December 2005

BUILDING STRONG BONES Naturally

Canadian Health & Lifestyle, Fall 2005

Thereís still much to learn about bone health and the many doís and doníts that contribute to it.  Statistics show that osteoporosis affects 1.4 million Canadians.  Itís characterized by bone density deterioration that leads to increased fragility.  Bone loss sneaks up on us; there are no telltale symptoms.  While it largely afflicts people over 50, it can strike at any age. 

It surprises me that many women still donít take supplements since twice as many women as men are affected by bone loss.  As a nutritionist and chiropractor for 22 years, I regularly see the negative effects on their spines.  We know that stress depletes the nutrients our bodies need to heal and grow, so women today who are stressed juggling work and family can be drastically affected.  Studies have shown that 70% of bone mass is genetically determined, while 30% is based on environment.   

From childhood to age 35 bones are building, but after 35, bone mass begins to decrease.  Here are 8 blocks to help you build stronger bones and halt bone loss. 

1. Do eliminate 

Donít eat foods that pull calcium and nutrients out of bones: avoid sugar, alcohol, caffeine and high protein (red meat) diets encourage mineral loss, usually in the urine.  Low calorie weight loss diets, antacids and digestive disturbances lead to trace mineral malabsorption.  Foods high in phosphorus such as carbonated soft drinks promote bone loss. 

2. Do modify your diet  

Bones are living tissue and need a healthy diet to grow.  Eating raw veggies, especially leafy greens like kale, collards and lettuce, fresh fruit, raw nuts and seeds; tofu, fresh water fish (sardines and salmon with the bones) and low fat dairy products provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals for a strong foundation. 

3. Do exercise 

Nothing replaces weight-bearing exercise.  Unless bones are challenges, no amount of calcium or remedy can change bone density.  Exercising 20-60 minutes three times per week, as well as a brisk walk, aerobics, jogging, bouncing on a mini-trampoline or racquet sports will help strengthen bones.  Consult a chiropractor, physiotherapist or personal trainer for other beneficial exercises. 

ďNothing replaces weight-bearing exerciseÖto strengthen bonesĒ 

4.Do take calcium with magnesium 

Calcium needs to be replaced daily.  Take an absorbable microcrystalline calcium supplement such as hydroxyapatite (MCHA) or calcium citrate, bound with magnesium in a 2:1 ratio.  Taking calcium alone can result in kidney and/or gallstones. 

5. Do include other important nutrients 

Bone health depends on many interactive nutrients.  Minerals such as zinc, boron, chromium, silica from horsetail extract or silicon and vanadium are important additions to your daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.  Vitamin D is necessary for absorption; it draws calcium from the blood into the bones.  Cold water fish (salmon, tuna, halibut), eggs, fortified dairy, soy products and sunlight are excellent sources.  Vitamin C enhances calcium assimilation into the body.  Vitamin K is important for bone metabolism to prevent bone loss.  Itís found in dark green leafy vegetables: broccoli, kale and organic Tanabata Japanese Green Tea.  A Combination of Vitamin B6, folic acid and Vitamin B12 protects the body against homocysteine build up known to interfere with collagen formation; an integral part of bone development. 

6. Do balance hormones 

Dr. John Lee found that natural progesterone helped his patients increase bone density by an average of 15.4%.  Some alternative options to hormone replacement therapy are to eat phyto-estrogenic foods such as soya, brown rice, legumes, whole grains, papaya, clover and alfalfa.  Try herbal remedies such as panax ginseng, black cohosh, or ipriflavone (an isoflavone-bioflavinoid derived from soy) for naturally occurring estrogen.  Topically applied natural progesterone cream (3%) has been shown to balance hormones to achieve positive bone mass increase.  Discuss the pros and cons with a health practitioner. 

7. Do aid digestion 

Adequate levels of stomach acid (HCL) are critical for mineral absorption; this is often low in women.  Supplementing HCL, the bitter herb gentian or plant enzymes taken with meals, can improve intestinal absorption of all nutrients. 

8. Do get advice 

Consult a knowledgeable expert for correct dosages for your body, ask questions and get the information you need.  It can mean the difference between bones and teeth that are supportive, or a crumbling foundation.  Start early, itís never too late to halt or reverse bone loss.  The choice is yours.  Support your body NOW and will support you for the rest of your life. 

Dr. Katrina Kulhay, Director of the Kulhay Wellness Centre and Instep Foot Care Clinic, is a Nutritionist, Chiropractor, Acupuncturist and Foot Care Specialist practicing in Toronto, Ontario.