Osteoporosis – Silent Killer
Osteoporosis is a terrible disease. A progressive loss of minerals, bone mass and bone density, it affects men as well as women, and can result in fractures of the hip, shoulder, ribs, vertebra, forearm or wrist. In women, it is believed that bone loss begins several years before menopause and then gets worse afterwards, creating an ever-increasing risk of debilitating breakages. Osteoporosis is now the most common bone disorder. Worldwide, the illness causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually—in effect, a fracture every 3 seconds.
In Britain, the incidence of the illness has increased six times in the past 30 years. One in three women and one in eight men develop it. In the United States, statistics are even worse: The illness currently costs the country more than 11 billion dollars a year. 25% of women whose hips fracture die within two years—not always directly from the fracture, but from ending up in nursing homes where inactivity, alienation and loss of control over their lives defeats them. Today, more women in the industrialized world die of fractures related to bone thinning than from cancers of the womb, cervix and breast put together. Now for the good news: Osteoporosis is preventable and treatable naturally, so take heart.
Bone loss is no simple disorder. And it is most certainly not another so-called estrogen deficiency disease, as mainstream medicine would have us believe. Neither is it preventable or treatable by drinking milk or stuffing yourself with calcium supplements. In fact, both of these actions can actually make the condition worse.
A FEW FACTS
Osteoporosis regularly occurs in men who are deficient in testosterone and in women who are deficient in progesterone. Black women have less bone loss than white women, big women less than small women, and fat women less than their skinny sisters. Meat-eaters are at greater risk of the disease than vegetarians. A high calcium intake has long been toted as essential in preventing bone thinning. Yet people in third-world countries whose daily intake of calcium is less than half our own have a very low incidence of the disease. Couch potatoes are far more prone to the condition than men and women who get regular exercise—particularly weight bearing exercise. Osteoporosis is a complex condition. To prevent it, you need to understand it. And, despite all the fear-mongering surrounding the disease, learn the ropes. Then you can take action to halt bone loss and to reverse it no matter what your age.
BEWARE OF DRUGS
Most people believe that a prescription drug plus megadoses of calcium supplements are the answer to strong, healthy bones. But bisphosphonate drugs like Fosamax, Actonel, and Boniva carry serious side effects, including—believe it or not—an increased risk of bone fracture! Users of prescription drugs have more osteoporosis than people who do not take any medication. Bone loss is by no means inevitable as we get older, despite our being told that on average we experience about 1% loss of bone mass a year. But, like hypertension and insulin resistance, bone loss is another silent killer. How do we stop it in its tracks? It’s easier than you might think.
MEET THE BIG FIVE
Together, specific nutrients—omega 3 fats, vitamin D3, Vitamin K2, magnesium, and calcium help build the nutritional foundation for creating and restoring bone strength. They need to be supplied in good balance by eating natural foods and shunning the packaged convenience stuff that fills supermarket shelves. I call these nutrients the big five because, together with putting yourself on a program of regular weight bearing exercise, this combination forges strong healthy bones. Vitamin K2 is especially important, by the way, since one of its major physiological skills is moving calcium into your bones and teeth and removing calcium from parts of the body where it does not belong, such as your arteries and soft tissues. However the right nutrition can only do its stuff to protect your bones if you also you incorporate weight bearing exercise or whole vibration training in your life.
MILK & CALCIUM PILLS—NO GO
As for drinking milk? Forget it. We are constantly being told to drink more milk and take more tablets of calcium. Yet in the United States, the intake of calcium by supplementation or through milk drinking is the highest in the world and they have the highest rate of osteoporosis. In Oriental countries such as China where milk is not drunk and the intake of calcium is one of the lowest in the world, osteoporosis is virtually unknown. The Chinese get their calcium the way cows do—by eating green plants. Equally important not to do is take calcium pills. You need to get your calcium the same way grazing cows do by taking in lots of organic fresh greens which are full of it in a form that your body can make good use of. You see, calcium metabolism is a complex process and the absorption of calcium from water or mineral salts tends to be highly inefficient. Only somewhere between 20-30% of the calcium you take in through supplementation or processed foods will even be absorbed. And most of that will either get filtered through your kidneys then excreted in urine or sweat, eliminated through feces, or stored in your body’s tissues where it does not belong, contributing to heart disease.
BUILD STRONG BONES
Doing weight bearing exercise regularly at least three times a week is the second second thing you need to do if you want to protect your body from bone loss or reverse bone loss after it has started. There is something else important about weight bearing exercise—something I discovered for myself at the age of 50 when I decided I wanted to learn weight training from a Welsh champion weightlifter. It’s this: Working out with weights weights combats age degeneration and makes your body sing.
There are three ways of approaching weight-bearing exercise. First, you can get yourself a few dumbbells, watch a good video for beginners and get to work. Second, you can do exercise using only your body weight to carry out the various movements so you don’t need dumbbells at all. Third, you can do accelerating training on a Power Plate. This is a great way to enhance bone density and build strength, and it is easy enough that even the weak and disabled can benefit from doing it. Also called whole body vibrational training, the Power Plate has a platform, which moves from front to back as well as vertically and horizontally. Power Plate training is readily available in studios where you can work with someone who teaches you how to use the equipment and show you how to hone your skills as you become accustomed to the process. You can also buy a Power Plate to use at home, but they are pricy. Having said that, I did buy one three years ago. I’ve used it three to five times a week ever since both for strength training and deep relaxation. In 2013 a research project involving 28 post menopausal women who practiced this kind of vibrational training three times a week for five minutes at a time, in only six months increased their bone density and strength by 2%, while the control group lost 0.5% in bone density during the same period.
THE BEST SUPPLEMENTS
Calcium, Vitamin K2, Vitamin D3, magnesium and omega-3 oils work together to build strong healthy bones and to restore strength to bodies that have lost strength. The best way to get vitamin D3, which builds bone density by encouraging the body to absorb calcium, is to get out into the sun for half an hour or more each day. If you choose to take vitamin D3 in supplement form, make sure you also supplement with Vitamin K2 to ensure that calcium from your foods are directed to bones and teeth. Vitamin K2 also helps your body remove calcium buildup in other areas of the body where it does not belong, such as the arteries. These two vitamins along with magnesium work brilliantly together to promote healthy bones. By the way, the ratio of calcium intake to magnesium in the body should be 1:1.
EAT FOR YOUR LIFE
Here is a quick checklist to follow if you want to build bones and keep them strong:
- Throw out all the packaged processed foods that the majority of the Western world still eats. The sugars, grain based carbs and artificial ingredients they contain deplete your bones of calcium and disturb the balance of nutrients you need most for increasing and maintaining bone density.
- Never drink sodas—even sugar-free.
- Eat from 50% of your foods raw and organic. Make green vegetables the cornerstone of your meals and also drink a glass of freshly made vegetable juice once a day.
- Replace table salt with Himalayan salt, as it contains more than 80% of the mineral elements your body and bones need to thrive—including both sodium and potassium in good balance.
- Get plenty of animal based omega-3 fats and avoid the golden oils sold in supermarkets or anything containing them like the plague.
- Use seaweeds in your salads and soups.
- Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach, which are rich in magnesium—as are sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and avocados.
- Use a top quality magnesium supplement daily to work well with calcium, Vitamin D3 and vitamin K2.
- Do weight bearing exercise at least three t imes a week for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
Here are some of my own preferred nutritional supplements:
Each serving of Nordic Naturals Omega-3 liquid provides approximately 1725 mg of important omega-3 fatty acids, generously fulfilling the daily recommendation by international experts of a minimum of 500 mg per day. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good nutrition and overall wellness. Since the body cannot produce these fats, they must be consumed through diet or supplementation.
Magnesium (Mg) plays an essential role in supporting cognitive function and brain health as well as bone support. Suggested Use 3 capsules daily, preferably 2 capsules during the day and 1 capsule 1-2 hours before bed. Start with 1 capsule daily and gradually increase to 3 capsules day