What You Eat Affects Your Feet
A squirrel visits a psychiatrist. When the psychiatrist asks the squirrel, what could be the problem, the squirrel replied, “When I learned, ‘you are what you eat,’ I realized I was nuts!”
You are what you eat. We’ve all heard that a time or two, haven’t we? In a way that is true. Everything we put into our bodies will impact it one way or another.
When people think about the foods they eat in relation to the affects they have on the body, they will often associate them with things like heart health and weight loss. Most people won’t think about how diet affects other parts of their body, including their feet. Outlined below are different conditions that can affect your feet and the foods that contribute to and help each ailment.
In the American diet, there are many foods that encourage inflammation. Inflammation could appear in one’s foot as plantar fasciitis– a condition that causes pain in the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, your heel, or elsewhere.
Foods that commonly cause inflammation:
- Refined grains, sugar and trans fats found in many baked and junk foods
- Saturated fat found in red meat
- Omega-6 fats found in commonly used vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, and sunflower oils
Inflammation problems may occur in people who suffer from allergies such as wheat. Eating foods that cause your blood sugar to rise quickly such as pasta, sweets, and white flour also contributes to inflammation.
Foods that help reduce inflammation:
Aim for an overall healthy diet to reduce levels of inflammation. The Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils, is an eating plan that closely follows the ideas of anti-inflammatory eating.
- Omega-3 fats- fatty fish like salmon, herring, tuna, sardines, and mackerel. Fish oil supplements are also a good source.
- Nuts and seeds- walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds.
- Green leafy vegetables– brussels sprouts, collards, kale, spinach, and watercress
- Fruits- blueberries, cherries, oranges and strawberries
Diabetes and Peripheral Artery Disease
Both diabetes and peripheral artery disease can harm your feet by damaging the arteries that supply blood to your lower extremities.
Good nutrition is highly beneficial for diabetes and peripheral artery disease. For both conditions, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend healthy diets, avoiding junk foods and sodas. For peripheral artery disease, the NIH recommends a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium and rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as omega-3s. For those who have diabetes, a good diet can help prevent complications. The NIH recommends a diet rich in beans, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains and a very limited amount of fats and sweets.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes progressive bone loss and increases the risk of fractures. It can go unnoticed for years, with no discomfort or symptoms. It is usually diagnosed after a fracture occurs. Often a stress fracture in the foot is the first sign of osteoporosis. Bone health is very important to feet, as one-quarter of our bones are found in the feet and ankles.
Your diet can have a large impact in preventing and protecting yourself from the disease. Including adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium in your diet is one of the best ways you can prevent osteoporosis. As we grow our bodies need calcium to build strong bones and to create a supply of calcium reserves. Building bone mass in your younger years is a good investment in your future bone health.
However, no matter your stage in life, you need to keep your bones healthy, so even after growth has stopped, calcium continues to be an essential nutrient. Calcium cannot prevent gradual bone loss after menopause, but it will play an essential role in maintaining bone quality. If you already have osteoporosis, increasing your calcium and vitamin D intake will help decrease your risk of fracture. The amount of recommended daily calcium intake varies by age and other factors.
These are the daily recommended doses of calcium provided by the National Academy of Sciences:
- Females and males 9 to 18 years: 1,300 mg per day
- Women and men 19 to 50 years: 1,000 mg per day
- Pregnant or nursing women up to age 18: 1,300 mg per day
- Pregnant or nursing women 19 to 50 years: 1,000 mg per day
- Women and men over 50: 1,200 mg per day
Yogurt, milk, cheese, and other dairy products are great sources of calcium. One eight-ounce glass of milk will supply you with about 300 mg of your daily recommendation. Sardines with bones and green leafy vegetables like broccoli and collard greens are also rich in calcium. As it can be difficult to consume the proper daily amount of calcium from food alone, you may benefit from a supplement. Be sure to talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements to your daily regime.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. The daily recommendations for vitamin D are between 400 IU to 1,000 IU. Supplemented dairy products are a good source of vitamin D. If your diet doesn’t contain enough vitamin D, you can take a supplement, after consulting a doctor. Taking more than 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily can be toxic.
Dietary choices play an essential role when it comes to gout and arthritis. Limit, or better yet, avoid foods which cause heightened uric acid levels. These food products include seafood, meat, sweets, highly processed carbohydrates, and alcoholic beverages (especially beer). A diet centered on fruits, legumes, low-fat dairy, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains will reduce the frequency of gout attacks and help keep the condition at bay.
Whether you alter your diet to counteract a medical condition or to avoid one, following a healthy diet and seeking treatment from one of our friendly foot doctors, will help ensure that your feet continue to serve you well.
Our foot and ankle care doctors and surgeons are board-certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and are members of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and the American Podiatric Medical Association. Call (208) 855-5955 or request an appointment online.