If you’re currently living with some degree of back pain, the foods you eat on a regular basis can play an important role in managing your discomfort and keeping your spine healthy. If you’re not currently among the 30 million or so Americans living with some type of back-related pain, being mindful of what you eat and drink can keep it that way. Here are four back-healthy diet tips to keep in mind, brought to you by the Santa Monica spine surgeons at The Spine Institute.
1. Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated is a good tip for your overall health since water maintains the flow of healthy nutrients to tissues. Water is especially beneficial for the spongy discs that cushion the spine, which are made up primarily of water and elastic collagen fibers. Hydration also keeps these discs flexible and allows them to provide sufficient cushioning to absorb stress from daily movements.
2. Find a Balance with Your Eating Habits
You don’t necessarily have to eat healthy all the time to keep your back healthy. You can still enjoy comfort foods on a cold day or treat yourself to a few other indulgences now and then, but you should make healthy food choices part of the mix to achieve a sensible balance. Pay attention to foods that are a good source of essential nutrients like magnesium, which keeps back-supporting muscles and bones strong. Some of these spine-friendly selections include:
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Whole grains
- Healthy, nutrient-rich fish like salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel
- Avocados and edible seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and pomegranate seeds)
3. Know Which Nutrients Are Good for Your Back
While there are many nutrients that are good for overall wellbeing, certain nutrients are even more critical for the spine and its supporting tissues. Calcium is needed to keep bones healthy, including the vertebrae and the small facet joints that allow the spine to be flexible. You also need calcium to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition that progressively weakens bones and contributes to inflammation. Reliable sources of calcium include:
- Dairy foods
- Green, leafy veggies
- White beans
- Some fish (sardines, salmon, perch, trout)
- Calcium-fortified foods like orange juice, oatmeal, and some breakfast cereals
Vitamin D is equally essential for your back since it promotes calcium absorption. It’s not unusual to be a little low on the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D (about 600 IU/day for most age groups) since it’s only found in significant amounts in a limited number of foods. If need be, ask your doctor for recommendations on vitamin D supplements. If you are taking other medications, check with your doctor before taking any type of vitamin supplements to avoid possible interactions.
Adequate amounts of vitamin D can be found naturally in:
- Egg yolks
- Certain mushrooms such as shiitake
- Dairy products like cheese and milk
4. Watch Your Beverage Choices
Realistically, you’re not going to be drinking water all the time when you have a need to quench your thirst. However, there are certain beverages you’ll want to consume in moderation to keep your back healthy. For instance, soda can affect the absorption of the nutrients needed to keep bones strong, and excessive alcohol consumption can prevent calcium from being properly absorbed.
Even if you follow the healthiest diet possible, there are several factors that could cause you to experience serious back pain, and you may need to determine at some point if you need surgery. Reach out to The Spine Institute, where we specialize in procedures such as spinal decompression and Coflex surgery. Santa Monica patients should call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.