Above all else, sciatica is caused when the nerve roots at the top of the sciatica nerve become compressed. When pressure occurs on these nerves during pregnancy, you can experience that shooting and numbing pain typical of sciatica. Improving the health of your nerves before you become pregnant is therefore a preventative step your can take against sciatica. Omega-3, fatty acids commonly found in fish oils, offers you a natural way to do just that. So, what exactly is the connection between sciatica and omega 3?
There is nothing fishy when it comes to omega-3’s role in repairing damaged nerves as well as enhancing overall nerve function. Do not let the potent fish smell turn you away. Take a whiff of omega-3-rich foods, like salmon and many other types of seafood. Below the odor there are beneficial fatty acids working to boost nerve health and overturn the conventional wisdom that fat is foul.
DHA and EPA: Fight Nerve Damage with these Fatty Acids
Docosahexanoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), two main omega-3 fatty acids, are like janitors, cleaning up and performing maintenance tasks on the body’s nerves. In many studies, DHA has been found to serve the nerves in a variety of ways, such as by helping with nerve density as well as protecting nerve fibers. DHA can also reduce myelin damage; the myelin sheath is the insulating cover around nerves, allowing impulses to travel effectively down the nerve cells and for quick communication. Both DHA and EPA might also protect the cell membrane. By playing such an important role in the upkeep of the nervous system, DHA and EPA are also indirectly working to prevent sciatica, a set of symptoms that stem from nerve issues.
Sciatica and Omega 3: Eliminate Nerve Pain with Fatty Acids
Omega-3s should not only be incorporated into your pre-pregnancy diet to boost nerve health but during your pregnancy just in case a bad case of sciatica still creeps up on you. Found to be effective in reducing nerve pain in spinal nerve compression, carpel tunnel syndrome fibromyalgia as well as other nerve-related disorders, DHA has clear pain relief properties. However, if you are looking to take omega-3 supplements or increase your consumption of seafood while you are pregnant to reap these benefits, consult a medical professional first.
How to Get More Omega-3s into your Body
Pre-Pregnancy: Not made in the body, omega-3s need to enter your body in one or more of the following ways:
1. Increase Foods High in Omega-3: Because better omega-3 is better absorbed through food, try eating more meals that include flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, salmon, sardines, halibut, and scallops.
2. Decrease Omega-6 Rich Foods: Omega-6 refers to unsaturated fatty acids. You can also decrease the amount of omega-6-rich foods you consume to get more out of the omega-3s, as the two fatty acids groups compete against one another. Because the average person also consumes more omega-6–from foods such as vegetable oils, seeds, and nuts –as opposed to omega-3, reducing these foods will better ensure you receive the most health benefits from omega-3.
3. Fish Oil Supplements. Make sure you check the amount of DHA and EPA your supplements contain, as well as directions on how to store the bottles if you decide to go about increasing your omega-3 intake this way.
No matter which way your choose–or whether you decide to combine one or more approaches–make sure you strive for the recommended dosage of omega-3s: approximately 3g/day. If you do not meet the daily dosage, you may experience symptoms of omega-3 deficiency such as joint pain and fatigue as well as be at a higher risk for sciatica during your pregnancy.
Pregnancy: Consider asking your doctor about switching the source of your DHA from fish oil to algae oil when you become pregnant. Although you forfeit the benefits of EPA with this change (this fatty acid is not found in algae oils), fatty fish may contain mercury and other environmental pollutants, like PCBs and dioxin, you want to avoid during your pregnancy. If you chose the fish oil supplement approach, however, the risk of these environmental toxins does not apply.