Supplement the Smart Way for Spinal Bone Health

Thinking of adding a calcium or vitamin D supplement to your daily regimen? Read this first.

Written by Susan McQuillan, MS, RDN, CDN

The bones in your spine—and throughout your body—need nutrients to rebuild and stay strong throughout your whole life. Eating a balanced diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium is the best way to feed your bones and ward off serious spinal problems, such as spinal fractures and osteoporosis. But, inadequate diets or medical issues can create nutritional gaps—that’s where a vitamin or mineral supplement comes in.
Supplements aren’t magic bullets, but they can be a health safety net when used properly. This article helps you understand the reality of nutritional supplements—specifically bone health boosters like calcium and vitamin D—and offers tips to help you get the most from them.

Supplements Simply Supplement
Supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D for bone health, fill nutritional gaps. They’re not usually necessary if you get the key nutrients you need from a healthy and balanced diet.

Some people use supplements as a replacement for a food, which they are not intended to be. Food supplies multiple nutrients, along with substances other than nutrients that are beneficial for your health and not necessarily found in supplements.

Should You Take a Supplement to Strengthen Your Spine?
Your dietary needs change throughout life, so adding a supplement as you age or during pregnancy may help you stay healthy. Like other nutrients, calcium and vitamin D requirements vary based on age and sex (you can figure out how much you should get each day in Calcium, Vitamin D, and Magnesium: The Big 3 for Bone Health).

When it comes to protecting your spinal bone health, certain people may need a supplement to ensure their bodies are processing calcium and vitamin D properly. This includes:

Wondering whether a calcium supplement is right for you? Read Calcium Is Essential for Strong Back and Neck Bones.It contains some simple ways to determine if you’d benefit from a calcium supplement, but the only way to definitively know is by having a conversation with your doctor.

Your Doctor and Pharmacist Help Ensure Supplement Safety
Because you can purchase a nutritional supplement over the counter, many people incorrectly assume that they are completely safe. However, dietary supplements can interfere with the absorption and action of other supplements and medications, and they can be toxic when taken in high doses.

For example:

The question you need answered is this: Are your supplements helping or hurting you? The best way to know for sure is to talk to your doctor whenever you change your medication or supplement regimen—even if you’re simply adding a new vitamin to the mix.

Another great but often underused resource for supplement advice is your pharmacist. He or she will know whether your mix of supplements and medicines poses any risk of negative interaction. And, if you’re shopping for a supplement, your pharmacist can help recommend a trustworthy product.

Calcium Supplement Success Tips
If you and your doctor think a calcium supplement may help support your spinal bone health, use these tips to get the most benefit:

Supplements: Not Magic Pills, but They May Support Spine Health
The key takeaway about supplements is that they’re just that—supplements. They can help fill nutritional gaps, but they should not be used as a replacement for a healthy diet. Eating foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium is the best way to build strong spinal bones and prevent debilitating health problems, such as spinal fracture and osteoporosis. If you have concerns about whether your diet is meeting your nutritional needs, talk to your doctor. 

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