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Crucial Vitamins & Minerals
shark fins containing glucosamine As some of you might have heard, there has been some controversy over a certain Chinese delicacy. It is called shark fin soup. To prepare the dish, sharks are caught, and their fins cut off, dried, and then shipped off to prepare this dish. Many see this as inhumane for the sharks, because they are just thrown back out into the ocean to die, without their fins. Now, I am not going to be debating on whether this is right or not, but I would like to discuss the main ingredient in this delicacy: cartilage. How does this apply to back pain? Many individuals have back pain resulting from herniated, bulging, or degenerated discs. Discs are made of cartilage fibers. Consuming something that could help discs heal and regenerate will help with eliminating the pain. There are two supplements out there that help with just that: Glucosamine and Chondroitin.

What it is & what it does

Glucosamine is a naturally occuring compound that can be found in the fluid around our joints. It is important for building cartilage. Cartilage is the tissue that is found on the ends of bones and acts as a cushion to keep the bones from touching. Our discs are specials joints that connect vertebrae and act as shock absorbers. Glucosamine is usually combined with chondroitin. Chondroitin helps give joints their elasticity, and is said to reduce inflammation. Both glucosamine and chondroitin are crucial for forming and maintaining our discs and joints. As we age, discs can degenerate if we do not have enough of these 2 compounds. One of the biggest benefits to many of us that have back pain, is that they help with healing and repairing discs.

Where can I get it?

Glucosamine is extracted from the tissues of crab, lobster, and shrimp shells. On the other hand, chondroitin is taken from animal and shark cartilage. Because we do not generally eat shells or cartilage, you can get glucosamine in a supplement. It is usually found in 2 forms: glucosamine -hydrochloride and –sulfate. It is recommended to buy the sulfate version, as sulfur is also needed by the body to produce cartilage. See the recommended doses below Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 1.13.29 PM

A Few Warnings

  • Stay away from glucosamine if you are allergic to shellfish.
  • If you are taking blood thinners or daily aspirin, stay away from chondroitin, as it can contribute to bleeding.
  • Lastly and most importantly, make sure that you are exercising your spinal muscles as you take glucosamine and chondroitin. As I always tell everyone: Exercising is what will help get the nutrients to your discs and joints because it increases the circulation of blood to your spine. If you are not exercising, don’t even bother taking these supplements.

Crucial Vitamins & Minerals
Magnesium can be found in Dark Chocolate Magnesium is another mineral that is abundant in our bodies. It helps balance blood pressure, keeps bones strong, and maintains our heart rhythm. Unfortunately, less than 30% of Americans consume the Recommended Dietary Allowance. Today we will talk about where we can get magnesium, how much is needed, and what are some symptoms of being deficient.

The Benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium is a crucial factor in more than 300 processes in our bodies. One of the most important for back health is the formation of bones and teeth. It is essential for the absorption and metabolism of calcium. It is also in charge of converting Vitamin D into its active form. Having enough magnesium can help prevent osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones). It is also an important factor in muscle relaxation andheart health. It allows nerves to send messages between our brain and nervous system.


Some of the best sources of magnesium are leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Many cereals also have magnesium. Your best bet is spinach, cashews, almonds, mackerel, and dark chocolate. Just 1 square of Dark Chocolate provides 24% (varies between brands) of what we need in a day. But beware, it also has about 145 calories.  


A constant deficit can lead to severe symptoms. They include muscle spasms, numbness, tingling, weakness, and personality changes. How does this affect our spine? When muscles are unable to relax properly, the tightness can cause severe pain. Also, if nerves are not functioning properly, this can lead to muscle spasms and more tightness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, try adding some spinach, almonds, or dark chocolate to your diet. In some ways, magnesium can be considered even more important than calcium! It is crucial to bone formation, nerve function, and the relaxation of muscles. Make sure to incorporate it into your diet as soon as possible. Maybe this can be your excuse for indulging in some chocolate?

Crucial Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamin D from Sunlight

Vitamin D Basics

Last week we covered the importance of calcium in our body. As you will see with the upcoming posts, many of our body’s functions rely on different vitamins and minerals to work together. Vitamin D, also called the “Sunshine” Vitamin, works closely with calcium. It helps promote absorption of calcium in our body and is also required for bone growth and remodeling. Bones are constantly being reformed as our body uses up calcium. Therefore, if enough calcium isn’t absorbed, bones can become weak and brittle. Other uses include cell growth, muscular function, and helping to reduce inflammation. Vitamin D may also protect against osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases.

Food Sources

Vitamin D is found in very few foods. Some of them include: fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), fish liver oils, cheese, and egg yolks. This vitamin is also commonly added to various fortified foods. For example, milk, cereal, orange juice, yogurt, and margarine. Please note: This is not always the case with fortified foods, so remember to check the label or nutrition facts to make sure that the Vitamin D has been added. Vitamin D usually comes in two forms, D2 and D3. D2 is produced mainly by plants and D3 by sunlight exposure. Either can be added to fortified foods.

Sun Exposure

Now this is the part I love. Going outside! Our lifestyles today tend to keep us inside, and sedentary. Believe it or not, you can actually produce Vitamin D yourself, when you are exposed to sunlight! So if you hate fish and dairy products, just go outside. Certain UV rays can penetrate uncovered skin and trigger the creation of the vitamin. It is generally recommended to have 5-30 minutes of sun exposure between 10am and 3pm, twice a week. That is just for us to make a good amount of Vitamin D and weather conditions can affect how much we make. You are more than welcome to spend more time outside, but don’t forget the sunblock.

Keep in Mind

  • Having too much UV radiation can cause various skin cancers.
  • Not having enough can lead to rickets, a disorder where bone tissue doesn’t mineralize normally, leading to soft bones and deformations.
  • For all of you that sit next to a window, sorry but that does not count! UV rays are blocked by the glass in our windows, and do not hit our skin. So, you still have to go outside for atleast 30 mins.
I have not covered supplements at all, just because I believe that they are unnecesarry in this case. It is completely possible to get Vitamin D from our diet and sunshine. Next week I will be covering the benefits of Magnesium, another mineral that affects bones and muscles.

Crucial Vitamins & Minerals
Calcium can be found in Milk For this week’s post, I would like to talk about one of the most important nutrients that should come to mind when we think of our spine’s health. Though many of you know that it is important to have calcium in your diet, you may not know which foods are best and how much is needed every day. I hope that this post clears up some questions you might have in regards to this important nutrient.

What is It?

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It is involved in the function of muscles, the heart, blood, and nerves. Less than 1% of the calcium in our body is used for these functions. The rest is stored in our bones and teeth, and helps with their structure and function. Bones are constantly being remodeled as we use up stored calcium and replenish it by consuming food.

Sources of Calcium

Calcium is not created in the body and therefore we must absorb it through foods we eat. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich, natural sources. Non-dairy choices include various vegetables like Chinese cabbage, kale, and brocolli. You can also find it in fortified foods. Fortified simply means that certain vitamins and minerals have been added to the food or juice. Some examples would be cereals, nutrition bars, and juices. Orange juice is usually fortified with calcium. Other sources include bread, tortillas, sour cream, and tofu. Recommended Calcium Intakes - Maiden Wellnes Blog As a general rule, you should always try to get all your nutrients from food first, before using supplements. If you are unable to get enough from your diet, then there is the option of supplements. Calcium supplements come in two forms: calcium -carbonate and -citrate. The carbonate version is best taken with food and contains 40% calcium by weight. The citrate version is 21% calcium and it does not matter if you take it with food or not. One thing to remember is that the more you take at once, the less is absorbed. For example, it would be best to take 2 seperate doses of 500mg compared to 1 dose of 1,000mg. You can split them up into morning and evening meals. How much you absorb is also dependant on whether you have enough Vitamin D.

Health Benefits

Calcium contributes to bone health, prevention of osteoporosis, and helps with weight management. When intake is low, bones start to breakdown as the body uses calcium in bones for it’s different functions. This is why it is crucial to have enough each day.
Osteoporosis: a disorder that is characterized by having porous and fragile bones. Normal bones have small pores inside. Osteoporosis increases the size of the pores and therefore makes the bones weaker and more prone to fracture and injuries.
Calcium can help with preventing cancer of the colon and rectum. Not having enough can cause bones to become weak and fragile, especially vertebrae.

Be Careful

Taking too much can cause calcification (build up in tissues), hypercalciuria (high levels of calcium in urine), and kidney stones. Milk is good, but don’t drink it like water. Okay? Foods that contain sodium and caffeine (table salt, coffee, tea, etc.) can cause the body to excrete more calcium than normal. I know some of you coffee fanatics might not like it, but lay off on all the Starbucks visits. Caffeine doesn’t just have an effect on calcium but other body functions as well. I will talk about them later in a future post.


  • Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body.
  • It is involved in the function of muscles, bones, the heart, and nerves.
  • Great sources  include dairy products, certain vegetables, such as kale & brocolli, and fortified juices and foods, such as cereal and orange juice.
  • Too much intake can lead to health risks such as kidney stones & buildup in our tissues.