What You Eat Affects Your Feet
How is that new year’s resolution to eat healthier going?
It’s okay even if you’ve cheated a bit here and there, but let’s review how important a healthy diet really is to improving and maintaining your overall health.
It’s been said, what you get out depends on what you put in. This applies to your entire body, even your feet!
In other words: If your feet that are in chronic pain, dry, cracked, or experiencing any number of other symptoms, changing your diet could be an important part of the solution.
What you eat can have profound consequences—good or bad—on the health of your feet.
Cut the Sugar
Sugar cravings are hard to ignore, but there are good reasons you want to avoid the sweet stuff.
Frequent blood sugar spikes wear down your body’s natural ability to regulate sugar levels in the bloodstream, increasing your risk of developing diabetes. Chronically high blood sugar will damage sensitive nerves and blood vessels in your feet, putting you at greater risk for conditions like neuropathy, diabetic wounds, and serious infections that could even lead to amputation.
Remember, in this context “sugar” doesn’t just refer to table sugar, but also processed carbs and refined oils. It’s not just candy bars that you need to limit; foods like bagels and pasta can also cause blood sugar to spike.
Body Weight and Foot Pain
Most people will take thousands of steps in a day. Each of those steps place a certain amount of weight and impact force on your feet, which is then dissipated and cushioned by your shoes, socks, arches, joints … you get the idea.
The more weight you carry, the more force your feet are going to deal with. Additionally, the force loads on your feet when walking, running, and especially jumping are actually several times your body weight!
The more weight you carry, your feet are going to feel it. They will:
- Tire out faster, so you can’t walk as far or stay as active
- Be more likely to develop painful injuries and heel pain
- Be more likely to develop progressive deformities like flat feet and bunions
Even losing 10-15 pounds can sometimes make a noticeable difference. And understandably, a healthy diet is going to go a long way towards getting and keeping you at a healthy weight.
Our feet are a lot more complex than you may realize. Underneath that layer of skin and nails, you’ll find 26 bones and 33 joints (per foot!), and countless nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, muscles, and tendons.
Just like any other part of your body, these tissues need the right kinds and amount of nutrition to function their best. A poor diet can contribute to problems as wide ranging as peripheral neuropathy, dry and cracked skin, injury-prone tendons, and more.
Nutrients that promote healthy functioning feet, skin, and nails include:
- B Vitamins like thiamine, niacin, biotin, B12 and others are important for healthy cell metabolism, nerve health, and nail health.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for cardiovascular health, so your feet stay supplied with oxygen and nutrients.
- Vitamin C is important for healthy nails and skin (it’s essential for the production of collagen), your immune system, nerve function, and more.
- Metals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium help you prevent foot cramps and keep your muscles hydrated.
- Vitamin D and calcium are important for bone health and help prevent osteoporosis, which greatly increases risk of stress fractures in your feet.
Conversely, sugar and refined carbs, trans and saturated fats, and omega-6 fatty acids can contribute to chronic inflammation in the feet, and are linked with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and even heel pain.
Not sure where to begin? Our page on clean eating has lots of great, practical tips you can use to improve your eating habits and nutritional intake. But we also encourage you to check with a nutritionist or primary care physician before making significant changes to your diet—and of course, we’re happy to counsel and recommend at your next podiatric appointment, too!
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