You are what you eat!
As the saying goes, you are what you eat – in reality everything we put in our bodies will affect it one way or another. Would you like to get more healthy this year? I know it is one of my own personal goals and I recognise that what I eat affects my overall health, but also my feet! As a foot care specialist, I need to set an example - be that role model! Eating healthy and good nutritious food is part of foot health and diabetes care (see my other blog post re diabetes prevention). Foods rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Calcium and Vitamin D and those which boost our immune system are great.
Good nutrition can help to improve our foot health so I thought I would come up with some helpful information to make it easier for us to aim for good health together, through the food we eat (along with other healthy behaviours such as exercise - see my other blog post 'Keeping fit and your feet. Get ready for those lovely spring time walks :)' for some good tips re walking - here). It's good to begin by looking at the types of health problems which can effect our feet.
Health problems and conditions
Various health problems exist which can affect foot health. And of course nutrition can make a difference to those conditions, which we will look at shortly. These conditions can include:
Osteoporosis - Osteoporosis is a disease that causes progressive bone loss and weakness, heightening our risk of fractures. Often it can go unnoticed with little to no discomfort or symptoms. It is usually diagnosed after a fracture occurs. Often a stress fracture in the foot is the first sign of osteoporosis. A ¼ of our bones are in the feet and ankles, so as you can guess, bone health is essential for our feet. Our diet can have an impact upon prevention and protection.
Diabetes - Diabetes can affect the circulation in your feet and may cause nerve damage which can cause a loss of sensation in the feet. Particularly for those with diabetes, further complications can occur without proper blood sugar control. Read my other blog post re some good tips for diabetes foot care and also my other blog post re diabetes prevention).
Inflammation - Inflammation can occur anywhere in the body and specifically for the foot, there could be various reasons including: health conditions, overuse, injury, etc. There are certain types of foods which can heighten inflammation in your feet, including those containing refined grains, sugar and trans fats, which can be found in junk food and many baked goods, as well as the saturated fat in red meat.
Obesity - Our feet carry the whole weight of our body and the more we weigh the more our feet have to endure. We may experience a number of foot problems as a result, such as heel pain and excessive weight may exacerbate those problems such as bunions. Think of that foot stress.
How can I look after my health?
The aforementioned conditions may not be fully prevented due to good nutrition alone, other factors need to come into play, but good nutrition is great for our overall health, including foot health.
🍉 Balanced diet - It’s important to eat a healthy, nutritious diet. The NHS give some great ways to achieve this here:
and Life Life Well in Sunderland (http://www.livelifewell.org.uk) offer helpful support around healthy eating, as well as a whole range of other helpful health behaviours.
🍇 Exercise - Regular exercise is good for us. There’s some great programmes out there. The Department of Health recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate activity such as brisk walks, cycling or dancing. This is for those aged 19 to 64. Active Sunderland run guided walks, see here https://www.walkingforhealth.org.uk/walkfinder/north-east/sunderland-city-councils-wellness-walking-programme#schemedetails
🍓 Diabetes management - Blood sugar levels should be monitored. Read my other blog post re some good tips for diabetes foot care and also my other blog post re diabetes prevention.
🍋 Look after your feet - top tips here.
Foods which can give good nutrition.
Below shows just a few of some great foods which are good for foot health.
🥦 Those rich in vitamin D
This nutrient is needed to keep our teeth, bones and muscles healthy. It helps to control the amount of phosphate and calcium in our bodies. Lack of direct sunlight especially in winter time can mean less vitamin D is created in our bodies, thus putting us at risk of health problems and deficiencies. For example, a lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children and also osteomalacia in adults (which presents as bone pain).
So the question is, how can we get more vitamin D if we don’t get much direct sunlight?
Well, we can take supplements, but additionally, certain foods contain a level of vitamin D:
Sources can include:
Red meat and liver
Oily fish, e.g., sardines, salmon, mackerel, herring, oysters, shrimp and fresh tuna
Fortified foods, e.g., some breakfast cereals, instant oatmeal and most fat spreads. Orange juice, and soy milk.
🌶️ Those rich in calcium
This nutrient has many valuable functions, including helping to build strong teeth and bones and regulating our muscle contractions. If we lack calcium in our bodies this can put us at risk of health problems. For example, like with vitamin D, a lack of calcium can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children and also osteomalacia in adults. Osteoporosis is also another health risk.
Again the question is, how can we get more calcium? Supplements are available but additionally there are foods rich in this.
Green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and okra
Milk, cheese, yoghurts and other dairies
Soya beans and tofu
Nuts, especially almonds
Fish, where you also consume the bones such as pilchards, tinned salmon and sardines
Seeds, including chia, sesame and poppy
Beans and lentils
Vitamin D and calcium can help you to build bone mass, thus helping to prevent health problems such as osteoporosis, fractures and other structural deformities.
🥪 Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are among the most potent anti-inflammatory agents and are used to treat a variety of inflammatory problems. Inflammation could appear in our feet as plantar fasciitis– a condition that causes pain in the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, your heel, or elsewhere. However, diet alone will not be a total fix, it is advised to have Podiatry input.
We can take fish oil supplements but there are food types also containing omega-3 fatty acids.
Fish, e.g., tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, oysters, trout and halibut
Fortified juices such as orange juice
Wheat bread, whole grain cereals and oatmeal
Nuts, especially Walnuts and peanut butter
Chia seeds and flaxseeds
🍋 Immunity-boosting foods
It is vital that we try to boost our immune systems as much as possible as this helps us to fight off attacks from microbes which can easily enter the body through our feet. A stronger immune system also helps aid swifter wound-healing.