I hope to enjoy a long and happy life and do my best to be healthy into my old age. There are just so many things to do, see and experience! Years ago, somehow I got the idea that maybe, if I took really good care of myself, it might be possible to live to 100 AND still be able to do cartwheels on the beach. Now, every time I go to the beach, I make sure to do cartwheels and handstands because it’s fun, and to make sure I still can. I’m 36 now and as of last month, I still can. We will see if I can keep it up for the next 64 years! Today I indulged my curiosity and found this video of a 91 year old woman doing cartwheels and much more. There is hope!!!!!
One thing I know will help me reach my silly goal, is having healthy, strong bones. Today I am going to first share some important information and then share tips of what you can do to keep your bones healthy and strong, and prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, it is estimated that 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, of which 80% are women. Yikes, that is a lot! Their website also says “People used to think that osteoporosis was an inevitable part of aging. Today we know a lot more about how to prevent, detect, and treat the disease. You are never too young or old to take care of your bones. Good lifestyle habits can help you protect your bones and decrease your chance of getting osteoporosis.” Yay! This is such great news!
You probably already know that calcium and vitamin D (D3 is the best form) are important for healthy bones. What you may not know is that there are many other co-factors for healthy, strong bones. In our culture, most people actually get enough calcium in their diet. What they are lacking are these other major co-factors required for their body to absorb and use it.
Healthy bones are continually broken down and rebuilt in an amazing process called bone remodeling. The co-factors you are going to read about are required for this process to occur.
One of these co-factors is digestion. If you study the anatomy and physiology of your stomach, you will learn that stomach acid is produced in abundance in a healthy stomach. This helps do so much for you, including digesting your proteins (important to provide the matrix the minerals are deposited on to form bones) and provide the acidic environment required for calcium absorption (and other minerals too!).
Another important co-factor is fatty acids. Fatty acids transport calcium across the cell membrane and in to your cells. You get them from eating (and being able to digest!) the healthy fats.
Other minerals are also co-factors. The ways minerals function in your body are very complex. It’s all about balance and the right ratios. Calcium has a relationship with all other minerals and needs to be in the right balance with them for everything to work optimally.
Then there is systemic ph. There are many different optimal ph levels in your body. For example: your stomach, during digestion, optimally has a low or acidic ph. Your blood has an optimal ph closer to neutral. Your body maintains a tight blood ph range from 7.35 to 7.45 to keep you alive. To do this, your body has such an amazing system in place!
Calcium is an alkaline substance. When your blood becomes too acidic, calcium is drawn from your bones into your blood. When blood becomes too alkaline calcium separates out of your blood and gets deposited in tissues, ideally your bones.
One other co-factor is hydration. Water keeps your blood fluid so it is able to carry calcium throughout your body so it can be used where it’s needed. Electrolytes are minerals that can conduct electricity when dissolved in water. They are necessary to properly absorb the water you drink and need to be balanced to help calcium transfer in and out of cells.
Hormones are also a co-factor. Among many other things, they are involved in the process of building and breaking down bone as needed, they help regulate the levels of calcium in your blood and help decrease the loss of calcium in your urine. They also help pull calcium from digestion and get it into your blood.
One more co-factor is vitamins, especially the fat soluble (you need to eat healthy fats with them to absorb them) ones A,D, E and K2. The fat soluble vitamins work synergistically with each other and with minerals. Each vitamin has many functions, so I will just list a few here. Vitamin A is involved in laying down new bone cells. Vitamin D helps maintain calcium absorption and vitamin K2 acts as a co-factor in important enzyme reactions.
So now that you know a little more about how it all works, here are some things you can do to keep your bones strong and healthy. I’ve also listed a few symptoms, that if you experience, can be a sign you may benefit from the suggestions in that area.
1. Improve your digestion by relaxing before, during and even after meals. Digestive juices are created and flow more easily when you are relaxed. The next thing to try is a tincture of herbal digestive bitters before meals. This can stimulate your stomach to digest properly on it’s own. You can find them at health food stores or online. Another option is drinking 1 Tbs. of raw apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice in 4oz of room temperature water 5 minutes before meals to stimulate digestion. It can also help lower the ph of your stomach.
Symptoms that may be a sign of a need for improved digestion include heartburn, acid re-flux, bloating within one hour of eating, and a sense of excess fullness after meals.
2. Eat a variety of healthy fats (and avoid the unhealthy fats). Healthy fats are organic, cold pressed and unrefined. They include avocado, coconut, extra-virgin olive oil, some nut and seed oils and red palm oil. Animal fats from happy and healthy pastured animals that ate their natural diets (NOT feedlot animals) are healthy fats too. The unhealthy fats to avoid include corn, soy, cottonseed, canola, grape seed, safflower, and vegetable oils, margarine, and anything partially hydrogenated. These are, sadly, most of the oils used in our packaged foods today.
Signs and symptoms that may be an indicator of a need for more fatty acids and/or better fat digestion include: being on a low fat diet now or in previous years, having dry flaky skin or dandruff or muscles that are easily fatigued.
3. Eat mineral rich foods. One of the best mineral rich foods to support bone health is bone broth. You can make your own in 2 hours in an instant-pot or purchase it in the refrigerator or freezer section of health food stores. You want to find one that is thick and gelatinous and make sure it is from healthy happy pastured animals. If bone broth seems strange, this article may sway you. If not, there are plenty of other options! Other mineral rich foods include nuts, celery, sea vegetables, root vegetables, avocado, dark leafy greens, cheese, yogurt, seafood, meats, and poultry.
Signs and symptoms that can indicate a need for more minerals, a better balance or better digestion of them include: being shorter than you used to be, reduced bone density on a bone scan, or white spots on your fingernails.
4. Avoid refined sugar! Remember before, when I wrote about calcium being pulled from your bones to keep your blood ph in the optimal range? Well, refined sugar acidifies your blood, causing calcium to be pulled from your bones. It has absolutely no nutritional value and depletes your stores of magnesium, one of those important other mineral co-factors required for strong and healthy bones.
Eating refined sugar and/or refined carbohydrates can lead to chronically imbalanced blood sugar, which can lead to hormonal imbalances. It is futile to address hormonal imbalances until blood sugar regulation is balanced. Keep your blood sugar balanced by eating a balance of protein, healthy fats and unrefined carbohydrates at each meal and snack. In our culture we tend to eat way too many carbohydrates (especially refined ones), not enough protein, too many of the unhealthy fats and too few of the healthy fats.
Signs and symptoms that can indicate a need for balancing your blood sugar include: waking up a few hours after falling asleep and having a hard time falling back asleep, craving coffee or sugar in the afternoon and being shaky or irritable before meals.
5. Eat more fat soluble vitamins. Good sources of vitamin A are liver, butter and eggs. Beneficial bacteria in healthy intestines actually make vitamin K2 for you! The beneficial bacteria that in fermented foods like raw saurkraut, kimchee, kombucha, and whole milk yougurt. You can also get vitamin K from green leafy vegetables, broccoli, tomatoes and cauliflower. Remember that fat soluble vitamins need fat to be used in your body, so put some butter on your broccoli!
Vitamin D is one vitamin that it is almost impossible to get enough from food alone. We make it from sunlight, but sunscreen blocks this process. Unless you sunbathe often without sunscreen (which is actually ok as long as you are not getting burned) a vitamin D3 supplement is something to consider.
6. Drink water and add a pinch of sea salt for electrolytes. How much water? Drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces plus 1.5 oz for every oz of diuretic up to 1 gallon per day. If you are drinking so many diuretics (coffee, black, green and some herbal teas, soda, alcohol, etc.) that you would need to drink over a gallon of water to compensate, consider cutting down on diuretics.
Signs and symptoms that you are not drinking enough water include headaches, fatigue and cramps.
I hope this post is helpful and gives you an idea of how much impact diet can have on your bone health! Thanks so much for reading. Larissa
P.S. If you would like a personalized assessment of your co-factors and a personalized plan to maintain your strong bones, prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis, I would love to work with you! I work with local clients AND distance clients via Skype and/or phone. You can schedule online here, or call me at (541)318-4757.