Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with osteopenia and it may not be true. Our bones, designed to carry us upright for our entire lifetime, naturally build-up and break-down along the way. Osteoblasts are responsible for the making of bone, and osteoclasts remove old bone as those minerals are used elsewhere in the body. When we are young and growing, the build-up of bone exceeds the break-down. By the time we reach our thirties, bones are considered to be at peak density. As we progress towards our late thirties and early forties (and the second half of life) the break-down of bone exceeds the build-up. This is a normal part of the aging process, but we’ve been warned that it’s not.
As a result, doctors prescribe Fosamax, Boniva and other drugs to help “build bone density,” and they come with a slew of undesirable side effects; ulcers, liver damage, vision loss, renal failure and jaw bone decay. Fosamax works by stopping the break-down process of old bone. This in turn, STOPS the formation of new bone. Only bone loss (called resorption) can initiate healthy new bone formation (called deposition or formation).
Our body is brilliant – it won’t create new bone if old bone is not breaking down. Fosamax and other bone drugs cause old bone tissue to pile up, making bones seem denser, but they are actually more brittle. Do not get caught in this bone scam! Pharmaceutical drugs do not create healthy bones.
Another BIG misconception is that we need excessive amounts of calcium. Bones are made up of approximately 35% latticed protein (collagen matrix), that gives bones their flexibility and 65% mineralized collagen that gives bones their strength. Overdosing on calcium supplements contributes to kidney stones, gallstones and calcification of the soft tissue. Studies show that women with the highest bone density, obtained through calcium supplementation, have a 300% higher risk of breast cancer. Holy crap! Don’t take calcium supplements.
As long as we are alive and breathing, we can rebuild healthy bone tissue by eliminating substances and activities that contribute to bone loss:
ALCOHOL – Alcohol, in excess, depletes magnesium and lowers production of parathyroid hormone. According to Dr. Miriam Nelson (Strong Women, Strong Bones) consuming more than seven alcoholic drinks per week is associated with an increased risk of low bone density, fractures and falls. And, if we drink those seven drinks in one day the possibility of falling is pretty darn good!
CAFFEINE – Caffeine increases urinary secretion of calcium. Soda, coffee, soft drinks, tea, chocolate and some prescription medications contain caffeine.
LACK OF EXERCISE – If we don’t use our bones in some type of daily exercise and apply pressure to them, we will lose them. “That’s why astronauts lose bone mass in space. Bones are meant to resist gravity.”
PROTEIN – We need protein to build collagen for flexibility and to maintain muscle and bone strength. An excessive intake of protein (Atkins or Paleo type diet) can increase urinary excretion of calcium, and an insufficient intake (Vegan type diet) can inhibit vitamin D absorption, weakening the entire structure. Balance is the key.
PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION – Blood thinners, thyroid hormones, chemotherapy, statin drugs, anti depressants and heartburn medication all contribute to bone loss.
SODA – Soda contains phosphoric acid. The body uses calcium (alkaline mineral) to balance the acidity created by soda.
SUGAR – High sugar intake increases the urinary excretion of zinc, calcium, magnesium, chromium and copper. This large loss of nutrients can contribute to osteoporosis, arthritis and many other diseases as well.
EATING OUT OF SEASON – Inhibits vitamin D absorption, weakens the kidneys and bones.
The bones need more than just calcium to be healthy and strong. Nutrients essential to bone health include magnesium, calcium, boron, potassium, copper, manganese, zinc, Vitamin K, C, D, E, folic acid, sulphur rich foods, amino acids and protein:
* Vitamin K helps produce osteocalcin that aids bone formation. Good sources of K are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, asparagus, and liver.
* Sulfur rich food is needed for the synthesis of collagen. Sources include eggs, cabbage, fish, garlic, Brussels sprouts, kale and onions.
* Vitamin A, D, E & K are all fat-soluble. Diets too low in fat or fat-free do not produce adequate bile and inhibits absorption of vitamins.
* Zinc, essential for protein synthesis and formation of collagen, is found in meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
* The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. The best source of vitamin D comes from the sun. Give yourself the gift of twenty minutes of daily sun exposure, without sunscreen.
* Bone density is dependent on weight bearing exercises like walking, yoga, strength training, and running. When the body gets regular exercise it deposits minerals in the bones. Take a hike and get moving!
* And, bone broths. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good old-fashioned bone stock to help strengthen bones.
I had a client that was vegan since she was thirteen years old. At twenty-eight, she was diagnosed with osteoporosis in her hip and walked with a limp. I advised her to begin drinking bone stocks every day. She said she couldn’t eat anything that came from an animal.
The following week I received an email from her. She said she was shopping for produce at her local farmer’s market when one of the farmers asked why she was limping. She told him about her disease. He said, “Hold on! I’ll be right back.” He hopped into the back of his truck and came back with a bag filled with beef bones. He handed it to her and said, “Boil these in water and drink the liquid every day.” She said, “First, you tell me to drink bone stock, then a farmer in Ohio tells me the same thing. I have to listen.” And, she did. It took one year to heal her condition.
Bone stocks are so important to rebuilding our strength and health that I have an entire chapter dedicated to them in my book, Health is Wealth – Make a Delicious Investment in You. Make no bones about it; sunlight, adequate exercise and proper nutrition are essential to bone health. There are so many delicious ways to strengthen your body. Now get your beautiful bones into the kitchen and cook up some supportive stock.