Feeding the Foot: Diabetic Foot Ulcers and Nutrition
Jun 21 , 2021
Tags - Diabetic Foot Ulcers and Nutrition
People with diabetes are vulnerable to foot ulcers because of the neurological and circulatory changes associated with the disease.
In fact, 15% of people who have diabetes will develop a foot ulcer and 84% of these people will end up having their leg amputated.
When thinking about treating people with a diabetic foot ulcer, nutrition is not usually the first thing you would think about.
However, it is a critical component when it comes to the wound healing process as without proper nutrition, wounds can quickly become infected.
As nutrition is connected to every stage of healing, such as immune function, controlling blood glucose levels and physical ability, a proper diet can prevent threatening complications from occurring; malnutrition can have a significant impact.
Generally speaking, diabetic patients should consume a low-fat, high fibre diet that’s packed with the right minerals and vitamins on a daily basis - proper nutrition serves as a low risk and cost effective measure to prevent or treat diabetic foot ulcers.
Let’s take a look at this in more detail…
Controlling Blood Glucose Levels
Increased levels of blood glucose can increase the risk of developing a foot ulcer, as it impacts blood flow, leads to poor oxygen and nutrient delivery to the wound.
Moreover, high levels of blood glucose can impact the inflammatory process which interrupts wound healing, making it a slower process.
Ultimately, the biggest goal for diabetics is to control glucose levels to avoid stiffened arteries and blood vessels to become too narrow.
So, managing this through food choices, as well as the timing of meals and snacks can impact glycemic control.
In addition, if carbohydrates are eaten excessively it can affect blood sugar levels so portion control is a must.
Sometimes, by simply losing extra weight you can help get glucose under control and in turn, promote proper wound healing.
Protein is vital for healthy tissue growth, cell renewal and repairing a wound.
Health advisors suggest, the recommended intake for protein to support wound healing is 0.6g of protein per kg of bodyweight.
In addition, amino acids found in protein provide the building blocks for antibodies and a healthy immune system.
As such, a lack of protein can prolong the inflammatory stage in healing, therefore increasing the risk of the wound becoming chronic.
Luckily, protein can be found in a whole range of foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and soybeans, and should be consumed with all meals to fuel tissue growth.
In diabetes, there is a strong focus on restricting carbohydrate intake, which presents a challenge as elevated nutrition is required for wound healing - whilst still maintaining blood glucose levels.
Unfortunately, not intaking the right amount of carbohydrates can result in protein being oxidised for energy (so muscles are being wasted), contributing to poor wound healing.
With this in mind, carbohydrates need to be distributed evenly throughout the day which will stop fluctuations in blood sugar - foods such as whole grains, fruit and vegetables with complex carbohydrates are preferred.
An adequate intake of healthy fats can supply extra energy to the wound healing process as well as promoting tissue growth.
In other words, fat provides a good source of calories that ensures sufficient energy intake without affecting blood glucose levels.
To be specific, omega-3 can play an important role in diabetic foot ulcers because of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects - enhancing the healing process.
Typically, foods like fatty fish like salmon, mackerel or trout, or seeds and nuts are suggested in small portions and consider swapping butter for olive oil.
The Final Word
Overall, nutrition is a critical component in healing diabetic foot ulcers because it relates directly to immune function, glycemic control and weight management.
Healing begins on the inside and poor nutrition can hinder the wound healing process, therefore a proper diet and controlled daily intake of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats must be a priority.
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