Foods for Nerve Pain
Nerve pain is often caused by diabetes, fibromyalgia, shingles or nutrient deficiencies, nerve pain is one of the most difficult and uncomfortable pain types, says Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, a board-certified internist, researcher and contributing writer for “Psychology Today.” It’s also highly manageable, given proper care.
Once your doctor has determined and provided treatment measures for the underlying cause, a healthy diet that emphasizes particular foods and limits others could help minimize your symptoms.
Fatty Fish for Omega-3s
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and lake trout, are top sources of omega-3 fatty acids — essential fats that reduce inflammation. In a study published in the “Clinical Journal of Pain” in February 2010, five patients with nerve pain conditions were given high doses of fish oil and showed significant reduction in pain and improved function for up to 19 months after their initial dose. To meet your omega-3 needs and promote cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish, particularly fatty varieties, at least twice per week. For added health perks, choose baked, broiled or grilled fish in place of fatty meats, such as steak, bacon and fried chicken, which increase inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids promote better and faster recovery of damaged nerves, and it helps reduce pain by repairing the myelin sheath. Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Flax seeds.
- Sardines and salmon.
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Foods Rich in Vitamin B1
Vitamin B1 fuels your nervous and muscular systems by converting carbs into energy for the nervous system and by creating the molecule ATP, which is used by your body’s cells for metabolism. But only a fraction of the vitamin B1 we consume actually makes it into our system, so it’s a good idea to take a supplement in addition to eating foods high in vitamin B1, which include:
- Sunflower seeds.
- Navy and black beans.
- Green peas.
Foods that Contains Rich Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B12 helps build, nourish, and repair the myelin sheath, the layer of fat around your nerves that offer protection against deterioration. Some studies have found that high doses of vitamin B12 can actually help rebuild and repair damaged nerves. Excellent food sources of vitamin B12 include:
- Fatty fish, including sardines, mackerel, tuna, cod, and salmon.
- Fortified cereals and breads.
Peripheral neuropathy is a painful nerve condition that can derive from a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Many people in the United States lack vitamin B-12, according to the University of Chicago Center for Peripheral Neuropathy, including 10 to 25 percent of people over age 80 and many people following strict vegetarian diets or who have digestive diseases such as Crohn’s.
To make sure your needs are met, incorporate more vitamin B-12-rich foods, such as lean meats, low-fat dairy products, fish, eggs and fortified cereals, into your diet. The protein helps alleviate nerve issues by enhancing immune function and tissue repair.
To add protein to fortified cereal, serve it with low-fat dairy or soy milk. If you have difficulty meeting your vitamin B-12 or protein needs through food alone, discuss the potential need for supplements with your doctor.
Foods Rich in Vitamin B6
Your body requires vitamin B6 in order to effectively absorb vitamin B12. It also helps you maintain healthy blood sugar levels and keeps your metabolism moving along optimally. But too much vitamin B6 can damage your nerves, so avoid supplements and get your B6 from food sources, such as:
- Fortified cereal.
- Tuna and salmon.
Foods Rich in Vitamin B2
Vitamin B6 is essential for absorbing vitamin B12, and vitamin B2 is crucial for absorbing vitamin B6. Get your vitamin B2 from food sources like:
- Beet greens.
Antioxidants reduce damage done to the myelin sheath by free radicals, and they can help reduce neuropathic pain. Eating a healthy diet that keeps your blood sugar levels in a healthy range is particularly important if you have nerve pain related to diabetes, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. Fruits and vegetables supply rich amounts of fiber, which supports blood sugar and appetite control. As prime antioxidant sources, they also help reduce inflammation.
Fruits and vegetables particularly rich in antioxidants include berries, citrus fruits, winter squash, bell peppers, tomatoes and dark, leafy greens. Turnips, raspberries and cooked Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and peas are particularly fiber-rich.
The best sources of antioxidants include:
- Dark leafy vegetables.
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Ginger’s proven pain-relieving powers are due to their anti-inflammatory compounds known as gingerols. Use fresh ginger in a variety of dishes, or make ginger tea by steeping a couple of teaspoons of finely chopped ginger in hot water for ten minutes.
Potassium and Magnesium
Potassium helps the nerves transmit messages effectively, and magnesium helps relax your nervous system to calm excited nerves and reduce muscle tension. Adequate potassium and magnesium can help you feel more energetic, and it reduces cramping, weakness, and pain.
Get these essential nutrients from:
- Pumpkin seeds.
- Fresh fruit.
- Peas and beans.
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Don’t underestimate the importance of staying well-hydrated. Water can reduce inflammation to help ease pain, while dehydration can cause thickened blood and muscle spasms, which can cause inflammation to worsen your pain. Adequate hydration also keeps your body’s systems functioning more efficiently to protect your overall health and sense of well being.
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