Nutrition & Your Spine

Nutrients are the chemical components present in food which provide energy for carrying normal physiological functions and aid in metabolic processes of the body.

Nutrition refers to the entire cycle of chemical changes occurring within the body depending on what we eat or don't eat. Nutrition determines the strength of the teeth, bones, and the connective tissues. A healthy diet during childhood paves the way for a healthy adulthood. A well-balanced diet is essential for the repair and maintenance of bones, cartilage, ligament, tendons and muscles. Vitamin B, C, D, K, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, boron and manganese are essential for healthy bones and connective tissues.

Nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy spine. Good nutrition helps in managing pain and disability in the patient suffering from different types of spinal disorders. Damage to the spine can occur due to daily wear and tear or due to injuries from work, sports or accidents. Poor nutrition and inadequate hydration can increase the incidence of such injuries.

A major part of the connective tissue involved in joining and holding the joints together is made up of protein and water. Degenerative disc diseases (DDD) can damage the connective tissues as well.

Adequate dietary protein, along with vitamins A, B6, C, E and minerals such as zinc and copper are essential for maintaining strong and healthy connective tissue.

Minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and boron are essential for healthy bones. Healthy nutrition is required for repair and maintenance of bones. Lack of nutrition can lead to bone disease such as osteoporosis.

Calcium helps in improving bone density. Other factors such as vitamin D, collagen, magnesium, and L-lysine are also essential for maintaining healthy bones. Calcium metabolism can be hampered due to various conditions, some of which include:

  • Chronic mental or emotional stress causes inflammation of the digestive tract
  • Inadequate acidity of the digestive tract hampers calcium absorption
  • Deficiency of certain nutrients such as vitamin D and L-lysine
  • Excessive urinary excretion of calcium due to intake of caffeine-containing drinks such as coffee and colas

Inflammation results in the loss of the normal cellular framework that keeps bone and connective tissues together. The inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis can damage the joints. Inflammation also results in pain which arises due to some chemical changes in the surrounding tissues.

Abdominal obesity can induce strain on the muscles and ligaments supporting the spine, causing back pain.

A good circulatory system is essential for the repair of surgical incisions, injured bone, or connective tissue such as cartilage and ligaments. The blood vessels carry all the nutrients to the bone and connective tissues. A diet rich in fat and low in protein and fiber can constrict blood vessels reducing blood flow to the injured areas needing repair. Herbs, fruits and vegetables are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant components like flavonoids which can strengthen the healing process.

Various nutritional supplements are also available which may be recommended based on the specific musculoskeletal condition of the patient. Along with good nutrition, regular exercise is also important for a healthy spine.