How does Nutrition Affect Diabetic Foot Ulcers?
Diabetic foot ulcers, or non-healing ulcers typically found on the lower extremities affect 15% of people with diabetes, and about 50% of those who do have a diabetic foot ulcer will require amputation. While these statistics may seem daunting, diabetic foot ulcers are 100% preventable.
How do Diabetic Foot Ulcers Form?
Consistently high blood sugars damage the nerve fibers in your body meaning that your body is not signaling pain properly, and decreasing blood flow to the lower parts of your body. High blood pressure also increases the risk of developing a diabetic foot ulcer. As high blood pressure puts extra stress on your blood vessels, they begin to thicken to protect themselves. Thickened blood vessels also decrease blood flow to the lower parts of your body. Blood carries oxygen to the body which is required for wounds to heal. As you walk on your feet all throughout the day, there is extra pressure, squishing your skin and potentially causing skin breakdown if there is nerve damage and not enough oxygen to make sure that damaged skin can heal. These two combining factors increase the risk of developing a non-healing ulcer. Amputation typically occurs when these wounds are unable to heal for a long period of time, with infection traveling to the bone and threatening to spread infection to the entire body.
High blood sugar and blood pressure are the two factors that increase the risk of developing a diabetic foot ulcer. Both these can be managed through proper nutrition and food choices.
Controlling blood sugars within a desirable range discussed with your doctor is the best way to prevent nerve damage. This is typically achieved with consistent carbohydrate intake, limiting carb intake to 45-60 grams per meal, and accurately taking medications for blood sugar control.
High blood pressure can also be affected by food choices. Eating foods with a high amount of salt causes your body to retain water which increases blood pressure. Decrease your salt intake by looking at nutrition labels, choosing low sodium packaged foods, and using spices rather than salt when cooking to add flavor.
Make sure to always take care of your feet and talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about developing diabetic foot ulcers.