Diet and nutrition for a healthy spine | Sunday Observer

Diet and nutrition for a healthy spine

10 January, 2021

Good nutrition and a balanced diet are important components for overall health.

Diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight play a major role specific to back health—including the prevention of many problems and improved healing. According to experts the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is through a balanced diet and exercise. For people with many types of back problems, regular exercise and, when necessary, weight loss, can help ease existing back problems and prevent future problems.

Obesity and extra weight can cause low back pain

Obese and overweight patients have an increased risk of back pain, joint pain and muscle strain. Overweight patients are more likely to experience problems in their low back than patients with a healthy weight level. This is especially true for people with extra weight around their midsection as the extra weight pulls the pelvis forward, strains the low back and creates low back pain.

Weight loss can lower risk for other back problems

Managing weight not only reduces existing back pain, but can also help prevent certain types of back problems in the future. For example, overweight and obese patients have an increased risk of osteoarthritis. The additional strain on the joints due to the excess weight can cause arthritis in patients whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is too high. For patients who already have osteoarthritis, weight loss is one of the recommended treatments.  Patients who are overweight or obese and suffer from back pain may not be aware that their excess weight is contributing to their back pain.

In addition to back pain, symptoms exhibited by persons who are obese or severely overweight may include fatigue, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath during short periods of exercise.

If the fatigue and shortness of breath causes one to avoid activity and exercise, this can indirectly lead to back pain as lack of exercise contributes to many common forms of back pain.

Conditions related to obesity

Obese or overweight patients may experience  sciatica and low back pain from a herniated disc.

This occurs when discs and other spinal structures are damaged by having to compensate for the pressure of extra weight on the back.

The symptoms of sciatica are commonly felt along the path of the large sciatic nerve. Sciatica is often characterised by one or more of the following features:

l Pain. Sciatica pain is typically felt like a constant burning sensation or a shooting pain starting in the lower back or buttock and radiating down the front or back of the thigh and leg and/or feet.

l Numbness. Sciatica pain may be accompanied by numbness in the back of the leg. Sometimes, tingling and/or weakness may also be present.

l One-sided symptoms. Sciatica typically affects one leg. The condition often results in a feeling of heaviness in the affected leg.⦁ 1 Rarely, both legs are affected together.

l Posture induced symptoms. Sciatica symptoms may feel worse while sitting, trying to stand up, bending the spine forward, twisting the spine, lying down, and/or while coughing. The symptoms may be relieved by walking or applying a heat pack over the rear pelvic region.

Arthritis of the spine that causes back pain may be aggravated when extra body weight strains the joints.

Patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 25 are more likely to develop  osteoarthritis than those with a lower BMI.

The effectiveness of back surgery may also be affected by a patient’s weight. Obese patients are at higher risk for complications and infections after surgery compared to patients who are not obese. 

Good nutrition and weight loss

The basic recommended guidelines for a healthy diet and good nutrition for weight loss include the following:

l Reducing the number of calories in the daily diet

l Eating smaller portions as part of the diet

l Tracking meal composition, portion sizes, and nutritional content of the diet

l Learning methods of food preparation for a healthy diet

l Choosing nutritious meals that are low in fat

Steady, controlled progress during a diet and weight loss program is generally more effective than sporadic and inconsistent changes in caloric intake and portion sizes.

Consumption of water

It is recommended that patients drink at least 8 large cups of water throughout each day. Drinking enough water is essential for a healthy back, as water transports nutrients and eliminates wastes in the body.3

The discs are comprised mostly of water and need to stay hydrated so that nutrients and fluids can be properly exchanged within the spinal structures. For patients undergoing exercise and dieting for weight loss, drinking adequate amounts of water helps the body to metabolize fat and avoid water retention.

Vitamin K2 acts as a director for bone minerals, properly distributing calcium out of the soft tissues and depositing it into bone. It is critical for healthy bone metabolism and is often deficient in the diet.The combination of vitamin K2 and calcium works to help bones in the spine and throughout the body stay strong and healthy. Vitamin K1 is the plant form of vitamin K, which is converted to vitamin K2 by healthy digestive bacteria.

Vitamin K2 is found in healthy fats of meats, cheeses, egg yolk, and other dairy products, and K1 is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli. Vitamin C is necessary for collagen formation, the substance that holds the body together, found in the bones, muscles, skin and tendons, and is an important part of the process that enables cells to form into tissue. It also functions as an antioxidant. Adequate vitamin C intake is vital for healing injured muscles, tendons, ligaments, and intervertebral discs, as well as for keeping the vertebrae strong. Vitamin C can be found in fruits such as strawberries, kiwi and citrus fruits (oranges, guavas, grapefruit), as well as in many vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, red and green peppers, and sweet potatoes. It is commonly available in supplement form. Proteins are critical components of bone, although they can be easily overlooked with all the focus on minerals. Protein is a key building block for body structure, so daily consumption is critical for maintaining, healing, and repairing the bones, cartilage, and soft tissues, and in digestion and the functions of the immune system. Collagen proteins make up 30% of the dry weight of bone. Collagen formation requires a regular supply of amino acids along with adequate vitamin C to incorporate them.

Glucosamine is an amino acid, which can be found in high concentrations in cartilage and connective tissue. Chondroitin is a substance that occurs naturally in connective tissues and as a supplement, and is often taken with glucosamine. Vitamin B12 is required in the formation of the body’s bone-building cells and is necessary for healthy formation of red blood cells in the bone marrow. Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia has been associated with osteoporosis.

Choosing the right food for optimal nutrition

Eating a balanced diet with the right amount and variety of vitamins and nutrients can reduce back problems by nourishing the bones, muscles, discs and other structures in the spine. Healthy diet calls for many vitamins and nutrients, this partial list highlights a number of healthy choices that can be directly beneficial for back pain.

Calcium has received much attention as the most prominent of bone minerals. It is essential for bone health and helps maintain the necessary level of bone mass throughout the lifespan, especially in old age. Adequate calcium intake is important to help prevent the development of osteoporosis, a disorder characterised by weak and brittle bones that can result in painful vertebral fractures in the spine. Calcium alone will not make strong bones, as evidenced by the high rate of osteoporosis despite high calcium supplementation. Calcium must be balanced with other synergistic nutrients for strong bones.

Calcium is found in many foods, popularly in dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and milk. Other common sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and bok choy, legumes, fish such as sardines and salmon (for example, canned with bones), and other foods such as almonds, oranges, tofu, and blackstrap molasses. Magnesium is a key mineral in the structure of the bone matrix and is also required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. If blood magnesium levels drop, magnesium will be pulled from the bones. Magnesium deficiency is common and supplementation can assist in maintaining bone density and preventing back problems. This nutrient also helps in relaxing and contracting muscles, making it necessary for strengthening the muscles that support the spine. Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, fish, beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains, yogurt, avocados, bananas, and dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher). Vitamin D3 helps the body absorb calcium, which is crucial for the development of strong and healthy bones. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D deficiency is common, and levels in the body can be measured with a blood test that can be ordered by your healthcare professional. Vitamin D is found naturally in only a few foods, including fatty fish (salmon), liver (or cod liver oil), and egg yolks. Milk and some cereals, juices, and breads are fortified with vitamin D. It can also be attained through nutritional supplementation and time spent in the sun. Behavioural and environmental factors effect on diet and weight loss.

Dieting programs should take into account behavioural and environmental factors that can influence a patient’s eating habits. For example, stress, boredom, sadness and anger can have an effect on a patient’s diet in terms of the quantities and types of food the patient consumes.

Behavioural factors, such as feelings and mood changes throughout the day, can induce patients to eat at times when they are not hungry or to eat unhealthy foods. Environmental triggers such as smells or stressful situations can also lead patients to eat when they are not actually hungry but instead are reacting to external stimuli. Patients may find it helpful to keep a written log of what they eat and when over a period of several days or weeks, observing and recording information about the impact of behavioural and environmental factors on diet and nutritional choices.

Source of information - Veritas Health