If you’ve ever suffered from sciatica, you know it’s a pain that’s hard to forget. It burns from the low back through the buttocks and may reach all the way to the foot. The pain can also be sharp, shooting or electric. It can be accompanied by weakness, numbness and tingling. Sitting for a long time can make it worse, as can coughing or sneezing.
Once sciatica starts, it doesn’t often leave quickly. A few lucky people may have their pain fade away in days but more often it lasts a month or more.
Where Sciatica Originates
The origin of sciatica is the sciatic nerve, a large nerve that is actually composed of a bundle of five nerves that emerge from the vertebrae in the low back. As you can tell from the pain of sciatica, this bundle of nerves reaches all the way to the foot, branching off into separate nerves as it travels.
Problems in the discs of the low back are often involved in triggering sciatic pain, particularly herniated discs, a bone spur on a vertebra or a disc that has slipped out of place.
While disc problems may need to be addressed directly, a person suffering from sciatica can achieve significant improvement through the correct choices of food and the use of nutritional supplements.
Why Sciatica Is Food-Related
The answer is that sciatica is essentially a problem of inflammation. Many foods the average American eats are inflammatory, meaning that they cause inflammation. Eliminating these foods from your diet if you are suffering from sciatica can speed your recovery and help prevent a recurrence.
Which Foods Make Sciatica Worse
To avoid these foods, you’ll have to develop the habit of reading labels on any prepared foods. Here are the inflammatory foods to avoid:
- Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
- Trans fats. These include margarine and any hydrogenated (solidified) or partially-hydrogenated oils.
- Refined vegetable oils. Not all oils are bad. You want to avoid oils that are extracted with chemicals or through milling. These commonly include soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and canola oil. You also need to avoid french fries, chips or other foods cooked in these oils.
- Refined carbohydrates. Carbohydrates that have their fiber removed encourage the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria. These include white flour, refined corn products, white rice, many commercial cereals and sugars.
- Excessive alcohol. Moderate amounts of alcohol may provide some health benefits but higher amounts increase inflammation.
- Processed meats. Sausage, bacon, ham, hot dogs, smoked meat and beef jerky are often processed at high temperatures which creates substances associated with inflammation.
Which Foods Can Help a Sciatica Sufferer
Of course, there’s also a list of foods that fight inflammation. Here are some healthy choices:
- Fish. Salmon and halibut, in particular, are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids that help fight inflammation.
- Selected fruits. Fresh strawberries, blueberries, cherries and pineapple are good choices.
- Green tea. Unsweetened is best.
- Foods rich in B vitamins. Choose from red meats, poultry, shellfish, seafood, eggs, leafy green vegetables and nuts.
- Foods rich in vitamin A. These include carrots, beef liver, sweet potato, spinach, broccoli, and sweet red pepper.
- Foods rich in vitamin C. These foods have long been known for their anti-inflammatory qualities. Choose fresh citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries, Brussel sprouts, rose hips, guavas and parsley.
- Foods rich in vitamin K. Broccoli and spinach are two popular examples.
- Selected spices and flavorings. Turmeric, ginger and garlic added to drinks or cooked foods can help.
- Water! Be sure to drink plenty of water every day.
Supplements Can Help Relieve Sciatica Even More
Because it can be hard to always choose the right foods, and because fresh foods are not always available in all seasons and regions, it’s good to know the nutritional supplements that can help you fight inflammation. These supplements can be used two ways—to improve sciatica when it exists and to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
In general, these nutritional supplements will be antioxidants, anti-inflammatory or calming and relaxing in nature, such as:
- Fish oils. They’re rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
- B-Complex. Try to find a B complex supplement that is sourced from whole foods rather than synthetic sources.
- Vitamin C. Here too, try to find a naturally sourced vitamin C.
- Vitamin D.
- Vitamin E.
- Magnesium. Relaxing and calming for nerves and muscles.
- Curcumin. This brightly colored, anti-inflammatory component is found in turmeric but can also be found in supplement form.
Self-Help Is a Powerful Tool
If you have a tendency to suffer from sciatica, you now see how many ways you can help yourself. For some people, these suggestions constitute a major shift in thinking and lifestyle, but avoiding the incapacitating pain of sciatica might make this shift worthwhile.
At our St. Louis chiropractic clinic, we have helped numerous patients escape debilitating sciatic pain. If you need further help making the right choices or selecting the right nutritional supplements, just give us a call at (314) 635-1008.