We all know that eating well is good for us. Consuming more leafy greens, colorful fruits and vegetables, salmon and sardines, beans, legumes, and whole grains improves our health and well-being. So does eating lean protein, good fats, and limiting sugar.
But what does that have to do with our feet? A lot, it turns out. Eating nutrient dense foods can help protect our feet from one of the most serious complications of diabetes — foot ulcers.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight Matters
Why, you ask? Good nutrition helps you lose and keep off excess pounds. And that helps prevent nerve damage, blood sugar fluctuations, obesity, and high blood pressure — all of which put you at greater risk for foot ulcers and impairs your body’s ability to heal itself.
The Role of Nerve Damage in Diabetic Foot Ulcers
Prolonged high blood sugar can cause nerve damage (neuropathy). Carefully monitor your blood sugar keeping it as close to normal as possible. Keeping it at a safe level protects the nerves throughout your body including your feet.
Nerve damage is a major cause of diabetic foot ulcers. It often occurs when your blood sugar is not controlled, you have high blood fats, high blood pressure (hypertension), and are overweight. It can start as tingling and progress to pain. Then you can lose feeling. Blisters and sores can go unnoticed if your foot is numb.
Reduce Your Risk Factors
Smoking, excess alcohol, high blood pressure, and poor circulation in your legs and feet (peripheral arterial disease) also increase your risk for diabetic foot ulcers.
If you smoke, quit. It’s the only solution if you want to protect your feet. Here’s why. Smoking depletes the body of essential nutrients: vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help prevent disease.
What’s more, smoking narrows small blood vessels and hardens them. That means your feet do not get enough blood and nourishment they need, so they are less able to fight infection and heal.
Many people with diabetes who require foot amputation are smokers.
Limit alcohol consumption. Excess alcohol damages your nerves and blood vessels — two major risk factors for foot ulcers — and greatly increases the likelihood that you will get an infection.
If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), work with your doctor to lower it. High blood pressure damages your blood vessels. They thicken, stiffen, and build up fat reducing blood flow and healing nutrients to your feet. Eating less animal protein and eating more plant-based, nutrient rich meals helps reduce blood pressure.
If you have poor circulation in your legs (peripheral arterial disease or PAD), the large vessels in your legs are partially blocked limiting blood flow to your feet. Eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and exercising can help treat poor circulation.
The Bottom Line
Eating a nutrient rich diet can save your feet — and your life. Half of all people with diabetes who require foot amputation are dead within two years of losing their feet.
Luckily, you can train your brain and your taste buds to adopt a nutritious diet.
Need help inventing nutrient dense menus that you will enjoy? Talk with a registered dietician to create delicious, nutritious meal plans that match your tastes and lifestyle.
Your feet will thank you.