Protecting your Bones from the Silent Thief

March 28, 2016 Debbie Bowman

Called the 'silent thief' because bone loss occurs without any symptoms, osteoporosis causes fractures, disability and deformity. When bone is weakened by osteoporosis even simple movements such as bending down or coughing can cause fractures. 

Bone is a organ made up of dynamic, living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. In fact, we end up with a completely new skeleton about every ten years.  That being said, osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn't keep up with the removal of old bone.  

The good news is it's possible to prevent, delay or lesson bone loss through lifestyle changes, such as daily weight bearing exercise and a healthy diet.

When we think of nutrition for our bones we usually think of calcium. One of the most abundant minerals in the human body, calcium isn't only important for bone health, it's also important for muscle development, healthy blood pressure and the health of our skin. The body maintains blood levels of calcium within a narrow range. If you’re not getting calcium from the diet, then the body pulls calcium from the bones in order to sustain other functions more important for immediate survival.  Okay, so calcium is important to our overall health - but how do we ensure we are getting enough?

It's common knowledge that dairy products are calcium rich, in fact, the words "milk" and "calcium" are often used interchangeably in the popular press. But there is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggest dairy products, especially those which are pasteurized, may not be the best way for people to get sufficient calcium into their bones. This is because pasteurized milk acidifies the body's pH, which in turn triggers a biological correction.  When this correction occurs, pH neutralizing calcium is leeched from the bones in order to alkalize an overly acidic body.  You may be skeptical when you read this - we've heard commercials stating "milk is good for the bones" and '"milk does a body good" for most of our lives.  But listen to this, the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are also the countries with the largest milk consumption.  

 

Thankfully, there are many non-dairy foods that are surprisingly good sources of calcium.  Here is a list of some of the best non-dairy sources of calcium:

• Bone broth

• Canned salmon with bones -

• Sardines

• Bok choy

• Collard greens

• White beans

• Dried figs

• Kale

• Black eyed peas

• Almonds

• Sesame seeds

• Brocolli

• Blackstrap molasses

Calcium is important, but when it comes to building bone calcium doesn't work on its own.  Instead, calcium works in conjunction with other vitamins and minerals to support our skeleton - particularly vitamin D, vitamin K2 and magnesium.

Vitamin D is required by our body to help our bones absorb calcium.  Some researches even think that increasing one's level of vitamin D can help to prevent osteoporosis.  Vitamin D is produced in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight, but here in the Comox Valley, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from the sun - especially between the months of October and April when the sun is at its lower zenith.  In fact, up to 85 percent of North Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D.  Since food sources of vitamin D are scarce, it is recommend that we supplement with vitamin D to ensure we are getting enough.  

Vitamin K2 is critical to the protection of our bone mass because it helps to move the calcium into the proper areas - namely our bones and our teeth.  Vitamin K2 also helps to remove calcium from areas where is should not be - such as our arteries and soft tissues.  Vitamin K2 isn't easy to get from food and there is no test for vitamin K2 deficiency at this time, but if you are suffering from osteoporosis, heart disease or diabetes then you are likely to be deficient in vitamin K2.  

Foods rich in K2 are grass fed organic animal products, such as eggs, butter and dairy, natto or other fermented foods cultured with a specific starter of vitamin K2 producing bacteria, goose liver pate, and certain cheeses, such as brie and gouda.  One can also take a K2 supplement.  Up to 185 mcg daily is considered a healthy dose.  

Magnesium is necessary for the conversion of vitamin D into its active form so it can turn on calcium absorption.  Rich sources of magnesium are beans and nuts, whole grains and green leafy vegetables.  However, the best source of magnesium is raw organic cacao. Yes, high quality chocolate is actually good for you.  

Trace minerals are also important for the health of our bones as well as many of our body's functions.  An excellent source of trace minerals is Himalayan pink salt, as it contains all of the 84 elements found in our body.  How about some dark chocolate sprinkled with course Himalayan salt?  

Besides a healthy diet, regular exercise is incredibly important for staving off osteoporosis. Bones get stronger with weight bearing exercises. Walking, hiking, lifting weights, climbing stairs and dancing are all examples of daily activities that force your body to work against gravity, thereby strengthening your bones as well as your muscles.