How to Soothe Your Inflamed, Aching Feet
By Brenna Thompson, MS, RD, LD
May 20, 2014
Desperate for less foot pain? Follow these steps for the next three weeks and see how much better you feel. Then keep reading for more information on keeping your feet healthy and happy for years to come.
- Remove all sugar, processed carbohydrates and refined oils from your diet.
- Eat meals that consist of meat, vegetables and a good fat. Here's a sample menu to start. Turkey Breakfast Sausages and half a sweet potato with butter on it for breakfast. For lunch, eat Wild Rice Meatballs and a salad topped with olive oil. For dinner, have a Chicken Patty and steamed broccoli topped with butter. If these don't strike your fancy, any combination will do, just make sure you have a meat, vegetable and fat at every meal and snack.
- Up your intake of omega-3. Eat more salmon and consider supplementing with a quality omega-3 product.
Did you know…each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments? This means there is a lot of room for error and helps explain why 75% of adults have experienced foot pain such as Plantar Fasciitis or other painful conditions. Yet, only a very small percentage of people are actually born with abnormalities affecting their feet. With so many people experiencing foot pain, we have to wonder, did Mother Nature mess up when she designed our feet or is there something we are doing, wearing, or eating that is causing all this foot pain?
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
The most common type of foot pain is Plantar Fasciitis (PF), where the plantar fascia ligament, which runs from the heel to the toes, becomes inflamed. Ligaments are similar to rubber bands, they stretch and contract. By attaching bones to bones, they limit the movements of joints and provide stabilization. The plantar fascia aids in the stabilization of the arch and helps support the weight of the body. PF accounts for 80% of the heel pain seen by physicians. It typically occurs as a result of overuse such as standing for long periods of time, high impact physical activities including running or jumping, and wearing the wrong shoes.
Is Your Diet Causing Your Foot Pain?
Most people never make this connection, but truly what's at the end of your fork could directly be impacting your foot pain. It comes back to inflammation. For many, inflammation in the body manifests as foot pain.
To reduce inflammation, you have to help your body stop producing it. The two food groups that increase inflammation the most are sugar and refined oils. Sugar means the obvious sources such as candy, soda, sports drinks, cookies, ice cream and donuts. Not-so-obvious sources of sugar include bread, crackers, pasta, pretzels and potato chips. These foods are high in carbohydrates, meaning they will turn into sugar after being digested and spike your blood sugar. High blood sugars lead to high insulin levels which cause blood vessel constriction. Narrow blood vessels will not allow blood to flow well to injured body parts and inflammation will persist. Maybe you changed your running shoes, but you also need to change your post run hydration from sugary Gatorade to water.
In addition to sugar, oils made from corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed are inflammatory in your body. They contain the inflammatory omega-6 fat, arachidonic acid. Oils from these sources are heavily refined and therefore damaged. When you consume these oils they send a signal in your body to produce prostaglandins.
These chemical messengers send signals within the cell to respond with typical inflammatory responses such as swelling, pain and increased temperature. When you stop eating damaged oils, your body stops producing as many inflammatory prostaglandins. Unfortunately, food manufacturers like to use refined oils because they are cheap and extend the shelf life of products. Even so called “healthy” foods often use these fats. Look for them in the ingredient list on salad dressings, whole grain breads, roasted nuts and protein bars.
Anti-Inflammatory Fats Your Feet Will Love
Cutting out the processed carbohydrates and refined oils is the first step toward pain-free feet. The next step is to fill your plate with colorful vegetable carbohydrates and 1-2 tablespoons of healing fats every time you eat. Fats nourish your tissues, even the tendons and ligaments in your feet. Two amazing and flavorful saturated fats are butter and coconut oil. Just think of them as saturating your tissues with moisture.
Many people know that fish oil is anti-inflammatory and that salmon is high in the omega-3 fat EPA, which has been shown to help reduce pain and inflammation. Wondering how to get more salmon in your diet?
- Breakfast: Try eating Salmon Salad Supreme—it’s a great way to start your day; and one batch will give you enough for two meals.
- For an easy grab-n-go lunch, make and freeze some Salmon Cakes. All you have to do is thaw one out and pair it with fresh or frozen vegetables for a delicious meal.
- A healthy snack: You could whip up some Salmon Deviled Eggs to bring to your next book club meeting or to have as a mid-afternoon snack.
Not a fish eater? Supplemental EPA can be taken in the form of fish oil.
Most people need 3000-6000mg of fish oil per day to reduce their inflammation. Our Nutrikey omega-3 is a great choice since it has been filtered to remove mercury and contains only fish oil—unlike other brands which sometimes dilute their products with inflammatory soybean oil.
Other things to consider
Along with eating an anti-inflammatory diet people can treat acute cases of Plantar Fasciitis by sitting down and elevating their feet, icing the affected area, massaging the foot, and wearing a special brace at night to help stretch the plantar ligament.
For more information on the topic of foot health, listen to our podcast: Oh My Aching Feet (Plantar Fasciitis and Neuropathy).