Make sure your diet contains abundant amounts of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of vitamins A, C, and E, the antioxidants. Beta-carotene is found in green and yellow fruits and vegetables like cantaloupe, apricots, spinach, and carrots. Dairy products and eggs provide vitamin A, citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C, vegetable oils supply vitamin E.
Scientific evidence proving the direct benefit of antioxidants on intervertebral discs is still lacking. Although I do not have the clinical trials to prove it, I believe that antioxidant supplements have the potential to slow oxidative damage to the spine. Discs of the spine are one of the places that might benefit from this therapy. An adequate dose of antioxidants, preferably from food, is important to maintain spine health.
Our exposure to free radicals is part of the ongoing aging process throughout the body, including the spinal discs. In an autopsy study of people aged thirteen to eighty-six, oxidative damage was identified in cartilage cells in the middle of the discs. The damage started in the teenage years and continued in each age group. In addition, evidence of the body’s attempts to repair the oxidative damage was present in all examined discs. This study confirmed the notion that disc degeneration from oxidative damage starts in the second decade of life.
These active oxygen molecules (free radicals) attach to cells in your spinal discs and cause damage. The cells try to repair the injuries but are ineffective, which means the disc wears out too soon. Antioxidants (vitamins E, A, C, and beta-carotene) are able to neutralize the damaging effects of oxygen radicals.
If you take these nutrients as supplements, keep in mind that the fat-soluble vitamins A and E are absorbed and stored with fat and thus are eliminated very slowly. Excessive amounts can accumulate in the body and become toxic. Health problems associated with taking these antioxidant supplements at levels above the recommended limits include kidney stones and diarrhea with vitamin C, increased bleeding in people taking anticoagulant medicines with vitamin E, and hair and nail breakage with selenium. Doses of vitamin A at a level of 100,000 units are toxic. The National Academy of Sciences has recently set “upper intake levels” for vitamins C and E and the mineral selenium as follows: