A common misconception is that our bones are formed in childhood, grow until we mature, and then do not change. It’s natural to get that impression from observing a skeleton. But this is not the case. Our bones are alive! This is why they can develop Osteoporosis. Our skeletons are composed of dynamic tissue that is constantly breaking down and regenerating. If our health habits are contrary to what nature demands, there will be more breaking down of our bone cells, and insufficient regeneration to keep our skeletons strong enough to support us. The bones become so porous that the spaces between mineral deposits enlarge and the bones then look like honeycomb. When this occurs, a cough or a slight movement may be enough to fracture a bone. Starting around the age of 30 women and men begin to lose approximately one percent of bone per year. Post-Menopause, women’s loss goes up to approximately five percent per year. Frightening! However, men, who have high levels of sex hormones into old age, do not have this hormone related bone loss. Initially, their bones are heavier and this gives them additional protection. They are not immune, however, because more and more men are now succumbing to bone degeneration due to junk food, over-consumption of alcohol and sedentary lives. It is a degenerative condition, and can be avoided and even reversed. Do not be disheartened. There are lots of things you can do, starting right now, no matter what age, to ensure a stronger skeleton into middle and even older age.
To improve Bone density AVOID:
Sugar tends to leach the body of precious minerals and vitamins. For example to protect the blood from sugar, calcium is leached from the teeth and bones.
Avoidance of this dangerous substance requires constant vigilance. Often people are unaware that they are eating sugar, because it can be listed as fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, dextrose, maltodextrine, corn syrup and maple syrup.
Artificial sweeteners need more detoxification processes than sugar so they can be more harmful. (We have a full article on artificial sweeteners available at the clinic if needed).
It has been known for decades that synthetic thyroid medications stimulate osteoclast activity, accelerating bone reabsorption. Only natural, porcine thyroid hormones are safe for your bones.
Caffeine occurs in coffee, tea, coke, milo, green tea and chocolate. Heavy consumption of this chemical doubles your need for calcium because, as the body strains to eliminate what it perceives as poison, it flushes calcium from your body, via the kidneys. It also allows more calcium to be secreted into the gastrointestinal tract. Because of this, three cups of coffee per day increases your Osteoporosis risk by 82 percent!
Everything said about the dangers of caffeine/sugar also applies to soft drinks. The caffeine in cola drinks is even more harmful because it is more concentrated, and not wrapped up with tannic acids as in coffee and tea.
The phosphoric acid in soft drinks combines with calcium in the body and causes it to be excreted in the urine, leading to demineralization of the bones. Phosphoric acid also leads to kidney and bladder stones, and stones which get caught in the urethra. Not a pleasant experience!
There are 12 to 15 teaspoons of sugar in every 600ml bottle of nondiet soft drinks. The sugar is necessary because the phosphoric acid makes the acidity of soft drinks approximately that of vinegar, and it would be undrinkable without lots of sugar and flavourings.
There are four bone enemies in that tempting chocolate treat; sugar and caffeine, lecithin to make it smooth, oxalic acid, which is notorious for combining with calcium and magnesium and rendering them unusable, theobromine and alkaloid related to caffeine, which has been shown to cause genetic damage. Next time you get a chocolate attack don’t give in to it – turn to carob, which is delicious, beneficial and contains lots of calcium.
Too Many Grains
Grains can be inflammatory so if we want to improve our bones it is better to lift the proteins in our diet and not to dominate our diet with grains especially gluten. Try cutting the grain/ carbohydrate meals down to one meal a day maximum and using gluten free grains like – rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth and lupin.
Because our bones constantly break down and renew themselves throughout our lives it is essential to avoid any substance that retards new bone formation. Alcohol does this in several ways: it decreases intestinal absorption of calcium and it damages the liver, thus stopping the metabolic process that supplies your body with vitamin D, which is crucial for calcium utilisation. Alcoholics are known to have ten times the risk of contracting Osteoporosis! If you drink alcoholic beverages, cut down to practically nothing or quit altogether. Your bones and the rest of your body will thank you in many ways you can’t even imagine.
Smokers, and even those exposed to second-hand smoke; have up to 30 percent less bone mineral content than non-smokers. Cadmium, one of the many poisons in tobacco smoke, interferes with new bone formation.
Salt in the form of Sodium Chloride
Excess table salt causes the loss of large amounts of calcium in the urine, and when calcium is excreted that way, blood levels of calcium drop. This then causes the parathyroid hormone to be released, which has to break down bone in an effort to restore the level of calcium in the blood.
Celtic and Himalayan salts are healthier. They are free from chlorine bleach and contain valuable minerals. Do not go salt-free as that will lead to adrenal exhaustion, and remember that a pinch of salt in your drinking water is the best way to avoid dehydration.
For decades we have been bombarded with information telling us we must drink lots of milk and eat yoghurt and cheese in order to get calcium. The advertisings don’t mention that the calcium in dairy products is altered by pasteurisation and homogenisation and is turned into a hard mineral. When this denatured form of calcium gets into the bloodstream, it becomes deposited along the insides of the blood vessels. These deposits can lead to Arteriosclerosis or, when it is deposited in the joints, it can lead to Arthritis.
If you fancy yoghurt, shun the chemicalized commercial brands and hunt for those made from goat or sheep’s milk and be sure that it hasn’t been denatured. When making decisions about milk products, remember this: calves fed only pasteurised milk do not survive beyond six weeks, if the milk is also homogenised, they live two to four weeks. Further, an expert on pasteurisation said that the process destroys 34 enzymes in milk, making it indigestible. The ‘authorities’ who are making it so difficult for us to obtain old-fashioned dairy products should give some thought as to why there is such an increase of lactose intolerance, which is no doubt simply an intolerance to the dreadful things done to what used to be a pure food. Sometimes the more we know the more we do not want to know.
One, from the International Journal of Cardiology, 33:19, 1991, says, “The countries with the highest calcium consumption (from dairy) have the highest mortality rates in the world (Scandinavian countries, USA and New Zealand), while the countries with the lowest calcium consumption (Japan and Portugal) have the lowest mortality rates”. And, from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinal Metabolism, 81:2149, 1996, “ Among men less than 50 years of age, high blood calcium levels are associated with a 30-200% increase in mortality from cardiovascular disease.” The Japanese have the longest disease-free lifespan and only consume around 400mg per day.
If we look back in history there are 300,000 generations of man who were hunters and gatherers, followed by 500 generations during the agricultural era, 10 generations throughout industrial times and recently 2 generations of food processing. When you look at our history we as humans are designed physiological and biochemically to eat in a more hunter gatherer way. As our genes do not differ from the genes of our ancestors, maybe we should not be eating things like bread, potato, pasta, rice and milk products. The Paleo Diet as Loren Cordain talks of in his book, The Paleo Solution, is well worth a study to reduce acidity and inflammation in the body. As we get older our bodies find it harder to eliminate acidity so it is even more important to reduce acid forming substances in our diet. It is not just about reducing refined carbohydrates, but it is also about having a very high vegetable intake especially if we are eating protein based foods.
When the body is presented with too much acid in the body the blood tries to buffer things and in doing so it starts to release minerals from the bones and this increases the likelihood of Osteoporosis. *Ref. Dr. Jurgen Vormann Professor of Biochemistry and Nutritionist.
You have to be even more careful with your acid levels if you do excessive exercise when inflammation and lactic acid is built up. Exercise is important for Osteoporosis but not done to excess.
Contains high levels of aluminium.
They can be heavily contaminated with lead, as well as with dieldrin and aldrin - two deadly pesticides. Dolomite is also dangerous, as it often contains aluminium, arsenic, cadmium and lead.
Sodium Fluoride and Aluminium
The chemical pushers maintain that fluoridated water strengthens bones. And sure enough, the bones do appear to be thicker, but the truth is that they have been made softer by the fluoride, and fracture much more easily. Four studies reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed strong links between hip fractures and fluoride. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that people given fluoride to cure their Osteoporosis actually wound up with an increased fracture rate.
One of the reasons for this increase is that fluoride destroys enzymes that are vital in bone formation. And don’t forget that the aluminium in cookware is also dangerous, as the aluminium leaches out and is bad for your general health, as well as your bones.
Don’t be fooled by advertisements and ignorant health professionals who say that soy products prevent Osteoporosis. Maybe they do not know enough about soy and maybe we are using soy in our foods too much. Did you know that many of our farmed animals are fed grains and soy instead of grass? This includes lecithin – lecithin and soy are only beneficial for very select people.
Please note after reading this please do not withdraw any medication without medical advice.
Antacids, Digoxin, Isoniazid, Methotrexate, Phenobarbital, Medrol, Aspirin, Dilantin, Tetracyclines, Epilepsy drugs, Laxatives and Blood thinners all play a part in damaging bones.
The use of diuretics leads to an increased risk of bone fractures, because they create a serious loss of calcium. People taking pharmacological strength cortisone drugs over a long period of time may develop Osteoporosis.
Bone Density Testing
The following is reproduced with permission from Dr Peat’s Newsletter:
“No topic can be understood in isolation. People frequently ask me what they should do about their diagnosed Osteoporosis/Osteopenia, and when they mention ‘computer controlled’ and ‘dual Photon X-ray’ bone density tests, my attention tends to jump past their bones, their diet, and their hormones, to the way they must perceive themselves and their place in the world. Are they aware that this is an X-ray that is powerful enough to differentiate very opaque bones from less opaque bones? The soft tissues aren’t being studied, so they are allowed to be ‘overexposed’until they appear black on the film. If a thick area like the thigh or hip is to be measured, are they are aware that the X-ray dose received at the surface where the radiation enters might be 20 times more intense than the radiation that reaches the film, and that the 90 or 95 percent of the missing energy has been absorbed by the person’s cells? If I limited my response to answering the question they thought they had asked me, I would feel that I had joined a conspiracy against them.
My answer has to assume that they are really asking about their health, rather than about a particular medical diagnosis”.
“Neurologists are famous for making exquisitely erudite diagnoses of problems that they can’t do anything to remedy. The owners of expensive dual Photon X-ray absorptiometer diagnostic machines are in a very different position. The remedies for Osteoporosis are things that everyone should be doing anyway, so diagnosis makes no difference in what the physician should recommend to the patient”.
Ultrasound devices can do an extremely good job of evaluating both bone density and strength, rather than just density. Ultrasound stimulates bone repair. X-rays accelerate the rate of bone loss. X-rays do their harm at any dose; there is no threshold at which the harm begins. Also the new thermography may be an option worth looking at as an alternative.
If your physician prescribes a Bone Density Test, remember Dr Peat’s message that bone density is only one measure of bone integrity. Bone hardness and bone flexibility (for these you need boron and magnesium) are equally, possibly even more, important than bone density, and are not measured in these inaccurate, radiating tests.
How To Build Healthy Bones
Vitamin D is probably one of the most fundamental important nutrients to help your bones. If you live in a part of the world where UV-B rays are plentiful all year round (and there are precious few), and if you get adequate sun throughout the year, without sunscreen, your skin will synthesise your Vitamin D from sunlight. Nature, in her infinite wisdom, knows when to stop: if you are getting your Vitamin D from the sun, synthesis in your skin provides its own brakes against D toxicity. But, if you are obliged to depend upon supplementation for this crucial vitamin, you will need to ensure you are not overdosing by having you levels tested. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and not everyone can take it in supplementation.
In Australia, if you live north of Coff’s Harbour, the sun will provide you with sufficient Vitamin D for maintaining and building your bones all year long. That is provided you do full body sunning (as much as modesty permits, and don’t forget your tummy) for 10 to 15 minutes on each side three to four times a week between 10am and 3pm. Yes, that’s right – just the opposite from government recommendations. You will not be able to soak up beneficial rays on overcast or polluted days, and you will need to avoid the scorching summer sun. Do not allow your skin to burn or even tan, if it does you are getting too much sun for your skin type.
Getting the Right Test
Have your doctor order a 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D blood test.
The only blood test that can diagnose Vitamin D deficiency is a 25-hydroxy-Vitamin D [25(OH)D]. Unfortunately, about 10-20% of the doctors in the USA order the wrong test. They order a 1,25-Dihydroxy-Vitamin D, thinking that by measuring the most potent steroid in the system they are getting useful information. They are not, 1,25-Dihydroxy-Vitamin D is an adaptive hormone; it goes up and down with calcium intake.
Do not take any Vitamin D at all if you suffer from Sarcoidosis, or any other disease associated with D toxicity. Taking Vitamin D when it is not needed is dangerous.
The desirable range is no lower than 75nmol/l -150nmol/l. The optimal is still being determined and is probably 100-150nmol/l. With a level below 75nmol/l, you would be wise to take steps to improve your levels of Vitamin D, whether by sunlight or food/supplements. If your level is below 75nmol/l, there is likelihood of bone loss.
If you are unable to get sufficient sun exposure all year, or if your skin does not synthesise Vitamin D well, due to advanced age or genetics, you will need to take special care to eat foods that contain Vitamin D several times a week, or supplement with Vitamin D3 (Make sure it is D3, not any other kind).
Mature skin does not absorb Vitamin D from the sun efficiently. So, it is doubly important for seniors to use supplemental sources, because Vitamin D is crucial for strengthening muscles, thus preventing falls that cause hip fractures. There is an added bonus: Vitamin D is one of our best defences against contracting cancer.
Too much Vitamin A can cause a deficiency of Vitamin D, that’s maybe why some Vitamin A has Vitamin D added to the supplement.
People who have suffered from Osteoporotic fractures are often found to have a deficiency of Vitamin K. Those who have had their gall bladder removed, or who have difficulty digesting fats, are unable to absorb and utilise Vitamin K. Aspirin destroys this Vitamin and this explains why people who take it habitually bruise so easily.
Wheatgrass, chlorophyll, spinach, brussel sprouts, endive, cabbage, broccoli and lettuce all contain Vitamin K. But if you depend upon food for this vitamin, be aware that high intakes are necessary in order to get sufficient and be careful to avoid all Polyunsaturated Oils, as they stop K absorption dead.
Vitamin K is a clotting vitamin so it is not advised for anyone with any personal or family history of clotting.
This root vegetable from Peru has been used for bone building and many other health benefits, for 10,000 years.
You can take the best supplements and eat the best foods until the cows (grass fed of course) come home, but if you do not have an acid environment in your stomach you will not assimilate the nutrients vital for bone health.
There have been many studies proving the need for concentrated proteins for bone health, too numerous to detail here.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2002;75:609-610,773-779, reported that “Bone mineral density may be improved by increasing protein intake in older men and women, as long as they meet the recommended intakes of calcium and Vitamin D...You need both calcium and protein for bone, and if your diet has plenty of both, then your bones are likely to be in better condition than if you are short on one or both of these nutrients...This study and other recently published research go a long way toward refuting concerns that animal protein is bad for bones.”
The mineral boron is essential for bone metabolism, including efficient use of calcium and magnesium and proper functioning of the endocrine glands. As well, boron is required for bone maintenance, and normal blood levels of oestrogen and testosterone. Within eight days of supplementing boron it was found that women lost 40 percent less calcium and 33 percent less magnesium through their urine.
Exacerbating the problem of Osteoporosis, Australia is the most highly fluoridated country in the world. Fluoride remains in the bones and leads to Fluorosis, which mimics Arthritis. Boron antagonises fluoride by the formation of complex ions, which is probably the reason it helps with Arthritis symptoms.
Boron is richest in vegetables and fruits, especially grapes, apples, dates, peaches, raisins and nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts. In Australia, because of our depleted soil, we get little or perhaps no boron from food.
Silica is crucial in keeping bones strong because, without silica, the deposition of mineral salts, especially calcium, cannot take place. The silicon in silica acts similarly to Vitamin D in the hastening of bone formation. It produces new bone tissue in the bone matrix.
Silica alone can regenerate the structure of the body, including the skeleton and skeletal appendages, collagen (the glue that holds us together) nails, skin, hair, cartilage, tendons and ligaments). Studies in the US and Europe point to silica as an essential factor in dealing with bone loss. The older we become, the more our silica is depleted, so we need to supplement.
Manganese is required for the repair of bones and connective tissue, as well as for normal growth and development. Studies have shown that it helps to maintain bone density in post-menopausal women. Diets high in refined carbohydrates do not supply manganese. Further, manganese is poorly absorbed, so supplementation is advised, especially for those at risk of Osteoporosis.
Sesame seeds are reputed to be one of the richest sources of calcium, but this may not be correct. The outside of the seed contains most of the calcium, but it has to be removed and the inside contains only 110mg of calcium to 100gr. raw kale, watercress, spinach, parsley and swiss chard are excellent sources (please do not cook vegetables as cooking brings out the oxalic acid).
Maca powder has the perfect calcium/magnesium ratio, so is an excellent source of calcium. Also good are pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds. Dried Figs contain significant amounts, as do dried apricots. Other foods containing calcium are okra, turnips, parsnips, red kidney beans, chick peas, lentils, barley, brown rice and egg yolk. Sardines, of course, contain lots of calcium. Buy them unsalted and packed in spring water, because canners use unhealthy oils. Carob powder contains lots of calcium, and is delicious when put in desserts. But avoid carob confectioneries because they always contain other ingredients such as lecithin, sugar etc, which are dangerous for your bones. Make your own carob treats from unsweetened carob powder – it’s naturally sweet.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 is a facilitator in the production of progesterone and promotes collagen repair. People with Osteoporosis are often low in this vitamin. If supplementation is needed longer term a complete B complex should be taken because the B Vitamins work in synergy. Activated B6 is the most readily available.
Your bones will become sluggish and stop building bone mass if you do not stimulate them by weight bearing exercise. It is necessary, however, to do the right kind of exercise; a casual stroll will not build bone, nor will swimming, which is a great cardiovascular workout, but not much help to your bones.
Isometric exercises, properly designed to pull on bones and stimulate growth, can be excellent, as can judicious use of lightweights.
Housework, gardening and walking around in the shopping mall don’t count. A brisk walk four or five times each week will go a long way towards strengthening your bones.