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Help and Healing Sciatica with Nutrition

Sciatica Sciatica can occur suddenly and be totally and painfully debilitating and a new experience to you or maybe it’s a reoccurring issue that you have lived with for years, suffered the pain and discomfort, put up with the disruption it causes to your life, popped varying amounts of anti-inflammatory over the counter medications and wait for it to ease up? Nutrition is a powerful tool you have on your side.
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It begins at the lower back and travels down the buttock and the length of the leg. Problems in the lower back can cause compression or irritation of this nerve and cause sciatica. This type of sciatica is an inflammation problem. Another cause can be piriformis syndrome which is a muscular problem with the piriformis muscle tightening and placing pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Here are a few ways to determine the type of sciatica you have:

Inflammation sciatica

Put an ice pack on your lower back/bottom for about 10 minutes before bed. If this helps ease the pain your problem is quite likely to be one of inflammation.

Piriformis syndrome

Put a heat pad on your bottom for 20 minutes before you go to bed. If the pain is better/reduced significantly in the morning it is likely you have a muscular problem. Check for exercises you can do to stretch out the piriformis muscle to help ease this problem also including magnesium rich foods into your diet will help such as dairy products, fish, meat, seafood, apples, apricots, brown rice, and lima beans. Also make sure you have enough B-12 in your diet.
Causes of inflammation causing sciatica can range from a bulging or herniated disc (putting pressure on the spinal nerves), constipation (a surprisingly high number of sciatica sufferers manage to alleviate their pain by altering their diets to avoid constipation that they didn’t realise they had), nutrient deficiencies, infections, diabetes, thyroid disease, metabolism imbalances, gout, alcohol, direct injury/trauma and also stress.

What you can do with your diet to take control and reduce the inflammation in your body that is causing you so much pain?

The results will not be immediate if food is the reason for your sciatica. You need to be committed and stick to your dietary changes for at least two weeks before you can assess the results. Then sticking to the changes will reduce inflammation at the high level you have been experiencing. It’s a lifestyle change not a quick fix but so worth it.
Prostoglandins are the main hormones in the body that can increase or decrease inflammation. The body makes them from fatty acids. The type of prostaglandin created by your body (pro or anti-inflammatory) depends on the type of fatty acids in your body provided through your particular diet.

What you need to include to reduce inflammation…

  • Your diet needs to contain fibre rich foods, lots of fruits and vegetables that will prevent constipation.
  • Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herrings and mackerel, and halibut rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Moderate amounts of grass fed beef. Fresh pineapple, berries of all sorts are anti-inflammatory aid healing and also enhance the immune system.
  • 2 – 3 cups of green tea per day  with its fabulous anti-oxidant properties
  • Turmeric, garlic, ginger
  • The B vitamins are highly important and can be found in green peas, spinach, navy beans, nuts, pinto beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, whole grain fortified cereals and breads and unpolished rice and legumes. Use supplements of B1 and B12 especially or a B complex (including all 8 B vitamins) vitamin if you are not including enough of them in your diet. B12 is needed by the body in small quantities but it is essential. It is not found in plant sources (except for seaweed) so if you do not eat any animal products at all you will need to make sure you take a good B12 supplement.
  • Foods rich in Vitamins A, such as dairy products - milk, cheese and yogurt, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, orange-coloured fruits, e.g. mangoes and apricots, fortified margarine, eggs, mackerel and other oily fish. The beta carotene that helps the formation of vitamin A in the body can be found in general orange or yellow fruits and vegetables but some green vegetable s where the tell tale orange pigment is hidden by the presence of chlorophyll. These are broccoli, apricots, carrots and sweet potatoes.
  • Vitamin C is found in fruits – especially citrus, regular and sweet potatoes, cabbage, spinach broccoli, tomatoes, and green and yellow vegetables.
  • Vitamin K sources such as broccoli and spinach, alfalfa, vegetable oils and cereals.
  • Drink plenty of water. Your body needs adequate water to function at an optimum level. Adults need between 1.5 – 3 litres a day.

What you need to avoid…

Cut out all animal products in the first two weeks except fatty fish.
Food items that will result in prostaglandins that are more prone to increase inflammation are a high use of Safflower oil, Sunflower oil, corn oil, Sesame oil, margarine, vegetable shorteningand partially hydrogenated oils this includes products made with these items – check your labels!

As one of the causes of sciatica can be stress – the result of which the hormone levels become elevated and released through nerve endings so you need to avoid ‘stressor’ foods such as caffeine (again check the labels caffeine crops up in a lot of products), processed foods, carbonated drinks, refined sugar and chocolate. Alcohol and smoking cigarettes also produces a stress reaction in the body.

Other tips

Don’t slump! Take steps to improve your posture and strengthen your core muscles to prevent recurrences of your sciatica. If your sciatica is not food related be sure to see a doctor to investigate the other possible causes.

Recommended Supplements

Dietary Fibre Complex
Natura C
Omega 3-6-9 Oils

© Kayt Cooper - Diet and Nutrition Advisor

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