Are you experiencing any tingling, burning, numbness or stabbing pain in your hands and feet? Then you are not alone. Nearly 60% of people with diabetes develop these symptoms simply because blood sugar levels thatâ€™s too high for too long can cause nerve damage. This is called Diabetic Neuropathy. Nerve damage is seen at the terminal branches of the peripheral nerves beginning first at the small fibers charged with translating pain, touch, light and temperature. It then progresses to the large fibers in control of muscle tone and reflexes. In advanced stages, a reduced quality of life can be seen in gait disturbances, amputations, depression and anxiety. Conventional treatment for this would only involve pain management using steroids or opiates since there is no cure.
Havenâ€™t we heard this before?
That there is no cure and no relief, the mere idea of disease reversal is dismissed with a pill or procedure. Itâ€™s like going to a doctorâ€™s office with a nail in your foot and then leave with only pain medication with the nail still stuck in your foot. It seems impractical to not have the nail take out. Everyone would opt for the source of the pain to be removed rather than a relief from its symptoms. The nail has to be taken out.
And what is the source of the pain in diabetic neuropathy?
It begins with high blood glucose. Glucose remains in the blood because it cannot move into the cells that need it. This blockage is caused by fat in cells that are not designed to store fat or better known as â€œInsulin Resistance.â€ Eating a high fat diet consisting of animal products, fat enters our cells. And like chewing gum getting stuck in a lock, it attaches to our insulin receptors closing it off from allowing glucose to enter into the cells from the blood. Our blood glucose remains high. If this is prolonged, nerve damage follows and even progresses as time passes.
How do we re-open our insulin receptors?
Getting that â€œchewing gumâ€ or fat out of our insulin receptors is the goal to lower our blood glucose. It has been shown that by eliminating animal products and eating a low fat plant based diet that fat in the cells can be burned opening the receptors and allowing glucose into the cells. The resistance decreases, thus blood glucose drops and the resulting nerve damage is halted thus the pain is reduced. Without powerful pain medication.
Now what does this Low Fat Plant-Based Diet consist of?
Intact whole grains, all legumes, all vegetables (both starch and non-starchy) and all fruits. Sounds simple enough right? Hereâ€™s an easy-to-follow table showing what can be eaten. I promise itâ€™s as easy as following a traffic light.
Green means â€œGo!â€ So go and have all the fruits, vegetables, legumes, intact whole grains, herbs and spices that you can handle. The Green column shows what you will have as the bulk of your calories for the day. Eat these until you are satisfied. And then some more. I said â€œGoâ€ right? Eat the beautiful, rainbow colored fruits and vegetables. Good food is always first pleasing to the eyes.
Yellow means â€œCaution.â€ This column contain foods that are slightly processed and has a higher fat content. Not to be eaten every day but still â€œOKâ€ to have every now and then. Basically, easy on the guacamole, it may be green but itâ€™s in the Yellow Column.
Red means â€œSTOP.â€ These foods in the red column cause insulin resistance and increase your blood glucose which causes Diabetic Neuropathy. Please remove them from your kitchen cabinets, your fridges and most importantly, your plate! Today!
Has this been shown to work?
The short answer is YES! Let me tell you about a recent 2015 study that happened in Washington, DC. For 20 weeks, 35 participants diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy for 6 months were randomly assigned into two groups.
Group 1 or the Intervention Group was directed to eat a low fat plant based diet along with a B12 supplement while Group 2 or the Control Group was directed to make no major changes to their diet but also given a B12 supplement. Clinical, laboratory and questionnaire data was collected.
Clinical data such as body weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, total cholesterol, HbA1c and plasma lipid concentrations were measured.
Body weight declined in the Intervention Group by 7.0kg while the Control group declined 0.6kg.
Mean HbA1c declined in the Intervention Group but remained unchanged in the Control Group.
Total cholesterol declined 12.1 mg dl-1 in the Intervention Group and by 2.2 mg dL-1 in the Control Group.
Blood pressure fell in both groups without a significant difference between groups.
Laboratory data such as sensory perception and ankle reflex using the Michigan Neuropathy Screening Instrument physical assessment and electrochemical skin conductance using a Sudoscan device were measured.
The Michigan Neuropathy Screening Instrument Questionnaire did not reach statistical significance for either group.
Average foot conductance measured by the Sudascan device showed a non-significant improvement in the Intervention Group but a decrease in sudomotor nerve function in the Control group.
Questionnaires like the Norfolk Quality of Life Questionnaire, a weekly pain diary kept by participants, the participants global impression of change question, the Short Form McGill Pain Questionnaire as well as the Michigan Neuropathy Screening Instrument Questionnaire were taken.
Quality of Life improved significantly within the Intervention Group but changes between groups did not reach statistical significance.
Pain, measured by the Short Form McGill Pain Questionnaire, declined by 9.1 points in the Intervention Group and by 0.9 in the Control Group.
In short, after 20 weeks, the Intervention Group saw a reduction in perceived pain from Diabetic Neuropathy as well as weight loss, reduced cholesterol and reduced HbA1c.
This result is within your reach.
Letâ€™s introduce you to Mastering Diabetesâ€™ very own David.
David suffered from diabetic neuropathy. He went from not being able to walk barefooted to being able to do jumping jacks barefooted after consuming a low fat plant based diet. In the process, he lost weight, his A1c went down and his eyes got better. As a bonus, he even likes okra now!
This, too, can be you. Here, at Mastering Diabetes we can walk you through step-by-step, just like we did for David. Setting you up for the best possible tomorrow.