It is well known that your diet can have an impact on your body in a variety of ways. But did you know that your diet can affect the health of your feet? A diet high in fats and sugars increases your risk of developing health conditions like peripheral arterial disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, conditions that cause inflammation, and increases your risk of developing obesity.
Nutrition is key to maintaining your health.
Poor nutrition can lead to adverse health diseases that can lead to problems in your feet.
High body mass indexes (BMI) have been associated with increased foot pain and exacerbation of co-existing foot problems.
What foot problems can occur due to diet?
Nutrition and your diet have a huge impact on your overall health. When you are not getting enough nutrients or the right nutrients, you are at risk for developing health problems. These health issues can lead to problems in your feet.
Peripheral arterial disease
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is the narrowing or blockage of the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs.
When your diet is high in fat, carbohydrates, and sugar, it can lead to the development of PAD. As PAD worsens, you may experience pain in your feet at rest and with activity. This can lead to difficulty walking and balance issues.
If you get a cut, blister, or sore on your foot when you have PAD, it is more serious because your heart has a difficult time getting the needed blood and oxygen your wound needs to heal. This can lead to delayed healing of these wounds.
It is widely known that the number of calories and types of food you eat affect your weight. If you consume more calories than the number of calories you burn each day, your weight will go up.
Studies have shown that increased body weight results in increased foot pain. Obesity is associated with a low arch foot posture, pronated dynamic foot function, and increased plantar pressures when walking. This can all lead to foot pain. With increased body mass indexes (BMI), general foot pain and plantar heel pain are increased.
The extra pressure put on your feet when you are obese can also exacerbate other foot disorders like hammertoe or bunions, and can lead to plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the fibrous tissue along the bottom of your foot from the heel to the toes.
Inflammation in your body can happen for a variety of reasons, but can also contribute to foot pain. Psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout can all lead to foot pain. Some of these may also lead to plantar fasciitis.
Many common foods are believed to contribute to inflammation, including refined sugars, trans fats in baked goods and junk foods, and saturated fats in red meats.
Chronic allergies to foods such as wheat or dairy can also lead to inflammation. Studies have shown that food allergies can contribute to foot problems like plantar fasciitis.
Diabetes is a health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Our bodies break down the food that we eat into sugar to use for energy. When our blood sugar goes up, our pancreas releases insulin, which lets blood sugar into our body’s cells for energy. When you have diabetes, your body isn’t able to produce enough insulin on its own to let your body use the sugars you eat as energy. This results in increased blood sugar, if it is not controlled by oral or injectable medications.
People with diabetes often have neuropathy in their feet. This is when they have nerve damage to their feet that can cause numbness and tingling. When a person has neuropathy in their feet, it is very common for them to injure their foot or develop a sore or ulcer without realizing it because they cannot feel it. Healing time in diabetic patients usually takes longer, which puts them at increased risk of developing an infection. If the infection does not resolve, they are at risk of losing part or all of their foot.
It is important for people with diabetes to inspect their feet daily to check for any cuts, blisters, redness, swelling, or nail problems. Test the temperature of bath water before putting your feet in, to ensure it is not too hot. Daily moisturizer should be used on your feet to prevent the skin from cracking.
Be sure to wear clean, dry socks, and good supportive shoes. Never walk barefoot if you have neuropathy, because you may step on something that can injure your foot, without feeling it. Diabetics should also get periodic foot exams to prevent foot complications related to their diabetes.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle and is associated with an increased risk of fractures. One of the first signs is stress fractures in the feet.
If your diet is high in calcium and vitamin D, it can decrease your risk of fracture.
Best sources for good foot health
Nutrition is important for your foot health. When you keep the rest of your body healthy, it can have a positive impact on your feet. Food choices to help promote healthy feet include:
- Protein. Important in building muscle in the body. Foods high in protein include lean meats, cottage cheese, and tofu.
- Vegetables. Help to keep our muscles strong, repair muscle tissue, and provide important nutrients to help keep us healthy and fight off infection. Vegetables that provide the most nutrients include broccoli, and bell peppers.
- Fruits. High in fiber and provide antioxidants to support our immune health. Great fruits to include in your diet are oranges, apples, bananas, and strawberries.
- Vitamin A. Foods high in vitamin A help support a healthy immune system. Some of these foods include carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and winter squash.
- Vitamin B. Supports good nerve health. Foods high in vitamin B include tuna, eggs, and salmon.
- Vitamin C. Helps decrease inflammation and promote healing. Oranges, tomatoes, and spinach are all excellent sources of vitamin C.
- Vitamin D. Important for strong bones and improving muscle function. Foods high in vitamin D include salmon, mushrooms, sardines, and tuna.
- Calcium. Calcium supports strong bones. Milk, yogurt, cheese, and green leafy vegetables are all excellent sources of calcium. Look for low-fat dairy products, as these may be high in saturated fats.
- Omega-3. Helps reduce inflammation. Foods high in omega-3 include salmon, walnuts, eggs, and olive oil.
- Spices. Some spices are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. These include turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger.
- Antioxidants. Help reduce inflammation and fight illness. Pecans, blueberries, and dark chocolate are all high in antioxidants.
Foods to avoid
There are many foods that can negatively affect your health, including your foot health. Many foot-related issues are the result of inflammation. It is recommended to avoid foods that are known for causing inflammation to maintain good foot health. These foods include:
- Purine-rich foods (organ meats, fried foods, alcohol)
- Refined sugar
- White flour
- Trans fat
- Omega-6 fats (found in vegetable oils)
- Red meat
- Processed meat
Your feet can flourish when you consume the right nutrients. By having a well-balanced diet, you are taking the first steps to ensure healthy feet.
- Village Podiatry. How nutrition can affect your feet.
- CDC. Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).
- Foot Health Facts. Peripheral Arterial Disease.
- CDC. Diabetes.
- Journal of Foot and Ankle Research. The association between obesity and foot pain: metabolic, biomechanics or both?