Eating with Your Spine in Mind

I know. My blogs are supposed to be about spine surgery. It’s a topic I have a lot of experience with and one I am passionate about. The truth about back pain and spine issues is that most people will experience them at some point in their lives. Another fact? And this is an important one. Most of those people won’t need surgery.

What I often find about people who are new to a condition that is negatively impacting their spine, and overall health is that they are hungry for information about what they themselves can do to make the pain go away. In addition to those people are the ones caring for someone experiencing debilitating back pain; they want to know what they can do to prevent themselves from traveling down the same path.

So today, I want to explore the topic of nutrition and bone health. It isn’t something we necessarily hear much about in the mainstream media is it? I bet you can recite to me the virtues of Omega-3 fatty acids for heart health or the importance of a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables to help stave off cancer.

  • But what about a diet with the health of your bones (of which your spine is the largest) in mind?
  • Do you know that looks like or why it matters? Read on to find out.

A View on Vitamins
The health and well-being of every structure in our bodies is based largely upon our vitamin and mineral composition. While it’s true that many of the beneficial vitamins that help keep the bones strong can be found in supplement form, your best bet is to get your dose via the foods you eat. You can follow a vitamin supplement regimen to a “t,” and you won’t see the benefits if your diet otherwise consists of heavily processed and unhealthy foods. Your best bet is to get your daily dose by eating highly nutritious foods. What types of foods should you focus on?

Here are a few to consider:

  • Offal – if you haven’t heard of it, this is the fancy term for the internal organs of animals that are used as food. Now before you turn your nose up at the notion, there are now more recipes than ever before that consist of the highly nutritious parts of these animals. Beef, calf and chicken liver, for example, are significant sources of Vitamin A (helps repair tissue and aids in bone formation), Vitamin B12 (important for healthy bone marrow), Vitamin K (necessary for proper absorption of calcium into bones) and Iron (necessary for healthy cells and muscles that support the spine). That’s a huge punch of bone-healthy vitamins in just one piece of food.

  • Mean Greens – Spinach packs a big Vitamin A and B12 punch, while frilly kale and broccoli are great sources of Vitamin K and Iron. Many nutritionists say the greener the vegetable, the better. But if you have an aversion to how these veggies taste in their raw form, get creative. Find recipes that help you incorporate them into your favorite dishes while your palate adjusts to their flavor.
  • Outstanding Oranges – Did you know that orange fruits and vegetables including nectarines, cantaloupe, apricots, carrots and sweet potatoes are all great sources of Vitamin A? Remember, this vitamin is essential for repairing damaged tissue in the body as well as in the formation of strong bones. And here we thought it was only calcium that did all the heavy lifting in that department.
  • Dutiful Dairy – Depending on who you consult, dairy can get a pretty bad rap these days. From stories of intestinal upset to other autoimmune conditions, sifting through the pros and cons can seem daunting. If you’re lactose intolerant, then avoiding dairy products might make sense. But for those who aren’t, there are big calcium and Vitamin D, B12 and K benefits. The quality of the dairy you consume and making sure it isn’t filled with added “fake” ingredients or unnecessary sugars is the key to keeping dairy as part of your healthy diet in check.

Whether it’s the spine, the heart, the brain, or the digestive system, we absolutely are what we eat. But the great news is that small dietary changes you make today can add up to loads of bone protection later – especially when it comes to the waist line. Obesity is on the rise in our country and so too is back pain. The relationship between the two has been studied extensively and the proof is clear – our bodies simply weren’t designed to carry around too much extra weight. Since your spine bears the brunt of the load, treat it well. Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most important ways to do that. Bon Appétit.