How Sugar Affects Your Feet

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

too much sugarPeople often say “moderation in all things,” implying that a little of everything is fine—as long as you don’t overdo it. When Aristotle proposed his Doctrine of the Mean on which this idea is based, he was thinking of concepts such as courage being the middle ground between rash action and cowardice, not how to choose a healthy diet for your feet. When considering how sugar affects your feet, you need to find that happy medium between what is too much and what is too little.

Our Inherited Sugar Addiction

Sugar is the basic source of energy for our cells. The body breaks it down to fuel cell function and repair damage, so a total lack of sugar would not allow life to continue. Early humans relied on the sugar in fruit in their diet, because it gave them the immediate energy they needed to fight or flee, and any excess was stored as fat for the hard times. Over time, our brains learned to equate the sweet taste with survival.

You Can Have Too Much of a Good Thing

No one denies that a certain amount of sugar is a good thing. The problem in the USA today is that we ingest much more of it than we need to survive, and the excess is causing a variety of health problems, including those that affect your feet. (If you’re interested in learning more, Dr. Parker highly recommends the book Sugar Crush by colleague and friend Richard Jacoby.)

You may immediately think of weight gain and the added stress on bone and tissues in your foot. You might know, too, the effects of too much glucose on your heart (heart attacks), brain (strokes, but also depression) and kidneys (dysfunction and disease).

You may also be aware of diabetes—caused by high blood sugar levels. Complications from this disease include poor circulation and nerve damage, which can lead to neuropathy, non-healing ulcers, the collapse of your foot structure, and even amputations.

Sugar and Inflammation

There is one more area that we are leaning more about, and that is how sugar contributes to inflammation in your body. Consuming a high-sugar diet can increase the level of cytokines in your blood, which causes body tissue to become inflamed. Conditions like arthritis, plantar fasciitis and tendonitis in your foot or ankle become much more painful and debilitating. Such reactions can also be caused by common food allergies such as wheat intolerance, or from eating starchy foods that cause your blood sugar to rise too quickly.

Eating for Healthy Feet

The craving for sugar is a strong one, so you need a plan to reduce the amount of it in your diet and improve the health of your feet. Gradually replace soft drinks and sweetened juices with water or black coffee or tea, sweet desserts with fruit, and simple carbs like pasta with veggies. After a while, when your taste buds return to normal, fruit will taste just right and sugary foods will seem much too sweet. You will have found the happy medium!

If you need help controlling your sugar cravings, or have developed a foot problem, we urge you to call Parker Foot & Ankle in Houston, TX, at (281) 497-2850 and set up a time to see Dr. Robert Parker. He provides superior foot care, but also recommends diet habits that can make them feel better. Call today, or connect with us online through our contact page, and start on the road to healthier feet.