Osteoporosis And Calcium Assimilation
Americans consume far more dairy products and calcium-fortified products (orange juice and other foods that calcium has been added to, antacids, etc.) per capita than the citizens of any other country on earth. Yet we eat far less total food, take in less calcium and get less exercise than our own recent ancestors did. We also consume much more animal protein and foods that contain phosphates (such as soft drinks). It really shouldn’t be surprising that we also have the world’s highest rates of osteoporosis and bone fractures among elderly people. It is the way calcium is absorbed into the body that is much more important than the amount of calcium that is consumed that builds strong and healthy bones.
Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease in which the bones progressively lose bone mass, which can lead to skeletal deformities and fractures, especially of the hips. It is a disease that primarily affects women, although men can also be affected, usually as a side effect from the use of certain drugs and steroids. We form the majority of our bone mass by the age of 16, and reach peak density around the age of 30. While bone loss accelerates after a woman goes through menopause, bone loss actually starts to occur in our early 30’s. This is why it is so important for women of every age to ensure they are assimilating enough calcium every day to help prevent this disease.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies, but there are many factors involved to ensure the proper absorption of calcium. This mineral needs an acid base in the stomach (HCl) to break down correctly, so taking antacids as your calcium source will not help you assimilate the calcium. Many other nutrients are necessary for proper calcium absorption which include phosphorus (the second most abundant mineral in our bodies), magnesium, boron, copper, potassium, folic acid, vitamins B6, C, D, E and K and moderate healthy sources of protein, such as soy. Weight-bearing exercise like walking is also extremely important in building healthier bone mass and slowing the rate of degeneration.
Getting your calcium from food is one of the best ways to ensure you are assimilating calcium into your body correctly as nuts, seeds, grains and vegetables also contain many of these other nutrients that help the body absorb calcium correctly. To ensure the best absorption, choose foods with a calcium/phosphorus ratio of 2:1. Dark green leafy vegetables and seaweeds, and certain nuts and seeds generally contain a 2:1 ratio, while the calcium/phosphorus ratio in milk is less than ideal at 1:1, another reason why we have trouble assimilating any calcium from milk products. And a word of caution to the younger women and girls…stop trying to be so Kate Moss-thin! Osteoporosis is most prevalent in small-boned, thin women.
According to conventional Western medicine, osteoporosis is irreversible, yet many natural healing experts and medical professionals such as Dr. John Lee have proven otherwise. Tufts University, among numerous others, have conducted many different studies on this issue through the years, finding that a combination of a healthy diet, moderate weight-bearing exercise and supplementation with good quality nutritional supplements has actually reversed the disease and even better, built healthy bone mass in the individuals who have participated, both men and women. Conversely, many of the prescription products on the market that are prescribed for osteoporosis might build bone mass, but it is often fragile and weak, not to mention the side affects that these drugs can incur.
Other factors in building and maintaining healthy bone mass include avoiding smoking, alcohol and caffeine which have all been demonstrated to interfere with calcium metabolism. While whole, unprocessed grains are healthy, calcium supplements should generally not be taken at the same time as grains are eaten because these grains contain a substance that binds with calcium and prevents its uptake. Carbonated soft drinks contain high amounts of phosphates that cause the body to excrete calcium, even if calcium must be taken from the bones to do this, so these kinds of drinks should be avoided, as should any food high in phosphates. White sugar and excessive sodium intake also inhibit calcium assimilation.
Many herbs are also high in calcium and the other nutrients needed for proper absorption such as alfalfa, barley grass, black cohosh, boneset, dandelion root, nettle, parsley, rose hips and yucca. It’s never too early to start taking care of your body and feeding it the right nutrition it needs to perform all of its wonderful functions, but it’s also never too late, either! Support your bones with diet and exercise and they will continue to support you for your whole life.
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are for educational purposes only. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Written by terraken
Herbal Practitioner, Animal Caretaker, Professional Writer…and totally self-employed!