The Best Diet for Sciatica

If you suffer from back pain, sciatica, in particular, you know that if someone told you that jumping through a burning ring of fire would take your pain away, you would do it without hesitation. Sciatica can be one of the most painful and life-altering conditions.

Sciatica is nerve pain. It can be a result of irritation of the sciatic nerve that is being irritated by another structure. It can also be as a result of inflammation that is in your system. Many things can cause systemic inflammation. However, one of the biggest causes of systemic inflammation is the food we eat.

Getting rid of inflammatory foods can also help lose weight, which will take extra pressure off your low back and sciatic nerve. Eliminating inflammatory foods and eating more foods that decrease inflammation can alleviate sciatic pain and improve your overall health.

Can Diet Affect Sciatica?

Absolutely. Many foods cause inflammation and free radicals to build up in the body, and you probably aren't even aware of them. Some foods are just inflammatory in nature, and other foods and substances lead to a build-up of free radicals in the body.

According to Dr. Lauri Wright, a registered dietitian at the University of South Florida, "free radicals are basically waste products from various chemical reactions in the cell that, when built up, harm the cells of the body." 

Some foods help your body fight inflammation and actually decrease it. Adding these foods, along with eliminating inflammatory foods, is your best defense in controlling sciatica pain.

What Foods Help Sciatica Pain?

Eating foods known for decreasing inflammation (anti-inflammatory) and removing chemical irritants (free radicals) from your bloodstream via antioxidants is the first part of reducing and hopefully eliminating sciatica pain.

The following is a list of foods known for decreasing inflammation, removing free-radicals, and boosting your body's immune system:

1.) Kale - Kale is a nutrient-dense, detoxifying food with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and is loaded with anti-inflammatory properties. Kale also provides these essential nutrients:

  • -iron

  • -fiber

  • -calcium

  • -magnesium

  • -various amino acids

  • -vitamins A, C, and K

 *Other green leafy vegetables that are good sources of antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties are chard, spinach, arugula, endive, turnip greens, beet greens, and collard greens.

2.) Pineapple - Pineapple is packed with vitamin C and contains an enzyme called bromelain that aids in the digestion of protein, reduces inflammation in the gut, and boosts immunity. Pineapple is a tasty fruit that packs a powerful nutritional punch. Add it to smoothies to give them a sweet, tropical taste and helps reduce inflammation.

3.) Broccoli - Broccoli is one of the most nutrient-dense foods. Which means it packs a lot of nutrition into each calorie. Broccoli has flavonoids, kaempferol, quercetin, and carotenoids, which are all antioxidants. Broccoli is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse and is also loaded with:

  • -iron

  • -folate

  • -vitamins A, C, and K

 4.) Blueberries - Blueberries are rich in an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which is present in all blue and purple fruits and vegetables. It also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Blueberries are low in sugar, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins A, C, and E.

 *Other fruits and vegetables with the antioxidant, anthocyanin are black raspberries, black currants, blackberries, red cabbage, black plums, red radishes, and red raspberries.

5.) Mushrooms - Mushrooms have antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes then amazing already, but the list goes on. They consist of long-chain polysaccharides called beta-glucan and contain ergothioneine, which strengthens the immune system, provide potent antioxidants, and reduce inflammation. There are many different varieties of mushrooms, if you don't like one then try some of the others.

6.) Wild Salmon - Wild salmon is one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids that are known to reduce inflammation and decrease the likelihood of chronic disease. Salmon is also rich in:

  • -protein

  • -selenium

  • -potassium

  • -vitamins B12, B3, and D

 *Other oily fish that contain high omega 3 fatty acids are sardines, mackerel, herring, oysters, and anchovies.

7.) Spices and Herbs

  • -Tumeric - Tumeric has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. It contains an active compound called curcumin that has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

  • -Ginger - Ginger fights inflammation and boosts the immune system with a bioactive compound called gingerol.

  • -Garlic - Garlic stimulates your immune system to fight inflammation through sulfur compounds.

 What Foods Should I Avoid if I Have Sciatica?

Staying away from inflammatory foods and highly processed foods that are known to increase free radicals in the blood is the second part in managing sciatica pain through diet. Here is a list of known processed and inflammatory foods to avoid:

Foods with Added Sugars:

  • -candy

  • -frosting

  • -soft drinks

  • -pancake syrup

  • -frozen desserts

  • -sugar-sweetened cereals

  • -commercially-prepared baked goods

Foods High in Saturated Fats:

  • -red meat

  • -egg yolks

  • -fried foods

  • -poultry skin

  • -processed meats

  • -dark-meat poultry

  • -high-fat dairy products

Trans Fats:

  • -shortening

  • -stick margarine

  • -commercial foods with hydrogenated vegetable oil

Wrap Up

What you eat has a direct effect on how you feel. Chronic inflammation is responsible for a lot of symptoms that you may not even be aware of. Decreased balance, extreme fatigue, back pain, tingling, or numbness in your feet, rash, and even dry eyes can be caused by inflammation.

If you lose weight from decreasing some junk foods from your diet and reduce inflammation too, that's a winning proposition. Less weight means less load on your joints and your back and less irritation to your sciatic nerve. The decrease in inflammation may also affect pain in your joints and your back, but it will also be more healthy for your heart and decrease the likelihood of you developing type 2 diabetes.

You don't have anything to lose by trying to incorporate some foods that decreased inflammation into your diet except for maybe some irritating symptoms and your sciatic pain. You have everything to gain from eliminating high-fat oils, fatty meats, and processed foods from your diet—a longer pain-free life.

 

Sources

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/anti-inflammatory-food-list#spices-and-herbs

https://oldwayspt.org/system/files/atoms/files/FoodMed_LeafyGreens.pdf

https://drannwellness.com/foods-highest-in-anthocyanins-in-order-from-most-to-less/

https://www.livestrong.com/article/485051-what-foods-are-bad-for-sciatica/

https://www.livescience.com/54901-free-radicals.html