The 5 Ds – Degenerative Disc Disease, Diet, and Dehydration
Degenerative Disc Disease Part III
The 5 Ds – Degenerative Disc Disease, Diet, and Dehydration
As stated in the previous two articles in this series, degenerative disc disease is not a disease but a process, a condition. Or, better still, degenerative disc disease is an age-progressive phenomenon or set of phenomena working in concert, and against musculoskeletal health generally, and spine health in particular. Degenerative disc disease affects millions worldwide, one of the principal causes of neck, back, and the sciatic nerve pain as we age.
There are a number of reasons why musculoskeletal health generally, and spine health in particular, degenerates as we grow older. There are a myriad of factors and processes that come into play and affect the overall health of the spine as we age, to include:
• Many begin to carry excess weight, some becoming medically obese.
• Our muscles weaken as we age, particularly when living a sedentary lifestyle.
• Muscle imbalances are common and widely misunderstood.
• Inadequate diet and nutrition is a fact of life for many reasons, around the world.
• Inadequate hydration and/or dehydration is a reality for many of us.
We have touched upon the first three of the above factors contributing to degenerative disc disease in the first two parts in this series. In this article, we will deal with the fourth and fifth factors on this list:
• Inadequate diet and nutrition
• Inadequate hydration and/or dehydration
In many ways, the final two factors are the most important for reasons we will discuss below (note: the number of factors affecting spine health is by no means restricted to the five mentioned previously and above but they are the most important).
Degenerative disc disease generally leads to neck pain, back pain, and sciatica at one point or another in our lives, particularly as we age.
Degeneration of the intervertebral disc (IVDs or discs) may lead to a bulging or herniated (ruptured) disc. When the disc bulges or ruptures posteriorly (to the back), the disc material may affect (i.e., irritate or impinge) the nerve root and lead to neck pain, back pain, and/or sciatica…depending on the level affected. Disc degeneration, depending on how severe and at what level, may lead to a cascading or ripple effect. Whereby, discs above and below the affected IVD begin to come under increasing levels of stress and may bulge or rupture, particularly if they have started to degenerate, as well. This sort of ripple effect can be very difficult to treat and neck or back surgery is generally ill advised, the likelihood of failed back surgery syndrome is a reality.
In an individual with advanced degenerative disc disease, the prognosis is generally not good and neck pain, back pain, and sciatica may be chronic and pervasive throughout the spine.
While the above scenario sounds dire, there is a way out!
We have discussed excess weight and/or obesity, muscle weakness, and muscle imbalance in the previous two parts in this series. Diet and nutrition and hydration are crucial to tying it all together and, without attention to these final two factors, the likelihood of a good outcome when dealing with degenerative disc disease is almost nonexistent.
Diet, Nutrition, and Dehydration
Without proper diet and nutrition, and without adequate hydration, meaning an adequate intake of water on a daily basis, our body cannot ward off the effects of age nor can it replenish and rebuild itself, as is required for overall spine health. There are a number of reasons why diet and nutrition, or rather inadequate diet and inadequate nutrition come into play, particularly as we age. Many of the reasons for inadequate diet and nutrition are cultural, some are biological, and many more are economic. For many throughout the world, it is a combination of all three. However, for the majority of us in the western world it is a matter of lifestyle. In very much the same way a sedentary lifestyle often affects disc degeneration, leading to degenerative disc disease and neck pain, back pain, and sciatica, a busy lifestyle, one where meals a gulped down and little attention is paid to nutrition and balanced meals, the outcome may be the same.
Rebuild and Replenish: The Consequences of Aging
When little attention is paid to diet and nutrition, the body simply cannot ward off the effects of aging and cannot repair and rebuild itself. As we live our lives, the body generally, and spine in particular is placed under severe stress and often must deal with traumatic events on a daily basis. If the spine is healthy and has plenty of material to rebuild itself, the stress and even isolated trauma is generally handled quite nicely. However, as spine health begins to deteriorate and the process of disc degeneration is initiated, combined with an inadequate diet lacking the proper nutrients, the breakdown in overall spine health is exponential and neck pain, back pain, and sciatica becomes a reality. This is easily offset, if caught early enough, and may be arrested even in more advanced cases, provided proper attention is paid to nutrition and diet…meaning what and when we eat.
Dehydration: A Fact of Life for Millions
The final component to be dealt with in this article, the last of the five factors contributing to degenerative disc disease; and, neck pain, back pain, and sciatica is dehydration or simply inadequate hydration. The intervertebral discs are made up of approximately 85% water. During the course of the day we lose a great deal of water through a variety of processes and functions. By the end of the day, providing we do not take in adequate amounts of water, we go into water debt. The debt is difficult to repay and the damage done, if this debt is ongoing, is substantial. Water is crucial to bodily function and is necessary for cell health, for rebuilding and repairing various anatomical structures, and for overall physiology. Meaning, without water the structure and the function of the body is negatively affected.
When it comes to spine health, dehydration leads to intervertebral disc degeneration because the main component of the IVDs, water, is lacking.
In today’s world, we take in large amounts:
• Soft drinks, many with caffeine and sodium.
• Coffee and tea, both with high levels of caffeine and/or related substances.
• Alcohol, more destructive and in more ways than we can address here.
• Sports drinks, perhaps the worst when it comes to sodium.
• Energy Drinks, perhaps the worst of all for sodium, caffeine, and a number of other substances (chemicals)!
In every instance, in every drink listed above, there is one common factor, they are all diuretic. Consequently, they all negatively impact the body’s overall ability to hold water. As a result, and because they are the staff of life for millions of people around the world, almost all of us drink them, many of us are in a constant state of dehydration…and don’t even know it.
The constant state of dehydration leads to inadequate amounts of the necessary component for proper spine health, water.
Dehydration also leads to significant problems at the cellular level. If there is not enough water for the body to properly conduct the business of life, it will rob the resources it needs from other areas, in this case the body will find the water necessary for day-to-day existence and the overall health of the spine will suffer. The constellation of behaviors and consequences above leads to disc degeneration.
The IVD degeneration leading to degenerative disc disease and, you guessed it:
• Neck Pain
• Back Pain
• Sciatic Nerve Pain or Sciatica
So, what is the answer?
Actually, the solution is not as complex or as overwhelming as it may appear. In order to offset the consequences of aging, particularly the consequences with a behavioral component, we need to adjust our behavior. If we adjust our behavior by addressing the negative impact of the 5 factors on the body generally, and the musculoskeletal system and spine specifically, we may be well on the way to our very own Fountain of Youth.
By addressing the factors leading to a breakdown at the cellular level (i.e., diet and nutrition, dehydration), addressing the behaviors affecting the musculoskeletal system (i.e., the 5 factors), and integrating a plan to focus on the body as a whole (i.e., diet, exercise, and education), we will insure proper spine health and may be able to alleviate and/or eliminate the consequences of degenerative disc disease and neck pain, back pain, and sciatica.
Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr., The Bad Back Guy
PS, If you are ready to begin the process of changing your behavior and dealing with your neck pain, back pain, and sciatica, as well as your degenerative disc disease, simply click here and take the next step! If you make the decision and take the first step, you will never regret it. And, you may discover your very own Fountain of Youth!