6 Foods That Can Aggravate Neuropathy & Make It Worse

Peripheral neuropathy is a disease that affects your nerves. Some of the symptoms of nerve pain include pain, numbness, and a tingling and burning sensation in the hands, arms, legs, and feet.

Apart from taking medications and supplements and using creams to alleviate your nerve pain, you also need to change your diet.

If you have neuropathy and it has been caused by diabetes, you do not want to make it worse by eating excessively salty food, which can cause your blood pressure to spike. Some foods you need to avoid eating include:

  • Boxed mixes of rice, potatoes, pasta, canned meat, canned vegetables and soups

  • Processed and packaged food, such as lunch meat, bacon, sausage, and ham

  • Salty snacks such as pretzels and chips

Here is a comprehensive list of the foods that you need to consciously avoid eating, as they can not only aggravate neuropathy, but also make it worse for you:

1. Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages are bad for neuropathy

If you are a heavy alcohol drinker and have nerve pain, you need to limit your alcohol intake or avoid it for good. Alcohol depletes your body of the nutrients needed to keep your nerves healthy.

Some symptoms of nerve pain be cause of drinking too much alcohol include tingling and/or burning sensation, nerve pain, muscle weakness, heat intolerance, stomach cramps, and erectile dysfunction in men.

Known as alcoholic neuropathy, a person who drinks alcohol in excess can increase his/her risk for developing nerve pain. Therefore, it is imperative that you stop drinking alcohol. Even though the neuropathy symptoms will not go away, they will not worsen.

If you have not developed nerve pain but know that you do have a drinking problem, which can possibly lead you to develop peripheral neuropathy down the line, make sure to visit your doctor. Discuss your alcohol problems with them so that they can provide you with an effective treatment plan to help you limit and avoid alcohol for good.

If you have developed nerve pain, it is necessary to seek treatment in order to decrease your alcohol intake and eventually, stop drinking it for good.

2. Seafood

seafood

If your diet contains eating a lot of seafood, you need to minimize your intake of seafood, as not eating it at all may not be possible, especially if it is one of your favorite cuisines to eat. The reason why seafood makes this list is that it contains large amounts of mercury.

Mercury, a type of toxin, can aggravate your nerves, making the pain worse. Your body contains mercury, but at low levels. Almost all types of fish and seafood contain high levels of mercury. The mercury blood level in most people is normally low, but a high intake of seafood can increase it and result in side effects and symptoms of neuropathy.

In short, consuming a lot of seafood can increase the mercury blood level in your body, resulting in nerve pain. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report in 2009, which stated that people aged 6 and older had 33 micrograms per liter of mercury in their blood. A level of 85 micrograms in the fetal cord can also increase people’s risk of developing peripheral neuropathy.

High levels of mercury in the blood can result in mercury poisoning, which can cause nerve pain, such as burning and prickling sensations. It can also lead to problems with the central nervous system. If fetuses and young children are exposed to mercury, the risk of them suffering neurological damage increases.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that children and women who are expecting or breastfeeding should not eat large fish, which includes bigeye tuna, marlin, orange roughy, king mackerel, and swordfish. This is because larger fish tend to live longer, which means over time, they collect more mercury in their bodies.

However, it does not mean that you need to leave all types of seafood. You can eat canned light tuna, shrimp, clams, whiting, tilapia, catfish, and shrimp, as they are safer alternatives.

The Food and Drug Administration also suggests that women aged 16 to 49 should have two to three servings of fish each week from the list of seafood that contains low levels of mercury whereas children who are older than 2 should eat one to two servings.

3. Brown Rice

Brown Rice on a White Background

You should also avoid eating brown rice if you have nerve pain, as they can aggravate your peripheral neuropathy, increasing the severity of the pain. If you have diabetes, but have not developed nerve pain, avoid eating brown rice as it contains high levels of arsenic, which can result in nerve pain.

Arsenic can decrease nerve signals and result in pain or other sensory issues. Regardless of the type of rice you are eating, they all contain arsenic. Arsenic gathers in the outer layers of rice. Brown rice has a high amount of arsenic.

According to the European Union, rice and rice products served to children should not contain 100 parts billion of inorganic arsenic. However, the Food and Drug Administration in 2016 performed a test on 112 rice and rice products and discovered that they contain an average of 103 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic.

The FDA recommends that people should not eat anything in excess but work on having a well-balanced diet. If you want to eat brown rice or any other type of rice or rice products, stick to portion control, so that the level of arsenic in your body does not increase and your nerve pain does not worsen. If you have not developed nerve pain, but there is a chance you might get diabetes, you need to limit your intake of rice, especially brown rice.

4. Gluten

gluten

If you have neuropathy, your risk for developing celiac disease increases. Therefore, it is important for people with nerve pain to visit their doctor to determine if they are suffering from this autoimmune condition.

If you have this condition, avoid consuming protein gluten. If you do not have this condition but have nerve pain, you should limit your protein gluten intake.

Some of the foods that contain gluten include wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat germ, farina, faro spelt, couscous, cracked wheat, graham flour, barley, rye, oats, chicken broth, certain salad dressings, malt vinegar, and a lot more.

Celiac disease can damage small intestines due to gluten intolerance. Your body will no longer be able to utilize vital nutrients, which you need to prevent peripheral neuropathy. If you have gluten sensitivity, there is a chance that you may develop nerve pain.

If you have nerve pain and want to know the underlying cause, visit a doctor to find out if you have developed intolerance to gluten. If you feel pain, numbness, and tingling in the feet, you may have developed nerve pain, which could be due to celiac disease, which is why you need to visit your doctor to make sure if you have a gluten intolerance.

Even if you are not gluten-intolerant, but have nerve pain, you should cut back or stop eating food containing gluten for a few months to see if it makes any difference in alleviating the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

5. Vitamin B6 

25 capsules bottle of vitamin b6

Keep an eye on the amount of vitamin B6 you consume in the form of food. A high vitamin B6 intake can increase your risk of developing peripheral neuropathy. Vitamin B6, in excess, can be toxic to your nerves, causing nerve damage. 


The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin B6 is 2 milligrams each day, but most vitamin B6 contains more than that. They may contain more than 100 mg of vitamin B6. If you take more than 200 mg of vitamin B6, you can develop nerve pain. 

Other symptoms you may develop due to a high intake of vitamin B6 include fatigue, vomiting, walking and breathing issues.

If you decrease your vitamin B6 intake, these symptoms may cease. Moreover, food manufacturers use vitamin B6 as an additive in all types of packaged food. 

For this reason, you need to get your blood levels checked to make sure that you do not consume vitamin B6 in excess, especially if you have nerve pain.

6. Starches and Carbohydrates 

Carbohydrates

People with diabetes need to avoid eating food that is high in starches and carbohydrates. Controlling their intake of carbohydrates and starches can decrease their risk of developing diabetic neuropathy, which people may develop due to diabetes. 

Instead, they should maintain a lean and portion-controlled diet containing vegetables, fruits, boneless and skinless chicken breast, turkey, fish, and low or non-fat dairy. By keeping your blood sugar level in check, you can prevent nerve damage from occurring.

If you already suffer from peripheral neuropathy, eating these foods will not reverse the damage, but it can reduce your symptoms preventing them from aggravating further.

Other Tips

Exercise: Diet is extremely important, but without daily exercise, you are missing out on a lot of additional benefits. Adding a simple exercise routine such as stretching, walking, or doing yoga can help improve flexibility, circulation, and reduce pain.

Nutrition: Diet alone cannot provide all the nutrition your nerves need for optimal function. That's why in addition to a healthy diet, incorporating the correct vitamins, herbs and nutritional supplements is crucial. One supplement we reviewed on this site is Nerve Renew. It has several nutrients proven by studies to support healthy nerves and has a 365 day money back guarantee.

Summary

While it's important to avoid the foods above at all costs, simply avoiding them without being proactive about diet won't do any good. You should also consume mostly fruits and vegetables in your diet from organic sources as often as possible.