How to enjoy the summer with your neuropathy

women enjoying ice cream on the beach

Don't miss out on your favorite summer’s happenings! Try out these four tips to maintain a healthy, fun and pain-free season.​

The summer season is upon us, and you know what that means — it’s time for picnics, graduations, weddings, theme parks and the outdoors. Summer brings the opportunity to share laughs, indulge in treats and enjoy quality time with those we care about. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying all the summer offerings—in fact, I encourage it—the truth is for those living with nerve pain, the challenge to avoid any discomfort and still have fun with loved ones is a stressful reality.

Before you miss out on this summer’s happenings, consider these recommendations to maintain a healthy, fun and pain-free season.​

1. Stick with the foods that make your body feel good. We’ve all been there, whether it’s a wedding, a BBQ or that new trendy restaurant that graduates want to go to — and watching what you eat can be difficult. Specific foods such as bread, dairy, gluten, or high-sugar products can flair your neuropathy. Simply put, if it bothers your stomach, causes swelling, or you just don’t feel good after eating that food, you should avoid it. It’s hard, I know. The temptations are boundless. But the summertime also affords a wealth of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables to enjoy. 

What’s key in making sure you eat the food that’s best for you is a little preparation. Check online or call ahead to a restaurant or venue to let them know of any food sensitivities to ensure there is something you can eat. There are also gluten apps that allow you to scan an item to see if it contains gluten. These can be pretty handy when at the grocery store. ​

2. Do the research and prepare. Speaking of preparation, whether it’s a college graduation ceremony or your cousin’s wedding, one of the best things you can do for your pain is to plan ahead. For long outdoor ceremonies, in particular, standing for too long with the heat can flare your neuropathy. Avoid this by staying hydrated, dressing in cool clothes, wearing a hat or sunglasses, and research the venue’s seating. If accommodations aren’t available, plan to get there early to find a place to sit that’s in the shade to stay cool or in the case of bleachers bring a chair that’s more comfortable. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to stand periodically to ensure proper circulation if you have been sitting for a while.

Thinking of traveling to a theme park, beach or hiking? With proper preparation and care, it will certainly be a blast. Take note of the shoes you wear, be sure that they are not sandals, have good arch/sole support and a little breathing room. If you’re standing in line for long periods of time, I recommend shifting your weight back and forth every so often to pump circulation to your feet and avoid future pain. 

I can’t stress this enough make sure you stay hydrated, bring snacks (fruits, veggies, or gluten-free bars), sunscreen, and rest when needed. The last thing you want on your fun day out is to experience Autonomic Neuropathy — feelings of light headiness and neuropathic pain from the heat. ​

3. Stay Active and listen to your body. Summer offers an abundance of opportunities to get out each day for a brisk walk, a swim or time in the garden. Beat the heat and enjoy these exercises in the early morning or evening when the day has cooled down. I recommend starting small with a 15-20 minute walk each day and work your way to these exercises.

Most importantly, listen to your body when doing these. It’s common to experience some pain in your feet after some exercise. If it’s tolerable, continue on, but don’t push where you don’t feel comfortable. Take breaks often, drink water often and regularly inspect your feet for splits in the skin or blisters. Ultimately, your goal should be to ensure you’re comfortable in the activity you’re doing. Being uncomfortable is a quick way to exasperate your neuropathy and take the joy out of it. ​

4. Practice self-care. Like all things that are fun, we have to give the body ample rest and whatever it needs to bounce back. If you do experience a flare-up in your neuropathy or after a long day in the sun feel dizziness, pressure in the feet, pins or needles, be sure to take proper steps to care for it. In addition to proper hydration, food and sleep, I recommend icing your feet or the area of pain. 

Icing will help to decrease the inflammation and neuroplasticity, as well as, help with any itching, pressure, numbness or pins and needles symptoms. Start with icing for three minutes, take the ice off and see how it feels. If that area feels better, continue to ice for a full ten minutes. If you experience irritation or don’t notice a difference, remove the ice. Ice what feels comfortable. If symptoms persist, be sure to schedule a visit with your doctor.  ​

In the summer it’s important to recognize that you can not only have fun, but you can also take steps to heal from your neuropathy. The fun-in-the-sun season affords opportunities to live a good lifestyle full of exercise, fresh food, rest and quality time with family. These opportunities factor in helping restore healthier circulation to the feet or nerves, and ultimately a happy and healthy you. With these tips in mind, enjoy a great summer.  

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