Spinal disease, disk degeneration, and herniated disk are leading causes of pain radiation affecting movement and decreasing the patient’s quality of life. Nevertheless, technology in the biomechanical realm has provided multiple treatments, such as axial decompression, to ease the pain and slow the process of these degenerative conditions. However, biological factors may contribute to the healing process; it is well-known that diseases continuously deplete our nutrients pool. Therefore, proper nutrition and spinal decompression are crucial for spinal disease prevention and reversal.
The intervertebral spinal disk (IVD) is a highly specialized tissue with complex conformation and, therefore, nutrient-specific necessities. Indeed, nutrients and metabolism play a pivotal role in IVD’s constitution. For instance, glucosaminoglycans (GAGs) are critical for IVDs’ mechanical strength and integrity of the disk’s extracellular matrix. These GAGs are a metabolic product of glucose metabolism in combination with oxygen and lactate.
A wide array of nutrients are critical for ECM integrity and renewal, such as collagen, vitamin C, curcumin, glucose, proline, and lysine, among many others. Furthermore, proper supplementation is needed and recommended to maintain appropriate levels in our nutrient pool; promoting good nutrient delivery routes is crucial to preventing spinal degeneration.
The IVD is a highly specialized tissue, and part of its uncommon features is being avascular. This particular characteristic leads us to the following question: how do nutrients enter a disk?
There are two blood delivery routes:
Furthermore, their transport will differ depending on each nutrient’s molecular size. For instance, larger molecules such as glucosaminoglycans, enzymes, proteins, and hormones will use a gradient mechanism powered by the concentration of nutrients on any given side of the membrane. On the other hand, smaller molecules (glucose, lactate, oxygen) will use diffusion as their primary transportation mechanism.
Disk degeneration: risky environment and nutrition.
The interplay of decreased nutrition pools and structural failure creates an environment where disk degeneration is present. Indeed, nutrient metabolism is the main character in this play called disk renewal. The stage in which this story evolves becomes the main factor determining if this becomes a tragedy or a light-hearted play.
Disk health is a multifactorial entity that relies on the interplay between what we do to maintain our disks, what we eat, and how these nutrients reach this tissue. A patient with nutritional deficiencies that comes into a chiropractic practice should not be unnoticed. Indeed, it is critical to assess the patient with disk degeneration from a holistic point of view. Supplying the proper amount of nutrients, enhancing or enabling the correct delivery pathway, and supporting metabolic pathways also decrease disk degeneration. – Ana Paola Rodriguez Arciniega, MS
De Geer C. M. (2018). Intervertebral Disk Nutrients and Transport Mechanisms in Relation to Disk Degeneration: A Narrative Literature Review. Journal of chiropractic medicine, 17(2), 97–105. doi.org/10.1016/j.jcm.2017.11.006
Illien-Jünger, S., Gantenbein-Ritter, B., Grad, S., Lezuo, P., Ferguson, S. J., Alini, M., & Ito, K. (2010). The combined effects of limited nutrition and high-frequency loading on intervertebral discs with endplates. Spine, 35(19), 1744–1752. doi.org/10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181c48019
The information herein on "Nutrients, Metabolism, and Disk degeneration" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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