A little sunshine every day can keep spinal problems away. New research suggests there is a link between your body’s vitamin D levels and spinal health. Researchers at Washington University of St. Louis tested 313 patients scheduled to receive spinal fusion surgery. Of the participants, 57 percent had a vitamin D deficiency. The question was: Did their lack of adequate vitamin D cause their spinal problems or did their spinal problem result in low levels of vitamin D? More importantly, the study emphasized the important role played by vitamin D in maintaining healthy bones.
Calcium’s role in bone health is well known. The body also uses calcium for the heart, blood, muscles, and nerves. If you become deficient, your body will use calcium from the skeleton to keep other organs functioning, leaving the bones weakened and preventing new bone growth. Vertebrae are also weakened. When bone loss gets to approximately 30 percent depleted, you will start to experience difficulty maintaining proper posture and limited motion in your spine. Other consequences can be osteoporosis and vertebral body compression fractures.
Since your body cannot produce calcium, you must get it from your diet. It is estimated that more than half of American men and almost eight out of 10 women do not get enough calcium in their diet. But calcium by itself isn’t enough to keep your bones strong. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from the gastrointestinal tract. It also facilitates the reabsorption of calcium in the kidneys that would otherwise be excreted.
There are two bioequivalent forms of Vitamin D:
- Vitamin D2, which is obtained from vegetable dietary sources and supplements.
- Vitamin D3, which is derived from sun exposure and animal diet sources.
It is estimated that most Americans do not get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is especially common among teenagers, women, and the elderly. Some studies have found that more than half of all institutionalized elderly and an equal proportion of women of any age undergoing treatment for osteoporosis have inadequate levels of vitamin D — a condition that too often goes undiagnosed and untreated.
Your body can produce Vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunshine. The catch is that you cannot wear sunscreen, which blocks the rays that stimulate vitamin D production. It is not recommended to expose your bare skin to the sun in the midday hours of summer. But 15 to 20 minutes of non-peak sunlight three or four times a week will give your body the vitamin D boost it needs. It is suggested you wear a tank top and shorts for optimum skin exposure.
For those who live in cold climates, having a diet rich in Vitamin D is especially important during the winter months. This includes salmon, halibut, egg yolks, shitake mushrooms, and cod liver oil. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, juice, cereal, and yogurt. There are also multi-vitamins containing sufficient quantities of vitamin D.
It is also recommended you get regular chiropractic treatments as part of an overall bone wellness strategy.