Food & Recipes

The Best Foods to Ease Sciatica Pain — And Which Ones Can Make It Worse

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No one likes dealing with the sharp, achy feeling of sciatica pain. Rather than simply buckling down and waiting for the discomfort to pass, there are a ton of proactive ways to keep it from striking in the first place. You might be surprised to learn that eating certain foods can protect against sciatica flare ups — and some can make it worse.

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We tend to focus on exercises and stretches that help get rid of sciatica pain, but watching what you put on your plate is important, too. In fact, there’s a chance you don’t realize how many things you eat on a regular basis could be triggering your pain. Luckily, there are a ton of deliciously healthy options experts recommend noshing on instead!

What foods help sciatica pain?

NYC-based chiropractor Dr. Barry Goldstein claims that many people who suffer from sciatica pain are able to find relief through clinical nutrition — which is the scientific way of saying they add more healthy, anti-inflammatory food to their diets.

He recommends oily fish like salmon and halibut for ample amounts of omega-3. Research shows this nutrient is helpful at treating and preventing nerve damage like sciatica. B-vitamins are also known for boosting nerve health and can be found in whole grains, leafy greens, legumes, and meat. Goldstein emphasizes getting more vitamin A, C, and K, too, which all happen to be in leafy greens like spinach and kale. 

Fresh berries, turmeric, ginger, and garlic are also great anti-inflammatory ingredients to incorporate throughout your daily meals. Goldstein adds that constipation is surprisingly common sciatica culprit, so making sure you’re getting enough fiber can help. He also suggests drinking two or three cups of green tea as an anti-inflammatory beverage that also aids with digestion. And of course, remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. 

What food can make sciatica worse?

Now that you know what food helps ease sciatica pain, it’s time to learn what you should avoid. Unfortunately (but also unsurprisingly), the list includes a lot of guilty pleasures like fried or heavily processed food and sugary treats.

Will Harlow, a sciatica specialist and physical therapist in the UK, explains that on top of often containing inflammatory properties, these foods can also increase our chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Aside from the frustration of having to deal with multiple conditions at once, Harlow points out that type 2 diabetes can also slow healing all over our bodies — including the nerves responsible for sciatica pain. 

Sugary drinks and treats, high fat fried food, and even certain artificial sweeteners are all known to cause inflammation. Even the vegetable oil and other hydrogenated oils frequently used for frying and sautéing food can be a trigger. 

We know it can be a bummer to think about giving up these indulgences, but there are healthy swaps that can be just as satisfying. Harlow recommends reaching for dark chocolate rather than overly sweetened milk chocolate. Flavored seltzer (without sugar or artificial sweeteners) can be a healthy substitute for regular sodas, too. And using olive oil while cooking will nix any inflammation worries while also providing a few health perks of its own!

It might sound like a lot of restrictions at first, but just think about what you’d rather deal with: excruciating lower back pain or a few healthy diet tweaks. We definitely think living without the aches will be more rewarding in the long run!

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