If you think drinking 3 glasses of milk a day or eating your morning yogurt will prevent, cure, or treat osteoporosis, think again. There are so many other factors to consider. First, let’s discuss the common causes of osteoporosis:
1) Genetic history – Did you inherit weaker bones from your parents? Some studies estimate that 80% of our skeletal strength comes from our parents.
2) Vitamin and mineral deficiency – not just calcium but many others play a role in the whole process of bone health.
3) Soda consumption (even diet) – The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who consume just one soda daily have 5-7% less bone material than women who limit soda to just once a month.
4) Lack of fruits and veggies – a wide array of rich nutrients buffer the breakdown of bone. The British Journal of Nutrition reported that post-menopausal women who ate 5 servings of fruits and veggies daily were between 200-400% better in terms of their bone mineral density loss.
5) Lack of weight-bearing exercise – technology has impacted how much we sit.
How much calcium do you need? Most recommendations say for women ages 19-50 about 1000 mg/per day. For 50 + or post-menopause, 1200 mg/per day. But, like I said earlier, it is not that simple. The vast majority of the world population consumes much less calcium than we do in the US and have less cases of osteoporosis.
Too much calcium can actually inhibit the absorption of another key mineral the body needs for bone health, magnesium. Magnesium aids in bone formation and helps regulate calcium transfer as well. Most of us need more of this mineral. To do so, eat more leafy greens, seeds, nuts, and fish. On the same note, Vitamin D, is absolutely essential for bone density and quite possibly more important than calcium. If you don’t get daily sunlight, supplement by taking Vitamin D3. An added benefit would be one with magnesium included.
I cannot understate how important diet is in the balance of minerals and calcium absorption. The body is always trying to maintain homeostasis (balance). The typical American diet, rich in processed food increases acidic levels throughout the body. In order to get a balanced PH level, the body breaks down certain vitamins and minerals to stabilize, one of which is calcium. Other factors that wreak havoc on calcium uptake are excessive caffeine, alcohol, and chronic stress.
In order to get better bone health one must improve nutrition, increase activity level, and maintain proper hormone regulation. Start by changing your diet from highly acidic to more of an alkaline based. Include large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of these have good amounts of potassium that help regulate the acidic load. Choose limited dairy products (milk based) and cut back on red meat as both will increase acid levels. Also, begin a strength training program. Weight training will overload not only the muscles but the bones as well. This overload will help lay down new bone and increase bone formation. Incorporate weight training a minimum of 2-3 times a week. Be active and walk daily for heart health, bone health, and mental health. Grab a pair of 3-5 lb dumbbells to carry with you. This will also help overload to form new bone. To reduce stress and balance hormone levels, get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night. Stretch, meditate daily or engage in Yoga a few times a week to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol (stress hormone) will also inhibit calcium uptake and prevent bone formation.