We have talked in the past about how gut health has a systemic effect on the body. Recent new studies have suggested an unhealthy gut may be linked to an increase in degenerative disc disease in the spine. Degenerative disc disease, also known as arthritis, causes a decrease in the space between vertebrae and is a major cause of back pain. Why would the gut be affecting the spine in such a significant way? Let’s talk about the connection between the gut and the spine, how bacteria can take advantage of the anatomy of the spine, and what you can do to improve your gut health.

The Spine's Blood Supply

Arteries are the blood vessels in the body that carry blood away from the heart. The largest chamber of the heart, the left ventricle, pushes blood through these vessels with enough force to get the blood all the way to your fingers and toes. As the blood reaches its target tissue and enters the veins for its return trip to the heart, the pressure drops significantly. Veins in areas like the legs or arms get help from surrounding muscles to squeeze and push blood along. These veins also have one-way valves to prevent blood from flowing backward.

The veins that draw blood away from your spine do not have muscles to help with increasing flow, nor do they have valves to prevent backflow. The blood in your spine is significantly more stagnant than any other blood in the body and vital nutrients have a hard time reaching this area. The poor blood flow means significantly longer recovery times for even minor injuries to the spine.

The Spine-Gut Connection

Current research is looking into the connection between gut health and increased disc degeneration. The theory suggests that bad bacteria are taking advantage of the poor blood flow in the spine. Both the gut and spine drain into the same large vein on the way to the heart. With no valves preventing backflow, anything being drained from the gut can make a side trip into the spine.

Bad bacteria that have taken over in an unhealthy gut can make their way through the damaged intestinal lining into the venous blood supply. The lack of valves in spinal veins and the stagnant blood flow allow bacteria to easily enter these areas. Once in the spine, these bacteria steal nutrients and produce harmful toxins. 

The lack of nutrients coupled with the increase in inflammation both leads to an acceleration of degeneration. Research has shown that patients suffering from both gut dysbiosis and back pain showed significant degenerative changes in the lumbar spine. The study also showed that the risk of back pain is significantly increased with unhealthy gut changes.

How To Correct An Unhealthy Gut

Fixing an unhealthy gut requires taking the steps to kill off bad bacteria while allowing the healthy bacteria to thrive. The first step is to remove the foods that bad bacteria live off of. Non-whole grains, processed carbs, and sugars need to be eliminated for a short period of time and will prevent bacteria from continuing to grow. Additionally, you can add foods like garlic and oregano which have anti-microbial properties and help kill off harmful bacteria.

Feeding the healthy bacteria and allowing them to thrive will complete the transformation of your guts environment. Healthy bacteria prefer to eat inulin, a compound found in foods like garlic, onions, and bananas. It may be necessary at first to add more healthy bacteria to your gut. Consuming yogurt or supplementing with a probiotic can help introduce the good bacteria into your system and build up a healthy environment.

These changes will take some time to take effect as the gut slowly begins to heal. One way to speed up the process is by supplementing with glutamine. The intestines use glutamine to repair the damaged cells that line every surface along the gut. Constantly supplying the gut with a good source of glutamine will allow the intestinal lining to repair at an optimal rate.

If you constantly find yourself with lingering back pain maybe it’s time to think about your gut health. At Rush-Henrietta Family Chiropractic, your Rochester chiropractor looks at all of the possible causes of back pain. Our office has an in-house Rochester nutritionist who has been helping patients make the necessary changes to their diet to help restore the healthy bacteria and relieve symptoms that have not responded to conventional care. Schedule a free nutritional consultation with your chiropractor in Rochester.