Diet can be a main factor in many of the cases of peripheral neuropathy you see. Neuropathy is linked to diabetes and other conditions where daily intake of sugars and nutrients is important, but your patient’s diet can also influence the condition of nerves in more direct ways, such as in cases where a nutritional deficiency is
causing neuropathic damage.
One of the most common links between neuropathy and nutrition is that a deficiency in B vitamins, particularly vitamin B-12, can itself lead to damage of nerves and disruption of nerve functions. Your patients can avoid neuropathic symptoms by eating foods like meat, fish, and eggs that are all high in B vitamins. There are many kinds of fortified cereals that contain substantial amounts of B vitamins as well (in addition to supplements, which we’ll talk about in a moment), so be sure to advise vegetarian and vegan patients that there’s no reason to go without!
The Mayo Clinic recommends a diet high in fruits and vegetables for your patients with neuropathy. Fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients that have been shown to be effective in treatment. Additionally, in patients who suffer from diabetes, fresh produce can mellow blood sugar levels. A good suggestion to patients is to keep pre-cut fruit and vegetables at the ready, so they don’t have to worry about the stress involved with preparing them if the pain or numbness in their extremities is severe! Be sure to teach them about glycemic loading-easy on the fruits!!!
A deficiency of Vitamin E can happen in cases where malabsorption or malnutrition are taking place, such as the case with alcoholic neuropathy. According to neurology.com, some breakfast cereals, whole grains, vegetables and nuts are all excellent sources of vitamin E, and are good recommendations in cases where a deficiency may be taking place.
Lean proteins are also an important part of a healthy diet for neuropathic patients. Saturated fats and fried foods increase risk of diabetes and heart disease, in addition to aggravating nerve decay from lack of nutrients. A variety of foods—skinless white-meat poultry, legumes, tofu, fish, and low-fat yogurt—are good sources of lean protein. In diabetic patients, lean proteins also help to regulate blood sugar levels. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are good for maintaining levels of Omega-3 acids, healthy fats the body needs but cannot produce on its own.
For specific types of neuropathy, research shows that specific antioxidants may help slow or even reverse nerve damage that has not existed for too long a time. For HIV sensory neuropathy, Acetyl-L-Carnitine has demonstrated good results, and Alpha lipoic acid is being studied for its effects on diabetic nerve damage. For the latest research and ways you can apply it to help your patients, contact NeuropathyDR®!
Considering these factors, it is very important for your patients to monitor their diets. A great piece of advice that can also reveal telling information to you about their overall lifestyle health is to suggest they keep a food journal. A patient should record everything they eat at meals, for snacks, and any vitamin supplements. Of course, food journaling is a great way for your patients to meet other health goals, as well. If they have a goal for weight loss, weight gain, or better overall energy, those are other areas in which keeping a food journal can help! Other great suggestions include: cooking at home as opposed to going out to restaurants, keeping a shopping list instead of deciding what groceries to buy at the store, and consulting a nutritionist about the best ways to control nutrition-related symptoms.
Dietary supplements can also help your patients manage neuropathic symptoms and nerve degeneration. Supplementing B Vitamins, particularly vitamin B-12, can help patients regulate their nutrient levels and prevent neuropathy symptoms. Supplementing with fish oil can help replenish Omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for type-II diabetic patients. Don’t hesitate to contact NeuropathyDR® for specific recommendations about how to advise your patients about supplementing their diet!
If you have any questions about talking to patients about their diet, let us know! NeuropathyDR® is a resource to help you help the people who depend on you. For this and other neuropathy-related questions, we’re here to help!