Foods to Eat and Avoid: 10 Best Foods for Sciatica and Back Pain

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Back pain and sciatica can leave you feeling deflated and desperate. Pain medication might dull the ache, but what if the answer could be hiding in your fridge? Believe it or not, certain foods can actually fight inflammation and promote healing, while others can worsen your woes. This post will be your delicious guide to conquering pain with your plate. We’ll explore the top 10 superstar foods for sciatica and back pain, along with some sneaky culprits you’ll want to ditch. So ditch the discomfort and get ready to fuel your body for a pain-free future!

10 Best Foods for Sciatica and Back Pain

The cause of sciatica and back pain can vary from person to person. In some cases, the cause of the pain is inflammation even without any disc compression. Anti-inflammatory medications are sometimes recommended for treatment. What you eat can also play a role in reducing inflammation in your body.

1. Pineapple

Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Bromelain has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory effects such as reducing swelling in sinusitis, sore throat, and arthritis. Pineapple enzymes have also been used successfully to treat rheumatoid arthritis and to speed up tissue repair.

2. Parsley

Parsley contains compounds known as flavonoids that are abundant in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and plants. Flavonoids have many healthful benefits including the ability to fight inflammation. Apigenin is one of the flavonoids found in parsley and has been shown to reduce inflammation in both lupus and arthritis.

3. Celery

Celery also contains the anti-inflammatory flavonoid apigenin. In addition, celery is high in fiber and is extremely low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. It is a very good source of folate, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

4. Onions

Onions contain a compound known as quercetin, which is well known as a potent anti-inflammatory agent according to the Royal Society of Chemistry. Incorporating more onions into your diet is very simple since they can be prepared in multiple ways and added to many different recipes.

5. Broccoli

Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables. Broccoli is a close relative to Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage. Sulforaphane, a major component of broccoli, is known to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties according to the Journal of Preventive Nutrition and Food Science. Broccoli is also low in calories and rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

6. Grapes

Anthocyanins are common plant pigments that give the red and blue colors to some fruits and vegetables including grapes. Anthocyanins are believed to work in two different ways, both by reducing cell types that promote inflammation and increasing anti-inflammation molecules. Grapes belong to the berry family and make a great snack or can be easily added to smoothies.

7. Tea

According to the Arthritis Foundation, if you want to fight inflammation, drink tea. Green, black, oolong, and white teas all contain plant-based compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Even though these teas taste different, they all come from the same plant. Green and white teas have the highest polyphenol levels. Herbal teas come from other plants with varying antioxidant levels.

8. Soybeans

Genistein is the major compound present in soybeans that is known for its role as an anti-inflammatory. Genistein has been shown to inhibit the production of proinflammatory molecules in the body. While there have been mixed reviews on this food, it has been shown to have a positive effect on rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, metabolic disorder, neurodegenerative diseases, and chronic colitis by influencing the inflammatory response.

9. Leafy greens

Leafy greens are chock full of magnesium. Diets rich in magnesium have been shown to promote sciatic nerve regeneration and reduce inflammation. Choose dark leafy greens such as baby spinach, collard greens, kale, or Swiss chard for the most magnesium.

10. Blueberries

Blueberries are the favorite anti-inflammatory food of registered dietitian Eleanor Baker. In an email interview she explained why: “Blueberries are an excellent source of the anti-inflammatory phytochemical, anthocyanin. You can enjoy them fresh while they are in season or frozen out of season for optimal nutrient content.”

Foods to Avoid with Sciatica Pain

Sciatica pain can be debilitating and can make everyday activities extremely difficult. Many people look for ways to alleviate pain and one such way is via their diet. Consuming the correct foods can boost the healing process while the wrong foods can make the pain worse. In this blog, we’ll be discussing the foods you should avoid if you’re experiencing sciatica pain. We’ll also be discussing the various treatment options including dietitian and naturopath, physiotherapy and chiropractic care to help you get back on your feet.

Avoid Processed Foods

Processed foods are notorious for causing inflammation in the body, and inflammation can exacerbate sciatica pain. Examples of processed foods include chips, sugary snacks, instant noodles, frozen dinners, canned soup and deli meat. These foods have added chemicals, preservatives, and excessive salt and sugar which can irritate the body’s tissues. To ease sciatica pain, avoid processed foods and swap them for fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Stay away from Trigger Foods

For some people, certain foods can trigger sciatica pain. These foods may include red meat, dairy, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine. While not everyone will have the same trigger foods, it’s important to be mindful of your body’s reactions to different foods. For instance, if you experience more pain after a meal, it could be a sign that you consumed a trigger food. It’s best to keep a food journal to help identify the foods that cause sciatica pain.

Limit Foods with Histamine

Histamine is a naturally occurring compound in some foods, and it’s responsible for causing inflammation and pain. Some people with sciatica pain may be sensitive to high-histamine foods, such as fermented foods, aged cheese, soy sauce, red wine, and cured meats. It’s important to note that not everyone will be affected by histamine-rich foods, and some people may be able to consume these foods without issue. However, it’s best to limit or avoid high-histamine foods if possible.

Reduce Foods that Cause Inflammation

Inflammation is a common culprit in sciatica pain, and certain foods can trigger it. These include refined sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats. To help reduce inflammation and alleviate sciatica pain, try to limit or avoid foods like fast food, fried foods, processed snacks, and sugar-laden drinks. Instead, focus on incorporating anti-inflammatory foods, such as turmeric, ginger, leafy greens, and fatty fish.

Avoid Overeating

Overeating can cause more harm than good for sciatica pain. Eating large meals can put pressure on the spine and surrounding nerves, which can worsen the pain. Instead, aim to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. This can help to keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent spikes in inflammation.

Choosing the right foods can help to alleviate sciatica pain while consuming the wrong foods can make it worse. Avoiding processed foods, trigger foods, foods with high histamine, foods that cause inflammation, and overeating is a great place to start when looking at a sciatica diet. It’s important to keep a food journal and be mindful of your body’s response to different foods. Alongside dietary changes, treatment options such as dietitians and naturopathic doctors, physiotherapy and chiropractic care can help speed up your road to recovery. With these steps, you’re well on your way to less pain and optimum physical health.

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About the Author: Sasha Bayat, RD, LDN

Registered dietitian Sasha Bayat, RD, LDN.Sasha’s advice for easy, nutritious meals is to keep staple items that are shelf stable in your pantry and to practice having half a plate of vegetables, a quarter of protein, and a quarter of complex carbohydrates. She advises not to shy away from bagged, canned, or frozen foods, as they can still offer just as many nutrients!

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