Changing what you eat is among the very first recommendations most people hear when learn they have diabetes. What might not always be so clear is how dietary choices can specifically influence various aspects of your health—and here, our area of focus is diabetic foot care.
A significant part of diabetic foot care exists in physical and mechanical realms. We wish to maintain your mobility and help prevent injuries that can occur from friction, imbalances of structure and weight, and other factors. This often involves changes in footwear, the use of custom orthotics, physical therapy, and other such measures.
However, there is definitely a nutritional element of diabetic foot care! What you eat can have a significant impact on your overall foot health, as well as your ability to prevent and recover from wounds.
First, let’s have a quick review of what causes wounds to become such a concern to diabetic feet.
Much of it lies within a reduced capability for healing in the feet, which can arise as a consequence of the condition. Circulation within the body can become impaired, which the feet (and other extremities) often feel the effects of first. With less blood flow, our cells receive less of the components they require to conduct repairs.
With reduced healing capacity, wounds can take longer to close, providing greater opportunities for the wounds to open up and become worse—and especially for them to become infected. Many severe situations have arisen from seemingly small wounds that took a turn for the worse.
So what role does diet play in all of this? To borrow a relatively common phrase repeated around the medical community: “Healing begins from the inside out.”
While part of maintaining proper healing in your feet focuses on your circulatory health, it is also highly beneficial to do all you can to maintain a healthy supply of all that your cells need to conduct repairs.
To put it another way: If you were building a skyscraper, you’d want to make sure all the delivery trucks heading to the site were loaded with as much of the materials your workers need to get the job done!
What does the body need to repair cells and build new tissue? Protein, vitamins, and minerals. Poor nutrition can further inhibit the healing that may already be happening due to reduced circulation. The deliveries are slowing down and there are fewer materials on the trucks to work with.
Good nutrition is also a great proactive move toward preventing injuries in the first place. Those same materials that help aid in healing also help keep your skin strong and more durable in the first place!
And then, of course, there are your glucose levels.
Keeping your long-term blood glucose levels in check is a vital part of any diabetic management plan, and—as you might expect—it has an effect on your diabetic foot health as well.
Sustained high blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels and reduce circulation over time. That is one big way blood sugar can interfere with healing, but there’s more.
High blood glucose levels are not friendly toward white blood cell function. With a reduction in your immune system’s power to fight off invaders, you can be more susceptible to infections at the time you most need not to be.
Additionally, high blood glucose can also prolong inflammation, which further interferes with healing and just makes the situation more miserable in general.
When it comes to exact diet specifics we, unfortunately, do not have a 100% clear picture when it comes to the best intake levels of vitamins and minerals.
We know that vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, copper, and magnesium are all important elements when it comes to wound healing. However, knowing what the best levels of consumption are for these nutrients is something we have not yet scientifically settled upon, and it may very well differ from patient to patient.
In general, however, it is recommended that a patient with diabetes follows the standard dietary allowances for vitamins and minerals, much like other patients. However, exceptions should be made upon the recommendation of a nutritionist, depending on certain circumstances. A medical professional can also help you determine whether taking supplements may be an ideal course for you to take, should you be experiencing an inefficiency of some sort.
Nutrition, treatments, preventative checkups, and support are all important elements to an overall diabetic care plan. While we focus on your foot health, we still want to incorporate our information with your primary care physician and other members of your diabetic care team. Working together with your health and comfort in mind will help ensure the best results now and into your future.
If you need care for a current issue or would like to discuss preventative steps you can take, please schedule an appointment at our office:
If you prefer to reach out to us electronically, please feel free to fill out our online contact form. A member of our staff will respond to you during our standard office hours.