Usually when a patient is diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia the only direction given by their family doctor is to take a calcium supplement and eat more dairy. That advice is not only ineffective but also dangerous. Studies have shown that excess dietary calcium builds up in the arteries, organs and other tissues and can lead to disease.
Furthermore, calcium is only one component of healthy bones. Strong bones require much, much more.
Your bones provide the framework that supports your muscles and protects your internal organs. Bones also perform a variety of other vital functions.
Bone is where your body stores vital minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and calcium. Blood levels of these minerals must be tightly regulated and having an adequate amount stored in your bone ensures that your body will always have them when needed. Finally, bone is extremely important for maintaining proper acid/base balance in your body. If the pH of your blood starts to move in the wrong direction, your body removes minerals from your bones to keep the pH of your blood in the normal range. In fact, maintaining blood pH is so important that your body will sacrifice the health of your bones to keep it in the normal range.
Another interesting fact about your bones is that they are always under construction. At any given moment, small sections of bone are being torn down and then re-built. This constant “remodeling” process is what keeps your bones strong and healthy. If this process is disturbed, your bones may become weak or fragile.
The typical American diet has a strongly negative effect on bone health because it is rich in omega-6 fatty acids and high in foods that tend to lower your body pH into the acidic range. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in grains (bread, cereal, pasta, crackers), fatty meats (especially corn-fed beef), virtually all processed or fast-foods, and in anything made with vegetable oil (corn, soybean, sunflower, cottonseed, safflower, peanut).
In your body, omega-6 fatty acids are converted to substances that affect bone construction: they increase the amount of bone being torn down and decrease the amount of bone being re-built. The net effect is bone loss.
Think about your diet – how many foods do you eat each day that are sources of omega-6 fatty acids?
When we talk about acidic and alkaline foods we are talking about the residue that is left behind after the food is digested by your body. Foods that leave an acidic residue include all meats, cheese, grains, and soft drinks. Low-fat cheese is one of the most acidic foods. Alkaline foods include fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and raw nuts.
When you eat foods that are acidic, the residue that they leave behind in your body must be neutralized so that it does not change your blood pH. Remember, your body will sacrifice almost everything to maintain a normal blood pH. Therefore, it will remove minerals from your bones to neutralize any acidic residue.
Over time this can lead to bone loss. Furthermore, when these minerals are removed from bone it creates areas of bone that are now acidic. This acidic environment affects bone construction in the same way as omega-6 fatty acids: it increases bone being torn down and decreases bone being re-built. Think about your diet – is it mostly acidic or mostly alkaline?
Nearly 80% of the typical American diet is composed of foods that create an unhealthy bone environment.
Simply taking a calcium supplement will not reverse the effects of a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids and acidic foods. Promote better bone health by balancing your intake of acidic and alkaline foods. A good ratio to aim for is 75% alkaline (fruits, vegetables, raw nuts) and 25% acidic (lean meat, fish, eggs, skinless chicken). Furthermore, avoid the sources of omega-6 fatty acids listed earlier. This happens naturally when you avoid processed foods and focus on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, and lean meats.
Cook with coconut oil and use olive oil on salads. Finally, be sure to eat protein at every meal – it’s a crucial building block for strong bones.
In addition to diet, exercise is also important for optimal bone health. Studies clearly show that weighted exercise is most effective for maintaining bone mass. You don’t need to be an olympic style weight lifter to create great results – a 30 minute session 4-5 times per week using light weights is very effective.
This is one of my favorite patient education topics – feel free to ask me for some exercise tips at your next wellness visit!