Source: GNN News Health
The spine is like the Interstate 95 of our bodies.
All of our sensations, motor skills and coordination travel through nerves in the spinal column. When those nerve connections are disrupted by injuries or wear and tear to the spine, it can cascade into a whole series of health problems as we get older.
Poor spine health limits your ability to exercise, which is necessary to help prevent osteoporosis — the weakening of bones. Weak bones can lead to fractures in the spine, hips or other areas. Fractures can limit your ability to simply move around and enjoy life, bringing about cardiovascular problems and even, depression.
In fact, spine-related disorders are among the most frequently encountered health problems, with low-back pain affecting an estimated 80 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, according to the National Institutes of Health.
It doesn’t have to be that way. There are many things we can do every day to promote better spine health and stave off these problems.
Maintaining a Skyscraper
The spine is also like a skyscraper, built with 33 blocks of interlocking bones (vertebrae), which are held together by ligaments and separated from each other by intervertebral discs. The discs act as shock absorbers between the bones.
All of these building blocks work together to protect the nerves of the spinal cord and support the body, allowing us to bend, stand up and twist. Maintaining this intricate structure starts, like all aspects of good health, with good nutrition, including:
Hydration. Drinking plenty of fluids helps keep the joints in the spine well lubricated to function properly. Men should drink about 13 cups of fluids a day (from all sources, not just water) and women should strive for about 9 cups, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Diet. Most people know that calcium-rich foods such a low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt and cheese are good for bone health, but so are fish such as sardines and salmon, as well as many types of greens, including collard greens, kale and okra. On the flip side, eating too many salty foods can deprive the body of calcium and lead to bone loss.
Supplements. The gastrointestinal system is one of the most important parts of the immune system, and a healthy gut helps prevent inflammation throughout the body, including the spine. Probiotic supplements, which are healthy live bacteria, have been shown to improve gut health. Vitamin D, a vitamin that is not naturally present in many foods, has also been shown in studies to promote better health.
By Dr. Mark R. McLaughlin, a board-certified neurosurgeon on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold. He maintains a private practice at Princeton Brain & Spine Care located at CentraState’s Star and Barry Tobias Ambulatory Campus. He can be reached by calling 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727) or visit centrastate.com/neuroscience.
To find a neurosurgeon or neurologist, check the Physician Finder database at centrastate.com/physicians.