Numbness or tingling in your legs or feet? Are you more sensitive to touch these days? If you’re diabetic, these are symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. The condition is a type of nerve damage caused by high blood sugar. It can injure nerves throughout the body, but it’s most common in your extremities, so hands and feet, for example, can become numb, tingling, extra-sensitive or quite the opposite, where you lose sensation.
Depending on the nerves affected, symptoms can range from numbness and pain in your extremities to issues with digestion, urinary tract, blood vessels and heart. These symptoms are mild for some people, but for others, diabetic neuropathy can cause serious pain and disability, and even death.
It’s a common complication of living with diabetes. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than half of adults diagnosed with diabetes experience mobility issues caused by extremity conditions like diabetic neuropathy. With diabetes a rising concern in America, the effects of diabetic neuropathy increasingly will be a burden to health care.
|Types of Neuropathies and affected areas of the body|
|Peripheral neuropathy affects||Autonomic neuropathy affects||Proximal neuropathy affects||Focal neuropathy affects|
|Toes||Heart and blood vessels||Thighs||Eyes|
|Feet||Digestive system||Hips||Facial muscles|
|Hands||Sex organs||Legs||Pelvis and lower back|
Can diabetic neuropathy be cured? Well, there is no known cure, but it is preventable with the right intervention. You can do much to reverse the damage and slow its progress with tight blood sugar control and a healthy lifestyle. Many people with diabetes rely on their medication to fix all. But there’s so much more to living well with diabetes – diet and exercise have a huge impact on blood sugar and blood pressure (diabetics are more prone to high blood pressure).
Using a holistic approach – which we always say is an excellent first step – there are natural remedies for diabetic nerve pain.
Natural remedies for diabetic nerve pain
When it comes to the best supplement for neuropathy, start with your diet first to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients. Here are some good tweaks to make daily:
Cut down on sugar. You can get a sweet fix from natural sugar in fruits, so ditch the baked goods, candy and junk food and read food labels for hidden sugars in numerous packaged products. Added sugar is hard on a body that doesn’t produce insulin or can’t use it properly to manage sugar in the bloodstream. Limit alcohol and swap soda and other sweet beverages for water.
Cut down on carbohydrates. Every time a diabetic consumes carbs, their sugar levels rise above normal. When this happens, sugar can damage microscopic blood vessels. In turn, this affects the nerves that are fed by these microscopic blood vessels – you end up with diabetic neuropathy. Make sure no more than 30 percent of your diet is carbohydrates, and focus on fruits, vegetables and whole or sprouted grains.
Go for healthy fats. About 30 percent of your diet should be fat. Cook with good oils and eat good fats. The best type of fats are monounsaturated fats found in avocados, almonds and pecans, or the polyunsaturated fats found in walnuts and sunflower oil, which can help to lower bad cholesterol. Avoid trans-fats altogether. Look for the term “hydrogenated” on labels of processed food packages and choose something else.
Eat more vegetables. Eat at least half your dinner plate of non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and carrots. They are low in carbohydrates and high in fiber and other nutrients. Cut back on starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes.
Eat enough protein! Approximately 40 percent of your diet should be lean, healthy protein. Examples include fish, especially fatty fish like salmon and herring) and lean, grass-fed chicken, beef, lamb or pork. Plant proteins like organic soy and tempeh are also good choices.
Diabetic Neuropathy Exercises and Tips
Here are some exercises and tips to consider for diabetic neuropathy.
Strength training: Your muscles aid in sugar burning and strength training is a perfect way to build more muscles to expel excess sugar. You may be worried about losing your balance when performing standing strength training exercises, but there are plenty of machines that allow for strength training to be performed while seated. If you’re unsure of how to use a machine, ask an attendant or trainer on duty.
Balance and stability: When nerves become damaged, there is a higher risk for injury due to poor balance, as you do not sense the ground beneath you. Therefore, it is important that you perform balance and stability exercises to reduce your risk of injury. This may entail balancing on one foot at a time (while holding on to something for support) or walking in a straight-line heel-to-toe.
Mind-body exercise: Yoga, meditation, and tai chi have been shown to improve management of neurological disorders including diabetic neuropathy. These exercises can help reduce stress, inflammation, and blood pressure. Furthermore, they are gentler to perform.
Tips to consider when choosing a workout and exercising with diabetic neuropathy include:
- Always speak to your doctor before beginning a workout to get a green light
- Be cautious of exercising if sugar levels are above 250 or are very low
- Check your glucose levels prior and post workout to determine how your body reacts to exercise along with determining the effectiveness of medications
- Opt for low impact exercises
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity a day
- Just because you didn’t sweat doesn’t mean you didn’t workout
- Pick activities you find fun so you will stick with it
- Get friends and family involved in your activities
- Try new activities
Diabetic neuropathy: Lifestyle tweaks and tips
Home remedies for diabetic neuropathy, beyond diet choices, comprise lifestyle habits and alternative therapies. From the Mayo Clinic:
Capsaicin. Capsaicin cream, applied topically to the skin, can reduce pain sensations in some people. Just be careful of side effects such as a burning feeling and skin irritation.
Acupuncture. The traditional Chinese therapy of inserting fine needles into points on the skin may help relieve the pain of neuropathy, and generally doesn’t have any side effects. It promotes the body’s own healing.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). This therapy may help prevent pain signals from reaching your brain. TENS delivers electrical impulses to specific nerve pathways through small electrodes placed on your skin. It’s considered safe and painless, but may not work on all types of pain.
Keep your blood pressure under control. People with diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure. When have both, however, your risk of complications jumps – both damage your blood vessels and reduce blood flow. Try to keep your blood pressure in the range your doctor recommends, and be sure to have it checked regularly.
Be active every day. Daily exercise protects your heart and improves blood flow. It also plays a major role in keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure under control. Working your muscles regularly improves their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose. This puts less stress on your insulin-making cells. As keeping your blood sugar in control is a lifelong commitment, choose your exercise carefully. Do something you enjoy!
The American Diabetes Association recommends about 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day at least five times a week. If you have severe neuropathy and decreased sensation in your legs, participate in non-weight-bearing activities, like bicycling or swimming.
Stop smoking. If you have diabetes and use tobacco in any form, you’re more likely than nonsmokers with diabetes to die of heart attack or stroke. According to the National Institutes of Health, the combination of high blood sugar and smoking dramatically increases damage to the blood vessels, speeding up the long-term complications of diabetes.Don’t let your diabetes be a life sentence for pain and misery. With these diet changes and natural remedies for diabetic nerve pain, you can be proactive and stop diabetic neuropathy from occurring. You’ll be pain-free, mobile and enjoying life. Clearly, the best treatment for diabetic neuropathy is prevention.