Unstable atoms, also known as free radicals, can cause damage to healthy cells. These damaged cells weaken tissues, which translates to less support to the spine. In addition to regular exercise, a diet that includes foods rich in antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and effectively remove most of them from the body. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert spine surgeons examine antioxidants and how they can affect the health of your spine.
Free Radicals & Spine Health
Free radicals are atoms in search of missing electrons. These scavengers borrow electrons from healthy cells, which then become unstable, resulting in oxidative stress (overproduction of free radicals). The body naturally produces free radicals, which can normally be kept to manageable levels. Environmental factors such as toxins in the air, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and excessive sun exposure can increase the number of free radicals in the body, which may affect the spine by:
- Weakening muscles, tendons, and ligaments supporting the spine
- Preventing a successful fusion from forming following Santa Monica back surgery
- Minimizing the body’s natural regeneration abilities
What Antioxidants Can Do for the Spine
Antioxidants are essentially the cleanup crew in the body. They have the unique ability to repair molecules damaged by free radicals by donating a hydrogen atom to a depleted healthy cell. It’s believed abnormal cells can also affect blood vessels, which may make it more difficult for nutrients to get to the spongy discs that cushion the spine.
Where to Find Antioxidants
Antioxidants are typically found in bright-colored fruits and green, leafy vegetables, although low-fat dairy products and lean proteins can also be reliable sources of antioxidants. Foods with especially high antioxidant counts include:
- Berries (especially blueberries)
- Purple, red, and blue grapes
- Kidney beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Tea (especially green tea)
- Whole grains
Supplements can be helpful if you can’t get sufficient nutrients from your diet alone. However, an effort should be made to get most of your vitamins and minerals from your diet because many antioxidant-rich foods have added health benefits that can also naturally reduce inflammation and help keep your spine healthy.
Though antioxidants can be helpful in promoting spine health, they are not a foolproof solution. If you are experiencing severe pain in your spine and think you might need decompression surgery, Santa Monica spine surgeons can help. At The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration, we can determine the source of your pain and help you work toward living a pain-free life. Call 310-828-7757 to learn more and schedule an appointment.