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Nutrition for Spine Health

By AGE2B team
January 31, 2022

You’ve often heard about brain food, foods that can boost your immune system, or diets that will make you healthy, right? But what about nutrition for spine health? Do you know that our spine is what makes us stand and gives us the flexibility to bend and twist?

What is spine?

The spine also referred to as the Backbone, Vertebral or Spinal Column consists of 33 bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. It looks like a series of bones stacked together from top to bottom. A normal adult backbone looks like a natural S curve when viewed from the side, but spinal disorders like Scoliosis, Kyphosis, and Lordosis can alter the shape of your spine.

The spine is divided into five regions: Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, Sacrum, and Coccyx.

  • Cervical spine (neck region) is divided into 7 bones consisting of C1 to C7. These regions support the skull, allows head movement, and protects the spinal cord.

  • The Thoracic spine is divided into 12 thoracic vertebrae consisting of the T1 to T12 wherein T1 is the smallest thoracic and T12 is the largest.  The Thoracic Spine limits range of motion and protects most of our vital organs.

  • Lumbar spine – consists of 5 big bones consisting of L1 to L7. This region of the backbone allows our body to flex and extend and it also carries most of our body’s weight.

  • The Sacral Spine consists of 5 bones abbreviated as L1 to L5. These bones are fused together forming a triangular shape called the sacrum.

  • Coccyx – at the base of the sacrum are 5 more bones fused together as Coccyx, or the Tailbone. 

3 main functions of the spine

  • It protects the spinal cord — a group of nerves that allows you to control your movements.

  • It provides structural support and balance. It is the part of your body that supports your weight.

  • It enables us to turn, bend and move freely.

Most common spine conditions

Unfortunately, our backbone is subject to a lot of daily stress that may cause spinal diseases or spinal injuries. Aging is one factor that affects our spine. As we age, the spine deteriorates. This is a normal part of getting old. Disc degeneration, as well as Spinal Stenosis, which is the narrowing of the spinal spaces within the spine, are just a few of the many wear and tear ailments.

  • Lordosis – is an excessive inward curvature of the spine. It mostly affects the lumbar region, or lower back and neck. People with Lordosis experience low back pain and discomfort.

  • Kyphosis – is an excessive outward curving of the spine. It primarily affects the thoracic region of your spinal column that causes humpback or a hunchback appearance.

  • Facet Joint Osteoarthritis (FJ OA) – happens when the cartilage that separates the facet joints positioned at the back of the vertebral column breakdown gradually. Symptoms include stiffness, low back pain, and neck pain. This is very common in older adults.

  • Herniated Disc – Vertebral Discs are soft, jelly-looking pads between the Spinal Vertebrae. Besides acting as shock absorbers, these discs allow us to bend and twist. Herniated Disc or Slipped Disc happens when part of the middle Vertebral disc ruptures or slips out through the outer part of the disc, creating pressure on the nerves and muscles around it. This causes pain, discomfort, numbness and a tingling sensation.

  • Scoliosis – is an abnormal lateral curving of the spine. It affects the Thoracic Spine and primarily affects children. Mild Scoliosis may not cause any pain, except in severe cases. Scoliosis may interfere with breathing.

  • Osteoporosis – is a bone disease that weakens and things out the bones. It is most commonly seen in older adults, especially women.

What type of foods is best for spine health?

With the right amount of vitamins and nutrients, spinal diseases may be reduced and/or prevented. Our muscles, discs, bones and other parts of the spine need nourishment, not only to support the body but also to perform other functions.  This is the time to start including healthy spine food choices.

  • Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral found in our body that makes our bones strong and healthy. Magnesium balances out calcium. If you have too much calcium in your body, but not enough magnesium, you may suffer from muscle spasms, tightness, and lactate buildup which causes back pain and a burning sensation during intense exercise.

  • Calcium – is a mineral needed for vascular contraction, nerve transmission, and muscle function. It is found in our body, supplements, and medicines.

  • Iron- is essential to keep our cells healthy. It also helps in myoglobin production that supports the spine. Myoglobin is found in muscle cells.

  • Vitamin A – this vitamin is crucial for bone formation and tissue repair.

  • Vitamin C – we’ve often heard about the need to take this vitamin to boost our immune system, but it is essential for your spine health to take Vitamin C supplements or foods high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C promotes collagen formation — a protein that holds our cells together. Lack of collagen may lead to disc rupture. Remember, our bones are made up of cells. Lack of Vitamin C may also lead to lower back pain like Sciatica and Spinal Stenosis.

  • Vitamin B12 – is vital for neurological function, as well as for red blood cell formation. Lack of Vit. B12 may lead to Subacute Combined Degeneration (SCD) — a disorder mainly affecting the spine, nerve, and brain.

  • Vitamin D – is an essential nutrient primarily for bone and muscle strength. It is also needed for the absorption of calcium. Lack of this nutrient increases the risks of fractures, especially in older adults.

  • Vitamin K – Vitamin K increases bone mass and reduces the risks of bone fractures and helps prevent degenerative spine disorders such as Osteoporosis.

  • Phosphorous- is a naturally occurring mineral that works hand in hand with calcium to promote overall bone health. It gives you more energy, especially when you are exercising or engaging in physical activities.

  • Omega 3 fatty acids – is an essential fatty acid that is needed by our body. Aside from the fact that it helps reduce the risks of chronic diseases such as arthritis and heart diseases, it also helps keep the vertebral discs and ligaments healthy and strong. Unfortunately, our body can’t make omega 3 fatty acids on its own.

Figure 1 RDA and Food Sources

Vitamins & Minerals

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

Food Sources

Magnesium (Mg)


310mg/day (19-30 yrs. old )

320mg/day (31 yrs. Old & above)


400mg/day  (19-30 yrs. old )

420mg/day (31 yrs. old & above)

Beans, nuts, legumes, milk, yogurt, spinach, fortified cereal, dark chocolate, bananas, potatoes,  and whole grains

Calcium (Ca)

1000 mg/day for men & women below 50

1200mg 50 years old & above

Raw milk, kale, sardines, yogurt, broccoli, cheese, Bok Choy, Okra, watercress, black beans,  fish, peanuts, almonds and other dairy products

Iron (Fe)

18 mg/day for women (19-50 yrs. old)

8mg/day for men and women 51 and up

Beans, lentils, tofu, spinach, turnip greens, kale, romaine lettuce, broccoli and other soy foods

Vitamin A

Women:2310 IU/day

Men: 3000 IU/day

Spinach and other green leafy vegetables, beef, chicken, low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products

Vitamin C

Women: 90mg/day

Men: 75 mg/day

Bell peppers, cantaloupe, papaya, pineapples, kiwi, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, and citrus fruits, and juices

Vitamin B12

2.4 mcg/day for 14 years old & above

Fish, beef, liver, fish, fruit, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products

Vitamin D

600 IU/day for 19-70 yrs. Old

800 IU/day for 70 yrs. old & above

Egg yolk, fish oil, salmon tuna, mackerel, fortified orange juice and natural sunlight

Vitamin K

75 mcg/day for ages 14 to 18

Men: 120mcg/day for ages 19 & above

Women: 90mcg/day for ages 19 & above

Pork, liver, spinach, kale, pumpkin, lettuce, grapes, canola oil, okra, beans, carrot juice, chicken, salmon, yogurt, milk, and other dairy products


700 mg/day

Pumpkin, sunflower seeds, fish, meat, nut, beans and other protein-rich foods

Omega 3 fatty acids

1.6 g/day for ages 14-50 and older

Fish: salmon, tuna, tilapia

Seafood: algae, krill

Flaxseed, canola oil, egg, oysters, bread, baked beans

To ensure that the right amount of nutrients is delivered in our body, we have to know the basic elements of dietary intake. Remember that our body systems are interconnected, which means a poor diet affects our spine health and it also negatively affects our overall health.

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