and smaller meals, count your carbohydrates, and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

2. Don't Skip Meals

Normally, if your sugar gets too low (hypoglycemia), you’ll have symptoms, like sweating and shakiness. If you have diabetic neuropathy, you may not get these warning signs, because the neuropathy can affect the nerves that control digestion. The best way to prevent hypoglycemia is to enjoy smaller meals more frequently and not skip meals. Also, check your blood sugar more often. If you are having trouble with low blood sugar, get help from your health care team.

3. Do Ask Your Doctor About Vitamin B12

Vitamin B 12 deficiency can lead to, or worsen, peripheral neuropathy. This is the kind of neuropathy that causes numbness, pain, and tingling in your hands and feet. You can get B 12 in your diet from red meat, dairy, fish, eggs and poultry, but many people need supplements. Ask your doctor if you should have your B 12 level checked.

4. Don't Drink Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol is toxic to nerves and can make neuropathy symptoms worse. Drinking too much can also lower your vitamin B12 level. Alcohol is bad for your blood sugar control because it's all empty calories. On an empty stomach, alcohol can cause hypoglycemia, especially if you are taking insulin. If you drink, do so only in moderation, and always eat a snack while you're drinking.

5. Do Ask Your Doctor About Lipoic Acid

Lipoic acid is a fatty acid and an antioxidant. It is important for turning blood sugar into energy. Most healthy people have plenty of this fatty acid in the cells of their body, but levels may be low in people with diabetes. Low levels of lipoic acid may contribute to diabetic neuropathy. You can add lipoic acid to your diet by taking a supplement. Healthcare providers use lipoic acid to treat peripheral neuropathy and a type of diabetic neuropathy that affects the heart.

6. Don't Eat Refined Grains

Refined grains are in “white” products, like white rice, white bread, and white pasta. Refining whole grains removes their outer shell and, along with it, important B vitamins and fiber, essentials for your diet. Refined grains make it harder for you to regulate your blood sugar, which is bad for diabetic neuropathy. Try to replace refined grains with whole grains, including brown rice and whole wheat breads and pasta.

7. Do Ask Your Doctor About Gluten

Whole grains are generally good to eat. However, if you have trouble digesting gluten, the protein in wheat, neuropathy symptoms can get worse. Gluten sensitivity can cause peripheral neuropathy symptoms when you eat foods that contain wheat, rye, barley and, for some, oats. Most people with celiac disease don't know they have it because they’ve never been tested. Ask your doctor about testing if you have symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.