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What Foods Are Bad for Sciatica?

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.
What Foods Are Bad for Sciatica?
Glazed doughnuts in a box. Photo Credit: TanawatPontchour/iStock/Getty Images

The term sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of your sciatic nerve, which involves your back, buttocks and legs. Potential causes, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, include a slipped disk, tumors, a painful disorder called piriformis, pelvic injuries and degenerative disk disease. Your pain may worsen from sitting, standing, laughing or coughing and at night. In addition to seeking treatment for the underlying cause, a healthy diet may help manage pain and inflammation.

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Refined Grains

Although no particular foods are known to trigger or worsen sciatica on their own, eating an overall low-nutrient diet or a diet that leads to weight gain may cause problems. B-vitamins are essential for healthy nerve tissue, according to the "Nutrition Almanac" by John D. Kirschmann. The process used to create refined grain products strips the grain of valuable nutrients, including B-vitamins. To ensure ample nutrient and fiber intake, which promotes appetite control and digestive function, choose whole grains over refined grain products, such as white bread, instant rice, enriched pasta, low-fiber cereals and baked goods prepared with white, baking or cake flour.

Added Sugars

Added sugars are ingredients that add sweet flavor and calories, but few nutrients to foods. They are also high-glycemic, meaning they have a significant impact on your blood sugar levels. A high-glycemic diet can increase inflammation, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. A sugar-rich diet also leaves less room for beneficial, anti-inflammatory foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Foods and beverages particularly high in added sugars include regular soft drinks, candy, pancake syrup, frosting, sweetened cereals, frozen desserts and commercially-prepared cakes, cookies, pies and brownies.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fat can also increase inflammation. For overall wellness, the American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 7 percent of your total daily calories. Common sources include red and processed meats, dark-meat poultry, poultry skin, high-fat dairy products, fried foods and egg yolks. To potentially reduce pain and inflammation associated with sciatica, replace saturated fat in your diet with omega-3 fatty acids -- healthy fats with anti-inflammatory properties. Top sources include cold-water fish, such as salmon and mackerel, flaxseeds, canola oil and walnuts.


Trans-fats, also called trans-fatty acids, are chemically-produced fats that can increase your LDL, or "bad," cholesterol and lower your HDL, or "good," cholesterol. Trans-fats are also pro-inflammatory, according to the LPI, and they account for less than 1 percent of the calories in a heart-healthy diet. Common sources of trans-fats include stick margarine, shortening and commercial foods that list hydrogenated vegetable oil as an ingredient.

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