Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bone Up!

Osteoporosis runs in my family, and so bone health is near and dear to my heart. And it should be to yours, too. Your bones are rather important structures. They protect your inner organs and hold your body upright. Without them, any of your movements would be limp as noodles. And, as many people know, if anything goes wrong with a bone, it can put a person in serious discomfort or pain (if not completely out of commission for a while). With everything that my father was ill with, the final straw before his death was a broken hip from simply trying to get into bed. 
(No, not THOSE bones.)
So with all this having been said, let's talk about your arsenal for building the strongest bones you can. Ideally, you'll be doing this before age 35, when your bone mineral density peaks. But even after that, there is much you can do to stave off osteoporosis.

1) Weight training/weight bearing activity. I cannot stress enough the importance of weight bearing activity (done right, of course) for bone health. Study after study shows the beneficial effects that weight training has on bone density (here are just a few):

Of course, it's also fantastic for reducing body fat, increasing mobility, building strength (and physical independence!), and making you look good at the beach, but that's another subject for another discussion.

2) Strontium. You might not have heard of this element, but it may just be the best thing that's happened to your bones since, well, weight bearing activity. Strontium has been proven to be beneficial in regenerating bone, reducing risk of fracture, and improving the lives of people with osteoporosis. Here are just a few studies on the benefits of strontium for bone health:

Strontium is available in supplement form. Make sure you research the makers of your supplements before purchasing them-- you want to make sure you're getting an effective, pure product, and not getting anything you don't want in your body.

3) Calcium. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in bone. However, after age 35, bone mineral density no longer increases, and calcium intake is pretty ineffective for building bones after that age. However, calcium is still an important mineral, and should not be ignored. When you don't get enough calcium in your diet, your body "borrows" it from your bones-- not a good thing for the bones in the long run. Milk, contrary to popular belief, is not the best form of calcium. Animal proteins make absorbing calcium difficult, and studies show that higher ratios of animal proteins in the diet are correlated to fractures ( , ). Dark green leafy veggies are a great source of calcium. However, chard and spinach also contain oxalic acid, which makes calcium less available to the body. Here is a neat little list of some calcium-rich foods you can try:

Vitamin D: Now that we're slathering ourselves with sun screen every time we walk outside, vitamin D deficiency is becoming more prevalent. Just 20 minutes in the sun without sunscreen is all you need to get your day's worth of vitamin D, but a little bit of supplementation, especially in the fall and winter months (and all year round if you live in a rainy region), is a good idea, too. Here's one on the importance of vitamin D for bone health and how much to supplement:

Vitamin K. A surprising number of people don't know about Vitamin K, but it has a strong role in bone health. Vitamin K is yet another reason to get munching on those green leafies. Here's a good list of excellent K sources:

On vitamin K and bone health:

Magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is rather common in today's society, and this is a huge problem. I plan to write another article about this shortly, but today it's all about the bones. 50% of the body's magnesium is in the bones, and it is a key nutrient in bone health. Take a bath in or soak your feet in Epsom Salts for 20 minutes a day, and you'll be supplementing your magnesium intake-- your body absorbs magnesium very well through the skin. Here is a list of dietary magnesium sources:

On magnesium and bone health:

Thoughts? Ideas? Questions? Post 'em here!

1 comment:

  1. Aside from green leafy veggies, one good source of vitamin k is natto. It's not the most delicious thing you'll eat, and it's not the best smelling either, but it is quite nutritious.