Most of us slow down endogenous production of certain vitamins as we age, possibly causing deficiencies. Chronically limited availability of these important nutrients can lead to various adverse health disorders, including neurodegenerative and inflammatory conditions, like sciatica.
Fortunately, there are a few nutrients & vitamins that may be the best option for improving sciatica symptoms at home – including Alpha Lipoic Acid, ALCAR, PEA, and Vitamin B12.
What Are Nerves?
Nerves are fibrous bundles of tissue that transmit and receive electrical and chemical signals between the brain and the body. Your nervous system constantly collaborates with your endocrine system to maintain your body’s numerous biological functions and interact with your environment.
What Is the Sciatic Nerve?
The sciatic nerve is the largest in the human body. It originates on each side of the spine in the lower back, and extends downward through both hips, buttocks, legs, and feet. The sciatic nerve is about the same diameter as a nickel at its largest.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to unpleasant sensations of pain, numbness, tingling, stinging, shocking, and/or stabbing that can occur wherever the sciatic nerve travels. In most cases, symptoms are caused by inflammation that results from a herniated lumbar or sacral disk, or a bone spur that presses on the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica symptoms can develop anywhere along the path of the sciatic nerve, although they are most commonly experienced in the buttocks and thighs. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of the body, or affects one side more than the other. Sneezing, coughing, and sitting can exacerbate the symptoms.
The Mayo Clinic reports that the pain and other markers of sciatica are typically self-alleviating, commonly within two weeks. Symptoms can be mild, causing only minor numbness. Or they can be severe, causing significant leg weakness, and bladder and/or bowel changes that necessitate surgery.
Systemic Inflammation & Sciatica
Periodic inflammation is crucial to survival, but systemic chronic inflammation (SCI) is detrimental. SCI is caused by numerous environmental, lifestyle, and social factors, and it is a leading cause of global disability and mortality. Prolonged systemic inflammation contributes to:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Cardiovascular disease
- Certain nutrient deficiencies
- Kidney disease
- Neurodegenerative disorders
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Chronic body-wide inflammation can also cause sciatica, or worsen existing sciatica symptoms. In some cases, inflamed tissue in the lumbosacral spine exerts pressure on the sciatic nerve.
What are the Best Vitamins for Sciatic Nerve Discomfort?
Now, let’s look at some home options known to help alleviate sciatica symptoms, including palmitoylethanolamide, alpha lipoic acid, acetylcarnitine, and vitamin B12. These natural medicines help to relieve the pain and numbness of sciatica by reducing inflammation and improving neuronal health.
PEA is an endogenous lipid (fat) modulator in animals, including humans. It has been the subject of much research since the 1970s, and has yielded analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects in more than 6,000 research subjects in at least 30 clinical trials.
Your doctor may not be aware of the positive effects of PEA on neuropathic pain, or that it can be an effective substitute for opioid drugs like:
Palmitoylethanolamide is considered a safe and effective substance for the improvement of nerve compression syndromes. It has been shown to significantly reduce pain after 1.5 – 3 weeks of use.
According to the Institute for Neruopathic Pain, “PEA acts as a safe analgesic compound in nerve compression. Its safety and efficacy profile supports the clinical use of PEA in compression syndromes such as sciatic pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is also known as thioctic acid. It’s a sulfur-based vitamin-like antioxidant that helps to scavenge free radicals throughout the body. It’s produced from fatty acids and cysteine in many plants and animals, including humans. You can increase your levels of ALA by consuming more:
Aside from helping the body to maintain healthy levels of vitamins C and E, alpha-lipoic acid prevents some types of cellular damage. It has also been shown to improve neuronal conduction and function in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus. It’s used to break down carbohydrates and energize the organs.
eMedicineHealth asserts, “Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth seems to improve symptoms such as burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms of people with diabetes.” If you supplement ALA for sciatica, you’ll likely need to continue for 3 to 5 weeks before you notice symptom improvements.
Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) is an acetylated form of the non-essential amino acid, L-carnitine, which the human body is capable of endogenously producing. It’s important for breaking down fatty acids and energy production.
ALCAR has been shown to help treat various ailments, including neuropathy (nerve pain). It is also effective for reducing conditions marked by chronic pain and inflammation, including sciatica. It does so by inhibiting the release of certain inflammatory mediators.
Acetyl-L-carnitine has also been clinically shown to exert a neuroprotective effect on the sciatic nerve. It promotes peripheral nerve repair and nerve fiber cluster regeneration, which, in turn, helps to lessen pain and improve vibratory perception.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) plays a crucial role in neuronal health by upregulating the synthesis of “myelin,” an insulative sheath that blankets the nerves. You can compare the myelin sheath to a protective covering on an electrical wire.
Besides protecting nerves, myelin also improves conductivity between neurons, which speeds up the impulses that travel along your nerves. Plus, vitamin B12 promotes neuronal regeneration and new nerve cell growth. B12 may also boost your immunity and increase your energy levels.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause or exacerbate the pain, numbness, and other symptoms of sciatica. You can get more B12 in your diet by consuming nutritional yeast, eggs, fish, nori (dried seaweed), organ meats, poultry, red meats, and tempeh (fermented soybean cake).
Sciatic Nerve Vitamin Deficiency
It’s important to realize that certain vitamin deficiencies can cause non-sciatica-related symptoms like nerve pain, numbness, and muscular weakness.
While sciatica can definitely be painful, and downright debilitating in some cases, the good news is that it typically self-resolves, tends not to return to the same location for years, and there are various natural ways to manage this typically temporary ailment.
Consider the advantages of daily exercise, smoking cessation, improved hydration, enhanced nutrition, pranayama (breathing exercises), and cutting inflammatory foods and beverages from your daily diet.