When you are experiencing sciatica, the sciatic nerve is irritated and inflamed, causing pain. While there is no one specific sciatica diet that can “cure” the problem, there are changes you can make in your diet to help you feel better more quickly. Changing your dietary habits requires commitment, and it may take several days to notice any change in your symptoms. Stick to your sciatica diet eating plan and wait at least two weeks before assessing the results. Being consistent with your sciatica diet is the key to reducing inflammation and controlling your symptoms. The relief you’re likely to experience is worth it!
Hormones called prostaglandins are substances your body produces that regulate levels of inflammation. In order to produce these hormones, your body uses fatty acids. What type of prostaglandin your body makes (pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory) is regulated by the type of fatty acids available. Your body’s supply of fatty acids is determined by your diet. A sciatica diet takes these factors into account.
To reduce inflammation, include the following in your sciatica diet:
- Foods rich in fiber: lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. These will help regulate bowel function. Eating more of these increases the number of anti-oxidants in your sciatica diet
- Oily fish: fish high in Omega-3’s like sardines, salmon, halibut, mackerel, and herrings should be a part of your sciatica diet
- Beef: grass-fed beef, in moderate amounts
- Green tea: 2-3 cups per day
- Spices: ginger, garlic, and turmeric. Include these spices in your sciatica diet to add flavor and variety to foods. They show potential as anti-inflammatory agents.
- Berries: All kinds of berries, as well as pineapple, are rich in anti-oxidants. Eating these daily will increase the number of anti-oxidants in your sciatica diet.
- B vitamins are essential to fight inflammation in a sciatica diet. You can find them in whole grains, fortified bread, and cereals, green peas, navy beans, spinach, pinto beans, nuts, sweet potatoes, bananas, legumes and in unpolished rice. If you’re not getting enough B vitamins in your sciatica diet, take a supplement that contains all eight B vitamins, or one containing especially vitamins B1 and B12. The body needs only very small amounts of B12, but it is not found in any plants other than seaweed, and it is essential. If you are a vegetarian, or you don’t eat food from animal sources, it’s especially important to take supplemental vitamin B12.
- Vitamin A: an anti-oxidant. The beta-carotene found in foods helps the body produce this vitamin. You can tell by the orange color of some vegetables and fruits that they are high in beta-carotene, so these should be consumed as part of a sciatica diet. In other foods which are also good sources of vitamin A, the beta carotene’s orange pigment is disguised by chlorophyll. These foods are green. Good food sources of beta-carotene to add to your sciatica diet include apricots and mangoes, sweet potatoes and carrots, broccoli and dark green, leafy vegetables, yogurt, cheese and dairy products, eggs, and oily fish such as mackerel.
- Vitamin C: an anti-oxidant. This is found in citrus fruits, potatoes and sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, and yellow and green vegetables.
- Vitamin K: rich sources of vitamin K include vegetable oils, alfalfa, spinach, broccoli, and cereals. Dark green leafy vegetables should be a part of a sciatica diet.
- Water: You need plenty of water to flush out toxins and to keep your bodily systems functioning in balance. Adults on a sciatica diet need at least eight 8-ounce glasses every day.
What to avoid on a sciatica diet
For the first two weeks of following a sciatica diet, avoid all animal products other than fatty fish. Be sure to drink plenty of water.
All adults, not just those on a sciatica diet should know how to read food labels. Look for the words partially hydrogenated oils and vegetable shortening and avoid these. Also avoid safflower oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, and margarine when following a sciatica diet. These are more likely to result in your body’s production of prostaglandins that are associated with increased inflammation.
Another factor that can bring about increased levels of inflammation due to elevated hormone levels is stress. Many substances cause our bodies to become “stressed” and should be avoided when on a sciatica diet. Avoid alcohol and smoking due to the stress reaction they cause. Caffeine is also a “stressor” which is hidden in many products. Check the labels of items like carbonated beverages, chocolate, refined sugar, tea, processed foods, and coffee.