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Correct nutrient intake is a key component when recovering from injury. If you have nerve damage as a result of sciatica, or other nerve injury, consider increasing your food intake of, or supplementing with, the following nutrients which have been shown to assist with nerve repair.
Studies suggest that that a high level of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the body could lead to protection of nerve cells and have beneficial effects on the recovery nerves after nerve injury.
Fatty fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring) are the primary source of healthy, “anti-inflammatory” omega-3 fats. These should be balanced with omega-6 fatty acid (found in processed food and vegetable oils intake) in approximately a 2:1 ratio. Most Western diets however are highly skewed in favour of omega-6 fatty acid over omega-3, sometimes in orders of 20:1! This imbalance is considered very “pro-inflammatory” and there is general agreement that individuals should consume more omega-3 and less omega-6 fatty acid to promote a healthy inflammatory response.
Omega-3 deficiency or imbalance can also manifest as physical signs in the body. These include painful and swollen hands and wrists, dry skin, eczema, diffuse redness of the skin, or cracking of the fingertips.
If you are not eating 2-3 servings of oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines or herring) per week supplement with a good quality fish or cod liver oil. We recommend Arctic Cod Liver Oil – available from The Natural Dispensary (use practitioner ‘Steffen Toates’ to register).
B vitamins (especially B1, B6, B9 and B12) are extremely important for nerve health. Deficiency has been linked with neuropathy and migraines and addition of a vitamin B complex has been shown to promote the regeneration and functional recovery of injured sciatic nerves.
B12 deficiency has been found to be reasonable common affecting between 1.5% and 15% of the general population. Certain populations (older adults, vegetarians and vegans) are even more likely to have inadequate B vitamin levels.
Learn more about B vitamin supplementation, including recommendations here.
Magnesium is a key nutrient for healing & repair. Deficiency in magnesium leads to disturbed healing and can cause numbness, tingling as well as increased inflammation, potentially leading to headache, migraine and fibromyalgia.
Unfortunately, the intake of magnesium in people eating a western-style diet is consistently shown to be lower than recommended. The use of some medications can also result in decreased levels of magnesium. These include antacids, antibiotics, anti-hypertensives (for high blood pressure), Digoxin (heart medication), oral contraceptives and HRT). The likelihood that you are deficient in magnesium increases if you suffer with more than one sign of deficiency (e.g. constipation, headache / migraine, muscle tension / cramping, numbness / tingling, osteoporosis, high blood pressure or poor sleep.)
Magnesium is usually safe, but it may interfere with the absorption of some medications, notably bisphosphonates (used for osteoporosis), calcium channel blockers (for high blood pressure) and some antibiotics. If you take any medication, talk to your doctor before you are supplementing magnesium.
Because magnesium is ‘bulky’ most multivitamins only contain a small amount. It is therefore usually better to supplement magnesium separately. Chelated forms like magnesium malate or glycinate are better absorbed. Click here for more information on magnesium supplementation including recommendations.
Curcumin is a component of the spice turmeric. Curcumin supplementation at higher doses leads to decreases in pain and inflammation which extend to post-operative, arthritis, and general pain symptoms. One small study also noted a small reduction in symptoms in peripheral neuropathy.
Unfortunately, standard curcumin preparations are very poorly absorbed into the body. Therefore, new formulations that increase absorption have been developed. Currently, the formulation with most supporting research is “Meriva”.
‘Supplements for Sciatica’ was written by Steffen Toates. Steffen is a Chiropractor at Dynamic Health Chiropractic in Jersey, Channel Islands. For more information about Steffen click here.