30 Mar Foot Health and Nutrition
By Megan Horsham (BHSc), Formerly of Masterton Foot Clinic
We often don’t often associate what we eat and the health of our feet. However, the fact is diet can affect any of your body parts and feet are no exception too. Pain, inflammation, poor circulation, fungal infections and bone loss are all conditions which impact directly on our feet.
Here are some aliments/illnesses caused by the foods we eat and how they impact on our foot health:
High or low blood glucose levels often caused by uncontrolled diabetes are a common problem which can cause serious complications such as a loss of feeling, poor circulation and diabetic foot ulcers.
Osteoporosis/ weakness- Bones weakened by osteoporosis are more susceptible to stress fractures and trauma-related breaks which affects the body’s whole skeleton structure including the feet. A diet low in calcium or vitamin D is one of the risk factors associated with developing osteoporosis along with age, hormone levels and low weight.
Foot pain (pad, heel and/or arch) – pain and inflammation of the feet are one of the most common aliments we see in the clinic. It has been found that eating certain food increases inflammation causing pain and swelling. Having a diet high in highly processed foods containing high levels of refined sugars, large consumption of red meat, vegetable oil (Omega 6), pasta and white flour; all trigger an inflammation response. Heart conditions, allergies, diabetes, fungal infections are all triggered by inflammation.
Gout- swelling of the joints, mostly in the big toe. Gout can be associated with consuming high levels of seafood, red meat, alcohol or are overweight. See the diagram below.
Body Weight– the more you weigh the more force your feet have to bear. Obesity can lead to plantar fasciitis and heel pain, and can also worsen bunions and hammertoes. Obesity is also linked to developing illnesses like diabetes; worsen arthritis symptoms and impact on the ability to exercise regularly. Being underweight also significantly impacts on foot health by increasing the risk of developing osteoporosis/ weakened bones increasing the risk of fractures. It can also lead to bones rubbing causing callouses and pressure sores, heightens poor blood circulation resulting in painful foot aliments like chilblains.
Foods that have been shown to have a positive impact on foot health:
1. Anti-Fungal Foods –help prevent fungal infections by keeping your shoes sanitized and eating foods that have natural anti-fungal properties, such as: garlic, apple cider vinegar, gluten-free whole grains, yoghurt and kefir.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids –to help reduce inflammation Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and fish oil supplements can be helpful. Oysters, tuna, trout, halibut, eggs, fortified orange juice, yogurt, milk, wheat bread, whole grain cereal, peanut butter, walnuts and oatmeal are other sources.
3. Calcium and Vitamin D – these two nutrients will help you build bone mass to prevent osteoporosis, fractures and other structural deformities. These nutrients can be found in yoghurt, cheese, broccoli and other leafy greens.
4. Immunity-Boosting Foods – eating foods like mushrooms, garlic, yogurt, oats, barley, fish, chicken soup, beef, sweet potatoes and tea help to keep your immune system strong and promotes faster wound healing which is essential if you get a blister or cut on your feet.
Final key points:
- Although proper nutrition alone may not prevent all of the above medical conditions from forming, it can be a vital part of achieving better foot health.
- Maintain a healthy body weight and stable blood glucose level by eating a balanced diet. By achieving this general health and wellbeing will be more stable resulting in better foot health.
- Green vegetables and Omega-3s work as anti-inflammatory agents and are highly effective in preventing peripheral artery disease, gout and arthritis.
- Foods like wholegrains, beans and lean meat are effective in maintaining blood glucose levels.
Megan used to work at Masterton Foot Clinic as a Foot Care Assistant.