Avoiding Diabetic Neuropathy with Real Food
By Carolyn Suerth Hudson, RDN, LD
August 7, 2018
It’s a common and serious complication of diabetes, but what is it diabetic neuropathy? Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur if you have long-term high blood sugar levels.
Simply put, too much sugar in the diet can, and often does, lead to nerve damage when high blood sugars cause a slow, smoldering damage to the nerves leading to neuropathic pain.
Picture the nerves like a rope that has caught on fire. For the rope, the burn is fueled by air, while the nerve burn is fueled by glucose (sugar). The rope ends up charred, weak and splintered.
The same thing happens to your nerves, especially the nerves that go to the feet. Just like the rope in our metaphor, the nerves are splintered, broken and, at this point, the damage is beyond repair. Pain, numbness and a lack of stability when walking is the result of your nerves being subjected to prolonged elevated blood sugars. Diabetic neuropathy is considered a preventative condition yet there are more than 200,000 cases of neuropathy in the U.S. today.
What Foods Trigger Diabetic Neuropathy?
High blood sugars, and thus neuropathy, diabetic or not, are caused by eating too many carbohydrates because all carbohydrates turn into sugar in the blood stream. To keep blood sugars balanced, control the amount and type of carbohydrates that you eat. For example, eating a plate of pancakes turns into too much sugar in your body. So, a better breakfast would be the traditional bacon and eggs.
Processed carbohydrates, such as pancakes, pasta and bread, generally turn into more sugar than your body can manage. Some fruit (such as bananas), starchy vegetables (such as white potatoes) and grains (such as white potatoes) turn into a lot of sugar, so try to limit the amount you have at one time. Usually, ½ cup is considered a serving.
It is also important to slow the release of sugar into the blood stream by eating animal proteins and fats along with carbohydrates every time you eat. We call that eating in balance, eating a good carb, animal protein and healthy fats. We recommend eating frequent small meals and snacks five to six times a day for blood sugar balance,
Here are examples of balanced meals and snacks that will help avoid the painful and disabling diabetic neuropathy symptoms;
- Breakfast – 2 eggs + 1 ounce turkey sausage, sautéed mushrooms & spinach in 1 Tbsp coconut oil + 1 slice of dark rye/pumpernickel bread with 2 tsp of butter
- Lunch – 2 cups of chili with 2 Tbsp full-fat sour cream
- Snack – Full-fat plain cottage cheese + ½ cup of fruit + ¼ cup of raw nuts or seeds
- Dinner – 4 to 6 ounces of salmon + 1- 3 cups of broccoli + ½ cup of wild rice + 2 Tbsp butter
For more information check out our blog post Neuropathy: The Sugar Connection, or listen to the Dishing Up Nutrition podcast on The Sugar Connection to Neuropathy. For more personalized help for neuropathy treatment consider a phone or in-person consultation with one of our nutritionists.