There’s a lot of truth behind the “you are what you eat” concept. This is certainly true when it comes to the bones, joints, and muscles that make up and support the spine. Your spine, like the other structures in your body, is made up of living tissues that need an assortment of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients to minimize inflammation and reduce the risk of experiencing pain related to arthritis and other conditions that affect tissues. Here are ten nutrients you’ll want to make part of your diet to keep your spine healthy and avoid the need for back surgery. Los Angeles spine surgeons recommend consuming plenty of each of these nutrients on a regular basis.
1. Vitamin A
In addition to helping with immunity, vitamin A also plays an important role in tissue repair and bone formation. This can be especially beneficial if you have a spinal fracture that needs to heal.
Vitamin A sources:
- Spinach and other leafy greens
- Beef, chicken, and liver
- Dairy products (low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese)
2. Vitamin B12
B12 keeps bone marrow healthy. It also helps the spine function. There’s research suggesting a prevalence of B12 deficiencies in some patients with spinal cord injuries. B12 also helps with the formation of a protective coating for nerve cells.
- Red meat and poultry*
- Dairy products
*Some soy-based meat substitutes are also a good source of B12 if you don’t eat meat
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and maintain phosphorus levels. Both functions promote healthy bone development and growth. Vitamin D also increases resistance to certain diseases that may affect the spine.
Vitamin D sources:
- Natural sunlight
- Egg yolks
- Fish oil
4. Vitamin K
By increasing bone mass, vitamin K may prevent osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women. It may also reduce the risk of bone fractures.
Vitamin K sources:
- Liver and pork
- Green, leafy veggies (kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts)
- Dairy products
Calcium builds strong, healthy bones and maintains muscle function. It may also reduce the risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, two conditions that can affect tissues in and around the spine.
- Dairy products
- Black beans
- Peanuts and almonds
Magnesium eases muscle contractions, which may be beneficial if you experience back spasms frequently. It also promotes bone density and muscle tone. A new study suggests magnesium supplements may ease chronic lower back pain.
- Dark chocolate
- Whole grains
Iron produces a protein found in muscle tissue known as myoglobin. This protein helps the flexors, obliques, and other spine-supporting muscles stay healthy.
- Meat products
- Soy foods
- Beans and lentils
- Green veggies
- Button mushrooms
Found in every cell in your body, sulfur maintains joint health, boosts the immune system’s capabilities, and helps with collagen formation. If you have arthritis-related spine pain, you may experience relief from sulfur baths.
- Cruciferous veggies like cabbage and cauliflower
- Dairy products (except butter)
9. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids with numerous health benefits, including many verified by credible research. They are good for the spine’s spongy discs and supporting ligaments.
Omega-3 fatty acid sources:
- Certain fish, including tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines
- Fish oil supplements
- Cod liver, flaxseed, mustard, soybean, and walnut oil
Phosphorous works with calcium to promote overall bone health. It can also help you maintain your energy, which may provide added incentive to get regular exercise to keep the muscles supporting your spine strong and healthy.
- Meat, poultry, and fish
- Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
- Beans and other protein-rich foods
Including a combination of foods with these ingredients is a good starting point when it comes to spine health, but it’s just one of several things you can do to keep your back and its supporting soft tissues healthy. It’s equally important to drink plenty of water, get regular sleep, watch your posture when you sit and stand, and know when to see your doctor about aches and pains that aren’t going away.
Not getting enough essential nutrients is just one of many potential causes of chronic back or neck pain. If you have been experiencing severe pain for a long time with no relief and think you might need surgery, get in touch with The Spine Institute. Dr. Hyun Bae can diagnose the source of your pain and determine if you need fusion surgery or a spinal fusion alternative. Los Angeles patients can call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.