With a rise in Osteoporosis, Osteopenia and Osteoarthritis, protecting our bone health and ensuring our bones are as healthy as possible has never been more important. Understanding how diet, physical activity and other lifestyle factors can affect your bone mass is crucial when it comes to bone health.
When we are young, our body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and your bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass around age 30. After that, bone re-modelling continues, but you lose slightly more bone mass than you gain.
How likely you are to develop osteoporosis — a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle — depends on how much bone mass you attain by the time you reach age 30 and how rapidly you lose it after that. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in reserve” and the less likely you are to develop Osteoporosis or Osteopenia (low bone mineral density) as you age.
What affects our bone health?
A number of factors can affect bone health.
- Sex. You’re at greater risk of osteoporosis if you’re a woman, because women have less bone tissue than men.
- Age. Our bones naturally become thinner and weaker as we age.
- Body size. You’re also at risk if you have a small body frame as you may have less bone mass to draw from as you age. People with a BMI of 19 or less are also at risk.
- Eating disorders and other conditions. People who have anorexia or bulimia are at risk of bone loss. In addition, stomach surgery (gastrectomy), weight-loss surgery and conditions such as Coeliac disease, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases such as Colitis and Chronn’s Disease or Cushing’s disease can affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Diet: Several factors regarding our diet affect our bone health, including calcium and sodium intake (see dietary tips below)
- Tobacco and alcohol use: Having more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases the risk of osteoporosis, possibly because alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Similarly, research suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.
- Physical activity. People who are physically inactive have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do their more-active counterparts.
- Race and family history. You’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent. In addition, having a parent or sibling who has osteoporosis puts you at greater risk — especially if you also have a family history of fractures or weakened bones.
- Hormone levels. In women, bone loss increases dramatically at menopause due to dropping oestrogen levels. Oestrogen plays an important role in the growth and maturation of bone as well as in the regulation of bone turnover in adult bone. In menopause oestrogen deficiency leads to bone resorption (where minerals are released from the bones and transferred to our blood) leads to general bone loss and destruction of the structures of our bones. Prolonged absence of menstruation (amenorrhea) before menopause also increases the risk of osteoporosis. In men, low testosterone levels can also cause a loss of bone mass.
- Long term medications. Long-term use of steroid medications, such as prednisone, cortisone, prednisolone and dexamethasone, can be damaging to bone. Other drugs that might increase the risk of osteoporosis include aromatase inhibitors to treat breast cancer, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Anti-Depressants), methotrexate, some anti-seizure medications, such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and phenobarbital, and proton pump inhibitors[i].
What vitamins & minerals are important for bone health?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, primarily found in bones and teeth. It is essential for maintaining the bone mass necessary to support the skeleton. The body is also constantly using calcium in muscle and nerve functions as well as to carry out functions in the heart. Calcium also plays an important role in muscle contraction, transmitting messages through the nerves, and the release of hormones. If people aren’t getting enough calcium in their diet, the body takes calcium from the bones to ensure normal cell function, which can lead to weakened bones.
Sources of calcium: Dairy foods-Milk, cheese, Yoghurt
Green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach.
Soya beans, tofu, soya drinks with added calcium, nuts, bread (fortified flour)
Fish where you eat the bones – such as sardines and pilchards.
If you are eating dairy foods in order to have a high calcium diet, we suggest food intolerance and enzyme testing to ensure you are actually digesting dairy or are tolerant to it.
It’s often overlooked that magnesium and calcium function together, so deficiency of one markedly affects the metabolism of the other. Magnesium is essential for absorption and metabolism of calcium and it assures the strength and firmness of bones and makes teeth harder. Magnesium also has a role to play, together with the thyroid and parathyroid glands, in supporting bone health; it stimulates the thyroid’s production of calcitonin, which acts as a bone-preserving hormone, and regulates the parathyroid hormone, a function of which is to regulate bone breakdown in a number of ways. Magnesium is necessary for the conversion of Vitamin D into its active form and the enzyme that is required for forming new calcium crystals, alkaline phosphatase, also requires magnesium for activation; if levels are low, abnormal bone crystal formation can result. Even mild magnesium deficiency is reported to be a leading risk factor for osteoporosis.
Sources of Magnesium: Whole Wheat, Spinach, Quinoa, Almonds, Cashews, Black Beans, Edamame, Peanuts, Tofu, Sesame Seeds
- Vitamin D
Our bodies make vitamin D naturally when skin is exposed to sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, providing the energy for vitamin D synthesis to occur. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus from the foods we eat and it is also used by our nervous system in carrying messages throughout the body. Vitamin D is considered as important as calcium when it comes to bone health and studies have shown that calcium and vitamin D together can build stronger bones in women after menopause. Your body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. You may require a vitamin D if you are not getting enough sunshine.
BioKinesiology can test and see if your body requires vitamin D as a priority and we recommend very high quality supplements that are proven to help bone health.
Sources of Vitamin D: Cheese, Egg yolks.
Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon.
Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals, Beef liver.
- Vitamin K2
Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamins. Broadly, they direct calcium and allow the blood to clot. But vitamin K2 has benefits for dental, periodontal, heart, hormonal, kidney, bone and brain health. It works synergistically with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to build strong bones.
Studies have shown that people who have higher blood levels of vitamin K have higher bone density, while at the opposite end of the spectrum people with low blood levels of vitamin K are more likely to have osteoporosis[ii]
BioKinesiology can ascertain whether you need a vitamin K2 supplement as a priority.
An important consideration with vitamin K supplementation is people on blood thinning medications, such as warfarin, should avoid vitamin K supplements as vitamin K also has an important role in the blood clotting process.
Sources of Vitamin K2: Natto, Grass-Fed Cheese, Pastured Egg Yolks, Grass-Fed Butter. Fermented Foods such as Sauerkraut, Cured Pastured Meats such as Salami. Pastured Organ Meats such as Liver, Pastured Meat with Healthy Fat and Bones.
What can I do to ensure optimal Bone Health in terms of my diet?
We can start with certain dietary changes- as always, awareness is key when it comes to bone health.
- Limit High-Oxalate foods (these reduce absorption of calcium.
(Oxalate can bind to minerals to form compounds- they bind to form crystals (Kidney stones)
Spinach, Bran flakes/ wheat bran, Tea, Chocolate, Rhubarb, Beets, Potato chips, French fries. Nuts and nut butters-peanuts, pecans
Sodium increases the amount of calcium that is excreted in the urine, so if eating foods high in salt, more calcium should be consumed.
- Excess protein:
The body uses excess protein for energy. However, as protein is burned for energy, it produces sulfate. Sulfate increases the amount of calcium excreted in the urine, which decreases the amount of calcium in the body. Excess protein creates excess sulfate.
- Alcohol intake:
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can interfere with the calcium balance by inhibiting the enzymes that convert inactive vitamin D to active vitamin D.
Excessive intake of caffeine (300 mg-400 mg) can increase urinary excretion as well as fecal excretion. (One cup [8 fl oz] of brewed coffee contains about 137 mg of caffeine.)
How can BioKinesiology help me if I have Osteoporosis/ Osteopenia or feel I am at risk?
BioKinesiology can help you in a number of ways:
- Testing your enzymes (chemicals which break down our food into absorbable nutrients)
When our enzymes are functioning optimally, we can absorb all of the vitamins and minerals we need (calcium, magnesium, vitamins D, K) in order to keep our bones healthy. Ensuring we are actually absorbing these nutrients is key and the foundation of keeping our bones healthy.
- Testing which nutrients our body and bones actually need.
A vast majority of clients we see who are at risk of Osteoporosis or weakening bones take calcium supplements. Some of these supplements are not of good quality (despite being sold as excellent supplements) and they do not suit every body-type. Sometimes, it is actually magnesium or vitamins D or K2 that the clients body needs as a priority, in order to absorb the calcium they are ingesting within their diet. BioKinesiology can test for which supplements your body specifically needs.
- Hormone Testing
BioKinesiologists can check a clients entire hormone pathway and ensure oestrogen levels are at an optimal level. Low Oestrogen levels can lead to weakened bones. Through testing Biochemical pathways, we can advise on what nutrition you may need for optimal hormone levels.
- Food Intolerance Testing
It is common for clients who have a high calcium and dairy intake to present with digestive issues along with a diagnosis of Osteopenia. Many people are dairy intolerant, and this can lead to symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)/ excessive wind, sinus issues etc. BioKinesiology can pin point what dietary sources of calcium/ magnesium/ vitamin D and K2 actually suit your body type. If you are not digesting a food, you will not be absorbing the vitamins/ minerals you require from that food.
To enquire about BioKinesiology and see if we can help you, get in touch with Maeve on 0906400184 or enquire through our contact us through our enquiry page.
Article by M. Sherlock, Press Officer, BioKinesiology Association of Ireland (BKAI)
[ii] http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-k Last reviewed 7/13/2013. Accessed 12-21-17