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Hippocrates, the founder of the Hippocratic oath, is often credited with coining the saying “Let food be thy medicine”.

The idea behind the saying is that choosing our diet carefully can have an impact on overall health and well-being.

While there are certainly instances where a healthy diet alone cannot prevent, let alone cure, disease, it is true that eating habits can support health. In the words of the American Institute for Cancer Research, “Food can be a sort of medicine because it has the power to promote health.”

That of course, includes spine health. So, with that said, here’s an overview of not only which foods promote a healthy spine, but also a list of minerals and nutrients that are key to optimal spine health.

How Diet & Nutrition Affect the Spine

A poor diet could be affecting your spine health more than you think.

As the National Spinal Health Foundation notes in its informative article “Obesity, Nutrition, & the Spine”:

There are as many as 20 essential nutrients necessary for optimal spine and bone health; all of which work together to keep bones healthy and strong over the course of a lifetime…Many diseases and spinal conditions can be linked to diet. Osteoporosis is an example of a spine-related condition with a clear link to nutritional status.

The same article also links obesity with spinal health:

Obesity can cause injury and damage to the spine. This damage can lead to chronic pain and other symptoms associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and many other spinal conditions.

On the other hand, in a study on the “Association of chronic spinal pain with diet quality”, it was found that “Adults with chronic spinal pain [such as that associated with spinal arthritis] had significantly poorer quality diets. Individuals with the highest diet quality were 24% less likely to report chronic spinal pain.” [emphasis added]

What Are the Best Nutrients & Vitamins for Spine Health?

Here’s a list of some of the most beneficial nutrients for bone health and some of the best vitamins for spine health, according to the peer-reviewed article “Food for Thought: Diet and Nutrition for a Healthy Back” by Kelly Andrews, DC, Chiropractor:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin D3
  • Vitamin K2
  • Vitamin C
  • Proteins, Including Collagen
  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • Vitamin B12
  • Iron

Food for Your Backbone: Try These 6 Items

Looking for foods rich in the above nutrients? Here are several food items to incorporate into your diet, courtesy of the Comprehensive Spine Institute:

  1. Plant-Based Proteins: Lean proteins and plant-based proteins, in particular, which have less inflammatory potential than animal-based proteins, can be good for your spine health.
  2. Salmon: Salmon is rich in both healthy protein and Omega-3 fatty acids.
  3. Fruits & Dark Green Leafy Vegetables: Fruits, consumed in relative moderation, plus dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and broccoli, contain nutrients that are key to a healthy spine and bones.
  4. Avocados: These creamy stone fruits are rich in potassium and healthy fats.
  5. Milk & Dairy Products: There’s a lot of debate in the scientific community about whether dairy poses more health risks or health benefits. The fact is, it is a good source of calcium. But fortified nut milk, nuts, seeds, and legumes can offer just as if not more calcium, as Heidi Goodman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter, notes in the article “Essential Nutrients Your Body Needs for Building Bone“.

What to Avoid for Optimal Bone & Spine Health

Yale Medicine recommends staying away from the following foods and activities to promote healthier bones:

  1. Smoking
  2. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  3. Avoiding exercise or exercising only very little
  4. Eating a diet low in vitamins and calcium

Summing Things Up

Incorporating one or two of the foods recommended in this article will not automatically cure your spinal pain or reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.

Consistent diet and lifestyle changes, however, such as exercising regularly within your ability, and eating a diet that’s rich in nutrients like calcium, vitamin D3, and protein, can promote optimal spine health and improve overall quality of life.

Suffering from undiagnosed spinal pain or spinal pain that’s due to an underlying condition? Contact Desert Spine and Scoliosis Center. We may be able to provide relief by means of nonsurgical or surgical solutions.