Vitamin D boosts the immune system and helps with bone development, and a recent study has linked insufficient vitamin D levels to back pain in postmenopausal women. Because this nutrient can also play a role in minimizing spine-related issues, including age-related disc wear (degenerative disc disease), spinal fractures, and osteoporosis, it’s important to increase your intake of vitamin D to protect your spine. Here are some ways you can do this.
The sun is one of the most reliable and easily accessible sources of this spine-beneficial vitamin, which is why it’s often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.” When obtained from the sun, vitamin D is created when the sun’s UV-B radiation reacts with a special type of cholesterol found in skin. Getting vitamin D this way is good because it typically stays active longer in the body. However, you’ll still want to be cautious about how much sun you soak up, since skin cancer and other health issues also go along with prolonged sun exposure.
There are some dietary sources of fat-soluble vitamin D that can give you an appetizing and beneficial boost of this nutrient. What’s more, many of these foods have other appealing benefits that can also keep your spine healthy. The most common and easily accessible vitamin D–rich foods include:
• Salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish
• Shrimp, mushrooms, and oysters
• Egg yolks
• Spinach and some other green leafy veggies
Additionally, you’ll find higher levels of vitamin D in cod liver oil, raw milk, and Swiss cheese. Apples are the fruit with the highest level of natural vitamin D.
Certain cereals, yogurt, orange juice, cheese, and tofu are just some of the foods that are often fortified with vitamin D. These options are worth considering, since dietary sources of vitamin D are somewhat limited. Check labels to see exactly how much vitamin D you can get from your preferred fortified products.
If you’re not able to get sufficient vitamin D from your diet, the sun, or fortified foods to benefit your spine, supplements may be appropriate. You have a choice of vitamin D supplements derived from animals or plants. Plant-derived supplements are D2, and ones derived from animals are D3. While there are some sources that claim D3 supplements are better for maintaining the recommended levels of vitamin D, it’s best to do your own research or get some input from your doctor, pharmacist, or a Santa Monica spine surgeon.
Increasing your vitamin D intake is just one thing you can do to protect your spine and keep it healthy. Your backbone and its supporting parts will also thank you if you maintain a healthy weight, get regular exercise, and watch your posture. It’s also a good idea to see your doctor or a spine specialist if you have sudden, recurring, or worsening spine-related aches and pains.
Without sufficient vitamins to protect your body’s bones, discs, and supportive structures, you could end up with a variety of painful chronic back issues. Luckily, there are many ways to treat spinal conditions, including various fusion procedures and alternatives to spinal fusion surgery. Santa Monica patients who are seeking solutions to alleviate their chronic pain should call The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757.