Peripheral neuropathy is often called “the most common disease you’ve never heard of.”
Over 42 million Americans suffer from it. That’s almost double the number of heart disease patients.
Neuropathy can cause excruciating and debilitating nerve pain, especially in the hands and feet.
Diabetes and prediabetes are the root cause of 40 million of the cases. Other causes include traumatic injury and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Certain medications can lead to neuropathy, too. They include statins, blood pressure drugs, and cancer chemotherapy.
Neuropathy means that your nerves are damaged or diseased. Your extremities may go numb or tingle. You may not be able to tell hot from cold.
In severe cases, patients lose the feeling in their feet, which makes it difficult to walk. Pain may become so intense that it’s impossible to function normally.
Neuropathy can lead to tissue death. If it gets bad enough, amputation may become necessary to save a patient’s life. More than half of all limb amputations in the U.S. are due to neuropathy.
Mainstream medicine has no good answer for neuropathy. Doctors often prescribe antidepressants, opioids, or steroids to help ease the pain. But they are not very effective and can have bad side effects.
In some cases, opioids actually increase the pain. Patients end up taking larger doses of the painkillers, and can become addicted.
Now, a new study may show a better way to beat neuropathy pain.
The Diet That Relieves Neuropathy
Previous research has linked gluten to nerve damage in the feet and hands. Scientists at the University of Sheffield wanted to find out if going on a gluten-free diet would relieve neuropathy pain.
They examined the diets of people over 70 with neuropathy. They found that subjects who went gluten-free were far more likely to be without pain.
The researchers concluded that following a strict no-gluten diet is associated with an 89% lower risk of nerve pain.
Dr. Panagiotis Zis is a neurologist at the University of Sheffield. He led the study. “Our study shows an association between a self-reported gluten-free diet and less pain,” he said.
“These findings are exciting because it might mean that a relatively simple change in diet could help alleviate painful symptoms tied to gluten neuropathy.”
No Gluten, No Pain
The study did not find out exactly how gluten causes nerve pain. But there are clues…
Gluten is a general name for proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. It is found in many high-carb foods because they are often grain-based.
High-carb foods raise your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar puts you at risk for diabetes, the main cause of neuropathy.
Gluten is also linked to joint pain, headaches, stomach pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, hormone imbalances, depression, and rheumatoid arthritis.9
Cutting it out of your diet, whether you suffer from neuropathy or not, is a good idea.
The only way to avoid the stuff is to read food labels carefully. Gluten can hide in foods you’d never expect…things like canned vegetables, soy sauce, and oats (a grain that on its own doesn’t contain gluten). Some medications even have gluten as a filler.
For years, we’ve recommended a Paleo-type diet for optimal health. If you go Paleo, you’re already eating mostly gluten-free. A Paleo diet doesn’t include grains.
One caution: Gluten-free packaged foods can be packed with additives and sugars to give them the same texture and taste as foods with gluten. Before you buy, always check labels carefully.
And beware of labels that say “wheat-free.” These foods are not always gluten-free.
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