Like a column in a building, your spine is responsible for supporting the weight of your body. Over time, this job begins to take its toll on the discs, the firm cushions that separate your vertebrae -- the bones that make up your spine. While not everyone is bothered by the worn discs, some people feel tremendous pain. People who have this kind of pain are said to have a condition called degenerative disc disease, or DDD. While there is no special diet for DDD, maintaining a healthy weight by following a balanced diet may help prevent added stress to the spine.
Maintaining a healthy weight is about balancing your calorie intake. The number of calories you need to maintain depends on a number of factors, including age, gender, activity and body size. Your doctor can help you determine your individual calorie needs to manage your DDD. In general, calorie needs for women range from 1,600 calories to 2,400 calories a day, and for men 2,000 calories to 3,000 calories a day. If you need to lose weight, decreasing your daily intake by 250 calories to 500 calories a day can help you lose 1/2 pound to 1 pound a week.
Meet your calorie requirements with a variety of nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups so that your body has the nutrition it needs to help you stay well. That means a diet focused on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods and lean sources of protein such as poultry, seafood and beans. At the grocery store, you can find all the healthy foods you need by shopping the perimeter, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Get Enough Fiber
One issue you may run into with DDD is constipation caused by pain medication. If you're experiencing difficulty with bowel movements, make sure you get enough fiber in your diet. Eating a diet focused on raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains helps up your fiber intake. Look for foods that have 2 grams of fiber or more per serving. Women need 21 grams to 25 grams of fiber a day, and men 30 grams to 38 grams. When increasing the fiber in your diet, do so slowly to prevent abdominal distress, and drink plenty of water -- 6 cups to 8 cups a day.
DDD Sample Meals
Your DDD diet plan includes three meals a day to keep energy levels up, appetite under control and constipation at bay. A healthy breakfast might include whole-grain, high-fiber cereal with sliced strawberries and nonfat milk. For lunch, you might enjoy baby greens topped with sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas and albacore tuna with low-fat salad dressing, an apple, whole-grain crackers and nonfat yogurt. A healthy high-fiber dinner to help you manage your DDD might include whole-wheat spaghetti with turkey meatballs, steamed broccoli and a fresh pear.
- Cedars Sinai: Degenerative Disc Disease
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Degenerative Disc Disease
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Back to Basics for Healthy Weight Loss
- University of California at San Francisco Medical Center: Constipation
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Fiber