Nerve Pain and Nutrition — What You Need to Know

For March’s National Nutrition Awareness month we’re taking the opportunity to shed light on metabolic neuropathy and how which foods can affect your pain.

Doctors tell us the benefits of a healthy diet range from disease prevention, longevity and overall making you feel good. For those of us living with chronic neuropathy, smart nutrition choices are essential to minimizing nerve pain. March is National Nutrition Awareness month, and we’re taking this opportunity to shed light on metabolic neuropathy and how what you eat affects your pain. 

What is metabolic neuropathy?

Metabolic neuropathy is a secondary neuropathy to a disease process that is already occurring in the body. Often metabolic neuropathy appears in those with diabetic neuropathy and idiopathic neuropathy, but can it be intrinsic of most others. Causes can include diabetes, food allergies, high cholesterol and glucose/blood sugar levels.

In our experience, metabolic neuropathy can be latent with no clear symptoms until the patient starts notices common signs of neuropathic pain. If you suspect food allergies can be causing your pain, it’s important to discuss it with your physician. He or she may run tests to find the source and create a treatment plan that is best for you.  

Why does metabolic neuropathy — or food allergens — cause me pain?

While this is an area that we feel more research is needed, nerve pain is caused by a lack of blood flow to heart, essentially creating little to no circulation in targeted areas such as our hands and feet. Certain foods can cause inflammation or escalated blood sugar levels, which then disrupt the circulation of blood flow to the nerves, creating nerve toxicity and more pain. 

What foods will cause me the most pain?

Healthy foods are not a one-size-fits-all. Some foods such as fruits can be beneficial to some while for others, such as those with diabetic neuropathy, too much sugar can still cause inflammation and pain. The key is to know your body and have open communication with your physician. With that in mind, these are the typical foods we see that cause the most pain sensitivities.

  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Dairy
  • Dishes with gluten (cereals, crackers, grains, pasta, salad dressings, etc.)
  • High-sugar products (canned fruit, granola, juice, ketchup, soda, protein bars, etc.)
  • Trans & saturated fats (commercially baked items, coconut oil, fried foods, margarine, etc.)

Which foods should I eat more of to reduce my pain?

There are several dietary steps you can take to reduce your pain. In the Neuropathic Therapy Center, we recommend considering a plant-based diet. Studies on plant-based diets have shown improved blood sugar levels, higher energy, lower cholesterol, reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, less inflammation — and most important — fewer pain symptoms.

I know cutting out those favorite cheeses, ice-creams and meats seems not only daunting but difficult in practice. However, it can be done! You can find plant-based recipes to try on Loma Linda University Health’s online cooking show “Live It: In the Kitchen.”

Another step you can take is making sure you drink water throughout the day. I know, it’s easy on a busy day to neglect your water intake and miss the needed eight 8-ounce glass recommendation, but water reduces inflammation, prevents low blood flow and ultimately reduces pain. 

Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet is essential to leading a pain-free life. Before making any changes or beginning a new diet, talk to your doctor to see what is best for you.

For more information on treatments or tips to managing your nerve pain, visit the website ntc.lluh.org. To schedule your evaluation, call 909-558-6799.

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