What foods help with CMT?

Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease is one of the most commonly inherited neurological disorders, affecting approximately 1 in 2,500 people in the United States. CMT causes progressive weakness and wasting of the muscles in the feet, legs, hands and arms due to degeneration of the peripheral nerves. While there is no cure for CMT, certain lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet can help manage symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of the best foods to incorporate into your diet if you have CMT.

Fruits and Vegetables

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is important for overall health, but particularly beneficial for those with CMT. Fruits and veggies provide antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E that can help protect nerves from further damage. Some great options include:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Red peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes

Aim for at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day. Going heavy on the produce will provide your body with a range of important nutrients to support nerve health.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays a critical role in the normal functioning of nerves. This important nutrient helps build the myelin sheath that protects nerves and conducts nerve impulses. Individuals with CMT can have trouble absorbing vitamin B12, so getting enough from dietary sources is essential.

Some of the top food sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • Beef liver
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

Those following a vegetarian or vegan diet should take a vitamin B12 supplement to avoid deficiency.

Vitamin D

Emerging research suggests vitamin D may play a role in reducing neuropathic pain and nerve damage in those with CMT. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to increased pain, loss of sensation and decreased mobility.

To boost your vitamin D intake, include more:

  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Egg yolks
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Fortified milk and cereals

Getting 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight per day can also help your body produce more of this important vitamin. Those living in cold, dark climates may need to take a supplement during winter months when sunlight exposure is limited.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect against nerve damage in CMT. This fat soluble vitamin supports nerve health by destroying free radicals that can harm nerve tissue.

Foods high in vitamin E include:

  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach

Aim for 15 mg per day of vitamin E from food sources. Supplements are not usually necessary if you eat a varied diet.


Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps regulate nerve and muscle function. Research indicates that individuals with CMT tend to have lower magnesium levels. Ensuring you get enough magnesium in your diet may help reduce muscle cramps, spasms and fatigue.

Some great magnesium-rich foods include:

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Edamame
  • Tofu
  • Spinach
  • Avocados
  • Dark chocolate
  • Black beans

Aim for 400-420 mg of magnesium per day. Supplements may be helpful if you have a deficiency.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish oil play an important role in nerve function and health. These healthy fats help build nerve cell membranes and have anti-inflammatory effects that may benefit those with CMT.

Some of the best sources of omega-3s include:

  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseeds

Aim for at least two servings per week of oily fish like salmon or tuna. If you don’t eat fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement to get 500-1000 mg of omega-3s per day.


Getting adequate protein is important to help maintain muscle mass when living with CMT. Protein provides amino acids that help sustain and build muscle to counteract the wasting that occurs over time.

Some great high protein foods include:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Tofu

Aim for 0.5-0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. Spread protein intake evenly throughout the day.

Complex Carbohydrates

While limiting refined carbs and added sugars is recommended, getting enough healthy complex carbohydrates from sources like whole grains, fruits and veggies is important. Complex carbs provide energy and fiber that helps keep blood sugar stable.

Some great complex carb foods include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Barley
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Apples
  • Bananas

Aim for complex carbs to make up 45-60% of your total calorie intake. Limit added and refined sugars.


Staying hydrated is crucial for those with CMT. Water makes up much of the blood plasma, lymph fluid, and cerebrospinal fluid that help transport nutrients to nerves. Adequate water intake also prevents constipation and helps medications work effectively.

Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day. Avoid excess caffeine and alcohol which can act as diuretics and cause fluid loss.

Foods to Limit

While the foods discussed support nerve health, there are certain foods that are best limited with CMT. These include:

  • Refined grains – Limit foods made with white flour and added sugars which can spike blood sugar. Opt for whole grains instead.
  • Fried foods – Highly processed foods heavy in trans fats are inflammatory. Choose healthier cooking methods like baking, roasting or grilling.
  • Caffeine – Excess caffeine can interfere with sleep and cause nerves to fire more rapidly. Limit to 1-2 caffeinated drinks per day.
  • Alcohol – Heavy alcohol consumption is toxic to nerves over time. Moderation is key.
  • Salt – Excess sodium can contribute to fluid retention. Minimize processed foods and salt added in cooking.

Sample Menu

Here is an example of what a healthy, nerve-supporting menu might look like for someone with CMT:


  • Omelet with spinach, tomatoes and cheese
  • Sliced avocado
  • Berries
  • Glass of milk


  • Quinoa salad with chickpeas, peppers and lemon vinaigrette
  • Greek yogurt with nuts and chia seeds
  • Apple slices


  • Baked salmon
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Broccoli
  • Glass of milk


  • Carrots and hummus
  • Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
  • Cottage cheese with pineapple
  • Banana

This sample menu provides a good balance of protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, and nutrients to nourish nerves affected by CMT.


While there is currently no cure for CMT, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and nutrients like the B vitamins can help manage symptoms and slow progression of the disease. Key diet tips for those with CMT include:

  • Eat plenty of antioxidant-rich produce like berries, citrus fruits, peppers and leafy greens
  • Choose good sources of vitamin B12 like fish, eggs, meat and dairy
  • Increase vitamin D intake through seafood, mushrooms and safe sun exposure
  • Enjoy foods high in vitamin E like nuts, seeds and spinach
  • Meet magnesium needs with nuts, legumes, leafy greens and avocados
  • Increase omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish or taking fish oil
  • Eat adequate protein to preserve muscle from protein sources like poultry, eggs and beans
  • Focus on complex carbohydrates and limit refined carbs and added sugar
  • Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Reduce intake of fried foods, excess salt, caffeine and alcohol

Consulting with a dietitian knowledgeable about CMT can help tailor the ideal nutrient-dense diet to manage your specific symptoms. With proper nutrition and lifestyle changes, most people with CMT can live full and active lives.

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