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The OTHER Cause of Sciatica Pain

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 03/12/2024

If you're seeking relief from sciatic nerve pain, a strategic shift in your diet could be the key.

Dietary patterns can influence many physiological processes, including inflammation and neuronal health.

Learn about omega fatty acids' role in normal sciatic nerve function and discover why certain vegetable oils may be at the root of your health issues.

Understanding Sciatica Pain

Sciatic nerve discomfort can be debilitating. It's one of the body's most significant nerves, and when it isn't functioning optimally, neither are we. Sciatica pain often starts in the lower back and shoots down the leg and foot.

One common cause of sciatica pain is a structural issue with your spine. This can include herniated discs, bone spurs, or spinal stenosis.

Internal Cause of Sciatica Pain

Another cause of sciatica pain is related to what's happening inside our bodies—specifically, an imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

An excess of omega-6 and a deficiency of omega-3 can trigger chronic inflammation, resulting in conditions such as sciatica in susceptible individuals.

Unfortunately, our modern diet is often heavy on omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable oils like soybean, corn, and sunflower oil and light on omega-3s found in fish oils.

This imbalance can cause inflammation and affect areas like our arteries, brain cells, and nerves.

High-fat foods

Omega Fatty Acids And Sciatic Nerve Function

When the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid balance is disrupted, it can have a range of detrimental health consequences, one being sciatic nerve inflammation.

When this balance is disrupted, it can lead to various health complications, including inflammation that may trigger sciatica pain.

Role of Omega-6 Fatty Acids in Inflammation

Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fats your body needs but cannot produce - they must be obtained through diet. While these fats play an integral role in brain function and average growth and development, excess intake often leads to increased levels of inflammation within the body.

This heightened inflammatory response primarily stems from arachidonic acid - a type of omega-6 fat found abundantly in vegetable oils like corn or soybean oil.

When consumed excessively, arachidonic acid gets converted into pro-inflammatory chemicals, which can inflame your nerves, leading to conditions such as sciatica.

Effect of Oxidation on Inflammation

In addition to triggering inflammation directly, excessive consumption of certain types of fats also promotes oxidation - a chemical reaction that produces free radicals capable of damaging cells throughout your body.

These unstable molecules contribute significantly towards systemic inflammation, affecting areas such as arteries, the brain, and most notably, nerves, including the sciatic nerve.

Dietary Changes for Managing Sciatica Pain

If you're struggling with persistent bouts of sciatica pain due to fatty acid imbalances, altering dietary habits might just be what you need.

By reducing the consumption of vegetable oils rich in harmful omega-6s while increasing the intake of foods abundant in healthy omega-3s, inflammation may resolve and improve sciatica symptoms.

5 Herbal Remedies for Sciatica

Suffering from sciatic nerve pain can be debilitating and affect your daily life. While many medical treatments are available, some prefer to try natural remedies first.

Here are some herbal remedies that may help manage sciatica pain:


Turmeric is a spice commonly used in Indian cuisine and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have found that curcumin, the ingredient in turmeric, can reduce inflammation and alleviate pain associated with sciatica.


Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce inflammation, which may minimize sciatic nerve pain. You can add ginger to your meals or drink it as tea.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, known for its analgesic (pain-relieving) effects.

Applying cayenne pepper cream topically on the affected area may relieve sciatic nerve pain.

Valerian Root

Valerian root is an herb commonly used as a sleep aid. Still, it also has muscle relaxant properties that may help relieve tension around the lower spine where the nerves exit, causing compression of the sciatic nerve.

Devil's Claw

Devil's claw is a plant native to southern Africa. It has been traditionally used for its anti-inflammatory properties, and studies have shown that it may effectively reduce lower back pain.

Different types of olive oil

Decreasing Vegetable Oil Consumption

Consuming vegetable oils like corn, soybean, and sunflower oil in large quantities can create an omega-6 fatty acid imbalance that may contribute to inflammation and nerve pain.

Consuming these fats in large amounts without a proper balance of omega-3 fatty acids can cause an imbalance, leading to inflammation and potentially worsening sciatic nerve pain.

This imbalance can lead to inflammation, which may exacerbate sciatic nerve pain. To counteract this issue, consider reducing your intake of foods cooked with these oils. Instead, opt for healthier cooking options such as olive oil or avocado oil that better balances omega 6 with omega 3 fatty acids.

Increasing Intake Of Omega 3-Rich Foods

In addition to cutting back on certain unhealthy fats, it's equally important to increase your consumption of beneficial ones - particularly those rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3s.

To reduce inflammation, add beneficial fats such as omega-3s from wild-caught fish (e.g., salmon and mackerel), chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.

  • Fish: Wild-caught fish such as salmon contain high levels of DHA and EPA - two potent forms of omega-3 that help reduce inflammation, including nerves affected by sciatica.

  • Nuts & Seeds: Chia seeds and flaxseeds offer an abundance of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), another form of omega-3 fat known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Oils: Certain cold-pressed oils like walnut or hemp seed also provide significant omega-3s.

If you cannot consume enough through food alone, supplements might be worth considering, too.

Omega-3 supplements, available over-the-counter at most pharmacies, can boost your daily intake, effectively helping manage symptoms associated with sciatic nerve damage.

Role of Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) in Relieving Sciatica Pain

Dealing with sciatica pain? Your fatty acid balance could be off, potentially leading to discomfort.

Introducing more gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-six fatty acid, into your diet could alleviate this discomfort.

Benefits of Gamma-Linolenic Acid for Nerves

GLA improves blood flow and enhances nerve transmission rates, making it beneficial for nerves.

Research suggests that GLA can help reduce inflammation and neuropathic pain - two common symptoms associated with sciatica. This happens because GLA inhibits the production of inflammatory cytokines, which are responsible for causing inflammation and pain in the body.

Sources of Gamma-Linolenic Acid

The human body doesn't naturally produce GLA, so it must come from dietary sources or supplements. Some excellent food sources include:

  • Hemp Seeds: These small but mighty seeds pack a punch regarding nutritional value. They're rich in essential nutrients, including protein, fiber, and healthy fats like GLA.

  • Spirulina: This blue-green algae is a great source of vitamins and minerals and contains high levels of GLA.

  • Borage Oil: Derived from starflower seeds, borage oil is one of the richest known sources of GLA.

  • Evening Primrose Oil (EPO): This plant-derived supplement contains about 7-10% GLAs, making it another potent source worth considering if you're considering increasing your intake.

Incorporating these foods into your diet or taking them as supplements under professional guidance may relieve painful conditions such as sciatica due to their anti-inflammatory effects on nerves.


Cutting back on omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable oils and increasing your intake of omega-3s and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) through nutrient-dense whole foods can help lower inflammation and relieve sciatic pain.

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