BONE HEALTH : Facts and Fiction
One of the top ten prescriptions for women (and now men) in the United States are drugs for osteoporosis, osteopenia and other bone concerns. We’ve been told by the medical community and many in the supplement industry that bone loss is the result of calcium deficiency. However, bone is composed of many different minerals and needs proper vitamins and hormones to effectively utilize those minerals.
Strong bones are much like building a skyscraper. First, you need a strong framework. In a building this is steel girders. In our bones, this is the mineral, silica. Next, we need concrete and just like in building materials, the best concrete is a mix of minerals; large amounts of calcium, moderate amounts of phosphorus and magnesium, trace amounts of the trace minerals like copper, iron, etc. Sodium is another critical mineral as it keeps the other minerals (like calcium) in a liquid form that is easily uptaken and used. The next stage is to make the structure pliable and able to handle the weather. In a building these are glass, shingles, siding, etc. In our bones this is natural flourine and vitamins like D and K.
We also need construction workers to put it all together and repair or replace any old, weakened or damaged parts. There are two main construction workers in the bone: Oestoclasts and Oestoblasts. The ‘calsts’ are demolition guys that destroy the old and damaged bone structures and the ‘blasts’ are the guys that build and rebuild the bones. They can be influenced by any number of factors: hormones (like estrogens), injuries, dietary imbalances, environmental contaminates, etc.
Drugs like Fosamax ®, Actonel®, or Boniva® are known as “bisfosphonates”, and technically are chemical forms of sodium. Sodium in necessary to keep calcium and other minerals in solution so they can be absorbed properly. However, these CHEMICAL forms of sodium are actually the worst strategies for dealing with bone loss, because these drugs work by actually killing the osteoclasts. When these repairing cells die off, you’re left with only the osteoblasts, which just build bone regardless how healthy the underlaying structure may be. Thus, we get bone that looks great on the bone density tests, but they are NOT stronger. The bones actually become weaker, more brittle, and in the long term increase the risk of multiple fractures. Slip on the ice under these conditions and the bone doesn’t just break… it shatters. Also, this chemical form of Sodium has a very temporary effect on liquefying the calcium and other minerals, leaving brittle deposits in some places and destroying bone in others. The jaw bone and teeth are often the first sites to suffer the ill effects of these drugs. The other drawback is that these drugs are notorious for causing stomach and small intestine problems.
So how do we get and keep strong bones?
First, avoid things that deplete bone. Sodapop is at the top of this list. The carbonation places large demands on our mineral requirements. It takes 2 full gallons of a quality mineral water to put back what just one 20 oz soda will pull from our bones and muscles.
Steroids are very detrimental for bone density, and will increase the risk of osteoporosis. Asthma, skin conditions and many autoimmune diseases, are treated wtih steroids. Over the counter creams that contain cortisone can have a detrimental impact on the bones beneath for up to six full months from just one application. So use homeopathic, mineral and herbal alternatives whenever possible.
Soy is another detrimental food that has been heavily marketed to make us believe it’s the wonder food that will feed the world and cure all manner of health problems. The truth is that soy is loaded with phytoestrogens, which the human body cannot covert to other forms of estrogen. Instead, soy disrupts the endocrine system, especially the thyroid and parathyroid, the two endocrine glands that produce hormones (like calcitonin) which impact calcium uptake and bone density. Soy is also one of the most genetically modified foods and the GMO varieties are rampantly cross pollinating with even the so-call "organic" soy bean plants. Soy has been linked to osteoporosis, low testosterone, thyroid diseases, estrogen driven breast cancers, low sex drive and infertility. Better choices: Instead of soy milk, use oat milk, rice milk or almond milk. Instead of tofu, use lentils, quinoa or eggs. Seitan is also an option but it is pure wheat glutin so it is not appropriate for celiacs or everyday use. (Never tried quinoa? It’s available everyday on the hot buffet in the new Market, if you’d like to give it a taste.)
Next, feed your bones. A quality sea salt is at the top of the list for helping with cell and bone health. Table salt will further deplete sodium, creating a vicious cycle of wanting more and more salt as the sodium levels continue to drop, and it makes us bloat and raises blood pressure. However, a good sea salt will stabilize blood pressure, reduce bloating and keeps the calcium and other minerals in solution, helping with uptake and preventing calcification problems like kidney stones, cataracts, bone spurs, breast calcifications, etc. Some of the best options are Himalayan pink, Alaea (a red clay salt from Hawaii), and Bolivian Pink. These salt varieties contain all those wonderful trace minerals from our ancient oceans (before they got contaminated with industrial toxins), which are difficult to get in your food due to the challenges of modern farming practices. Black Lava salt is another great option as it’s high in the trace and chelating minerals that bind with heavy minerals. We use it whenever we make fish to keep any heavy metals from being absorbed and it lends a unique slightly smokey flavor. Signs that we need more sodium are: light sensitivity and wrinkles, especially little lines in the lips and crows feet around the eyes. Also, craving for soda or other sweet or salty foods. We carry several varieties of the good kinds of salt in the new store, both in the bulk herbs and on the shelves. Just 1/8th tsp per day can do wonders.
Silica is the frame work for sturdy bones and teeth. Good silica sources are celery, sesame seeds, apple skins, horsetail herb, steel cut oats, alfalfa, beets, brown jasmine rice, onions and quinoa. Some of the signs that your bones need more silica: smelly feet and/or armpits, sties and/or slow healing skin, and hair with split ends or nails that flake or peel.
Though not the only solution, a good calcium is part of the bone health equation. A recent 5 year independent study of several thousand women and a large number of different calcium products found that the liquid calcium from LifeTIME tied for #1 in its bioavailability (how easily it could be used by the body) and its positive impact on overall bone health. Great news considering how inexpensive this calcium is. Good food sources are all dark leafy greens (especially kale and chard), raw milk cheeses, yogurt, oats and bone broths.
Vitamin D is also a necessary nutrient. Since vitamin D is one of the fat soluble vitamins, if you are taking an oral form, you should have your levels checked from time to time to make sure it doesn’t build to toxic levels. The best way to get vitamin D is 20 minutes of direct sun light on your skin (without sunscreen!). A 20 minute walk in the sunshine 3 times per week can provide both necessary exercise for bone health AND provide the proper dose of Vitamin D. Other good sources of Vitamin D are eggs, fish, and meats, which also provide the amino acids needed for healthy bone structure.
Exercise at least 20 minutes per day. A short brisk walk will trigger the osteoclasts to break down old bone and osteoblasts to build new. The Vibe is also a great way to increase bone density. Cosmenauts have been using this “jiggle machine” to keep their bones strong in space for more than four decades. Just 10 minutes a day at low speed can have noticeable results in just 6 months.
Last, but not least; it takes time to build good bone structure. What you do today, will take a minimum of 6 weeks to start seeing results. As we age, that time frame increases by 1 week for every year over 40. So, if you are 80 years old, it will take at least 46 weeks to improve your bone health. The good news is: Regardless of your age, it CAN improve! All without expensive drugs, just a little sea salt, good food and walking.
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