Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that damages the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord, including the nerves in the feet. This damage can cause various symptoms, including pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness.
Many possible causes of peripheral neuropathy foot pain, including:
- Diabetes: Diabetes is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy, accounting for about half of all cases. High blood sugar levels can damage nerves over time, particularly in the feet and hands.
- Alcoholism: Heavy alcohol use can also damage nerves, especially the nerves in the feet and hands.
- Vitamin deficiencies: Deficiencies in certain vitamins, such as vitamin B12 and niacin, can also cause peripheral neuropathy.
- Autoimmune diseases: Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, can also damage nerves.
- Medications: Certain medications, such as chemotherapy drugs and some antibiotics, can cause peripheral neuropathy as a side effect.
- Toxins: Exposure to certain toxins, such as heavy metals and industrial chemicals, can also cause peripheral neuropathy.
- Injuries: Injuries to the nerves in the feet can also cause peripheral neuropathy. This can happen from trauma, such as a car accident or fall, or from repetitive stress injuries, such as those that can occur in certain jobs.
- Deficiencies in certain nutrients, particularly B vitamins, can lead to peripheral neuropathy.
- Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can cause peripheral neuropathy. The body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the nerves.
- Exposure to heavy metals, chemicals, and certain drugs can damage nerves and lead to peripheral neuropathy.
- Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to nerve damage and result in peripheral neuropathy.
- Some viral and bacterial infections, such as Lyme disease, shingles, and hepatitis C, can affect peripheral nerves.
- Physical trauma, repetitive injury, or pressure on a nerve can also cause peripheral neuropathy. This can be due to broken bones, casts, crutches, or even just prolonged sitting or standing in a particular position.
- Benign and malignant tumours can pressure peripheral nerves, leading to neuropathy.
- Conditions like hypothyroidism can cause peripheral neuropathy.
- Other Medical Conditions: Liver disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances can also cause peripheral neuropathy.
What food would be beneficial?
A well-balanced diet can play a role in managing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Certain nutrients have been shown to aid nerve health and improve symptoms. Here are some foods that might be beneficial:
Foods Rich in Vitamin B. Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, and collard greens are rich in B vitamins.
Whole Grains: Brown rice, whole grain pasta, and whole grain bread are good sources of B vitamins.
Dairy: Cheese and yoghurt provide B12, which is essential for nerve health.
Foods High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Fatty Fish: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, walnuts. Sesame and chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help manage inflammation.
Antioxidant-Rich Foods. Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries have high antioxidant properties.
Nuts: Almonds and walnuts are good sources of protein and are rich in antioxidants.
Foods High in Magnesium. Bananas: They are a quick source of energy and provide a good amount of magnesium. Avocados: Rich in magnesium and good fats.
Dark Chocolate: A tasty source of magnesium, but consumed in moderation due to sugar and calorie content.
Foods High in Potassium:
- Oranges and Orange Juice: Potassium is critical for nerve function.
- Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes: High in both potassium and magnesium.
Spices and Herbs
- Turmeric: Contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Cinnamon: Has antioxidant properties and may also help regulate blood sugar.
- Cayenne pepper has many nerve and blood benefits.
Staying hydrated is essential for overall health and can help mitigate symptoms.
Foods to Avoid
Managing blood sugar is crucial for peripheral neuropathy, so foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates should be minimized. Processed foods often contain preservatives that may exacerbate symptoms. Alcohol can also have a detrimental effect on nerve health.
There are several natural ways to deal with peripheral neuropathy foot pain, including:
- Lifestyle changes:
- Exercise regularly: Exercise helps improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation, both of which can benefit people with peripheral neuropathy. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Eat a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet can help to nourish your nerves and reduce inflammation. Focus on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and saturated and trans fats.
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, and antioxidants can improve nerve health.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can put additional pressure on your nerves, so it’s important to maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can both damage your nerves and make peripheral neuropathy worse.
- Soak your feet in warm water: Soaking your feet in warm water can help to relax your muscles and improve circulation. You can also add Epsom salt to the water to help reduce inflammation.
- Massage your feet: Massaging your feet can help to stimulate circulation and reduce pain. Use a light touch and avoid massaging any red, swollen, or painful areas.
- Apply a warm compress: Applying a warm compress to your feet can help to relax muscles and reduce pain. You can use a heating pad set on low or a warm compress made with a towel dipped in warm water.
- Capsaicin Cream: This cream, derived from chilli peppers, is often used to relieve pain from peripheral neuropathy. It essentially “distracts” the nerves by making them feel hot.
- Cooling Creams: Creams containing menthol can provide temporary relief by creating a cooling sensation.
- Acupuncture: Some people have found relief from neuropathy symptoms through acupuncture, though the scientific evidence on its effectiveness is mixed.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) involves attaching electrodes to the skin to deliver small electric currents. The effectiveness of TENS for peripheral neuropathy is still under study.
- Proper Footwear: Shoes that provide good cushioning and support can help. Some people also find relief from orthotic inserts.
- Warm Baths: A warm (not hot) bath can increase blood circulation to the feet, temporarily relieving pain.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT aims to change the way you think about pain and develop coping mechanisms to manage it. While not a direct remedy, it can help improve your mental resilience towards the discomfort.
- Herbal Remedies: Alpha-lipoic Acid: Some studies have shown that alpha-lipoic acid can relieve symptoms, but its effectiveness is still under review.
- Magnesium: Magnesium supplements or Epsom salt baths are often recommended for nerve health, though you should consult a professional for proper dosing.
Before trying any new treatment, it’s important to consult professionals to diagnose your condition accurately and recommend the most suitable treatments. Remember, these are just suggestions and shouldn’t replace professional healthcare advice.
Supplements and herbs:
- Alpha-lipoic acid: Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that may help to improve nerve function and reduce pain in people with peripheral neuropathy.
- B vitamins: B vitamins are essential for nerve health. People with peripheral neuropathy may have deficiencies in B vitamins, so taking a B-complex supplement may be beneficial. I suggest you first eat your leafy greens or make green smoothies every second day.
- Cayenne pepper: Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Capsaicin cream can be applied to the feet to help reduce pain and inflammation.
It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating peripheral neuropathy foot pain. What works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for you.
What does your blood have to do with peripheral neuropathy?
Blood plays an important role in peripheral neuropathy in several ways.
- Blood supplies oxygen and nutrients to the nerves. Damage to the blood vessels that supply the nerves can lead to nerve damage and neuropathy. This can happen in conditions such as diabetes, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and high blood pressure.
- Blood removes waste products from the nerves. If waste products build up around the nerves, it can damage them and cause neuropathy. This can happen in conditions such as kidney disease and liver disease.
- Blood can carry toxins and other harmful substances that can damage the nerves. This can include toxins from the environment, such as lead and mercury, as well as toxins from certain medications.
- Blood can also carry antibodies that attack the nerves. This can happen in autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP).
In addition to these general mechanisms, blood can also play a role in peripheral neuropathy in more specific ways. For example, in diabetic neuropathy, high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves. In alcoholic neuropathy, alcohol can directly damage the nerves or cause nutritional deficiencies that can lead to neuropathy.
Because blood plays such an important role in peripheral neuropathy, blood tests are often used to diagnose the condition and identify the underlying cause. Blood tests can also be used to monitor the condition’s progression and assess the response to treatment.
Here are some specific blood tests that may be used to diagnose or monitor peripheral neuropathy:
- Complete blood count (CBC): This test can detect anaemia, a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, a common cause of peripheral neuropathy.
- Comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP): This test can detect kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, and other conditions that can cause peripheral neuropathy.
- Vitamin B12 level: This test can detect vitamin B12 deficiency, a common cause of peripheral neuropathy.
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level: This test can detect thyroid problems, which can cause peripheral neuropathy.
- Blood sugar level: This test can detect diabetes, a leading cause of peripheral neuropathy.
- Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test: This test can detect autoimmune diseases such as lupus, which can cause peripheral neuropathy.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): This test can detect inflammation, a sign of autoimmune diseases or other conditions that can cause peripheral neuropathy.
In addition to these blood tests, other tests, such as electrodiagnostic studies and nerve biopsy, may also diagnose and monitor peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy is when nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body are damaged or diseased. It commonly affects the extremities, like the hands and feet, causing pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness.