Bone Builders and Bone Zappers
Your bones are the body’s framework and if they aren’t strong and healthy they won’t be able to support you as you grow older. Bone will build up reaching their peak density until any age between thirty to thirty-five years. After that bone loss occurs at an annual rate of 0.5% to 2%, which increases in women for ten years after menopause. Bone health is influenced by diet, exercise, dietary supplements and lifestyle (eg, smoking). Optimizing all these factors can help the process of building strong bones. The goal to bone health is to optimize bone building habits while limiting those things that can speed up the breakdown of bone.
Just as muscles respond to exercise, so do our bones. Exercise can reduce fractures. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises that put a little stress on the bone can help maintain and even improve bone density. Walking, aerobics, weight-lifting, jogging, dancing and stair climbing are examples of weight-bearing exercises. Although swimming and cycling are wonderful forms of aerobic exercise, they are not considered weight-bearing because your feet and legs are not bearing your weight. Yoga and Qi Gong have shown not only to be good at building the bones but also shown to decrease the falls because the balance is improving. A decrease in falls leads to a decrease in fractures.
Ninety nine percent of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. Current government guidelines recommend 1300 mg/day for pre-teens and teens, 1000 mg/day for those age 19-50 and 1200 mg/day for those 51 and over. In some parts of the world people do well on much less calcium than this, but they are likely getting more exercise and vitamin D and may not be losing excess calcium due to certain dietary and lifestyle habits, such as from smoking and high sugar and sodium intake. There are many sources of calcium in the diet. Dairy is thought to be the best however there are many other sources that equal or top the amount of calcium per serving. These sources include dark green vegetables including kale, spinach, broccoli, collard greens, turnip greens, oatmeal, almonds, sesame seeds, spinach, dried beans, and soy (organic only).
Without vitamin D, calcium wouldn’t be able to do its job. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from the intestines and prevent its excretion from the kidneys. Numerous studies have found increasing vitamin D levels can help reduce the risk of falls and fractures in the elderly. Many people do not receive adequate time in the sun to make enough vitamin D or do not eat vitamin D rich foods. Experts are now recommending most healthy people aim for 1000 IU per day via food and supplements. Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels to get a more accurate determination of your vitamin D needs.
Vitamin K plays a major role in bone mineralization, meaning it strengthens the bones. Most people take calcium and vitamin D for bone health and to reduce the risk for osteoporosis. Research confirms that calcium and vitamin D can reduce fractures by 16%. But when combined with 45 mg/day MK4, a form of vitamin K2, clinical trials have shown that fractures may decrease by more than 80%. It is so effective that 45 mg/day MK4 has been approved by the Ministry of Health in Japan since 1995 for promoting strong bones. Vitamin K is found primarily in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli and parsley and in smaller amounts in vegetable oils.
Numerous studies have found that those with adequate magnesium intake tend to have better bone density than those with a lower intake of magnesium. Scientists believe that having too little magnesium affects calcium metabolism and the hormones that regulate calcium. Aim for 350-400 mg/day. Nuts, beans and grains are good food sources of magnesium. Magnesium can also be found in supplements individually or can be paired up with calcium and vitamin D.
Eighty five percent of the body’s phosphorus is found in bones and teeth. Because phosphorus is found in a wide variety of foods, needs are easily met. There is actually more concern with excess phosphorus consumption. There is a delicate balance between calcium and phosphorus. When phosphorus intake increases, calcium intake should also increase.
Studies suggest boron may help improve bone mass and enhance calcium metabolism in post menopausal women. There is currently no RDA for boron, but the tolerable upper limit is set at 20 mg/day. Boron can be found in nuts, fruits, beans, peas, lentils, milk, eggs and vegetables.
Recent research has found that omega-3 fats help promote bone formation and can help reduce bone loss in post menopausal women. Omega-3 fats are found largely in oily cold water fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines and tuna. Walnuts and flaxseed are plant-based sources of omega-3 fats. It is also important to limit excess consumption of omega-6 fats which lead to the production of more compounds associated with bone loss. Foods high in omega-6 fats include most vegetable oils, such as corn, sunflower and soybean oils. Americans tend to consume excessive amounts of omega-6 fats and not enough omega-3 fats.
Fruits and Vegetables
A 2003 study in the November issue of The Journal of Nutrition found fennel, celery root, prunes, oranges, French beans, mushrooms and red wine residue to significantly protect against the breakdown of bone tissue when compared to other items such as soy, corn, potatoes, tomatoes and spinach. A recent study found that a diet containing the compound hesperidin, a flavonoid found in citrus, reduced the number of cells that break down bone.
The following can work against your efforts to build and protect your bones by contributing to bone loss:
Caffeine: Try to limit intake to no more than 1-2 caffeinated beverages a day. Caffeine is found in regular coffee, tea, sodas and chocolate. It’s now also being added to many other beverages and products, including some waters, so read the label.
Smoking: We all know smoking is a big no-no for many health reasons. It also contributes to significant bone loss.
Sodium: In general Americans consume too much salt and sodium, largely from processed food intake. Try to keep sodium intake below 2400 milligrams per day.
Too much Vitamin A: While the right amount of vitamin A contributes to bone health, too much may be detrimental. Excess vitamin A from animal sources in the form of retinol may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. Avoid vitamin A supplements that are over 100% of the daily value and instead look for vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. This form is obtained from plant sources, such as carrots, and is not harmful to bone health.
Homeopathy and Bone Fractures
What happens if you do have a fracture, how can you treat it homeopathically? If you do have a fracture and do fall then the first thing to take from a homeopathic perspective is Arnica. If there is a fracture I instruct people to take Arnica 200c every 15 minutes for 5 hours then every 2 hours for 2 days then as needed. Once the bones are set and the pain is less frequently I will prescribe the homeopathic medicine Symphytum. Symphytum will help the bones knit together to provide optimal healing. This combination will increase healing and decrease the pain.
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