By Mary-Ann Shearer
OSTEOPOROSIS – BONE LOSS
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease in the world. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women in westernized countries suffer from it. Osteoporosis is a condition in which there is chronic loss of calcium from the bones resulting in severe loss of bone density. Loss of bone density is normal as you age, it is when this becomes too severe resulting in fractures, pain and crippling that you have a serious problem. Obviously you cannot wait until the condition is that severe and need to take precautions in advance.
Bone is comprised of a tough framework of protein that is strengthened by deposits of calcium. Mature bone is about 30% protein framework and 70% mineral deposits. The framework of bone is mostly strands of protein fibres, called collagen, that crisscross to form a web. This gives bone the flexibility to withstand pressure without cracking.
The spaces within this framework are filled with crystals composed primarily of two minerals, calcium and phosphorous. Other minerals such as magnesium, fluoride, zinc and sodium are also found in this framework.
These minerals together give strength and rigidity to the bone tissue. The more tightly packed the minerals and the larger the crystals formed in the bone, the denser & stronger the bone tissue. When this mineral balance is thrown out of balance and we lose some of these minerals, the bones become less dense and weaker, resulting in osteoporosis.
What are the symptoms of Osteoporosis?
- For many people the first symptom may be a bone fracture.
- Others may find they have various aches and pains, which they often attribute to getting older.
- Bone is lost in various areas at various rates. Research indicates that bone loss in the jaw is the most common first area to go. This can result in loss of teeth, which can results in malnutrition due to difficulty in chewing food.
- The ribs and vertebrae are the second most common bone loss areas with the hip area following closely. This all results in pain, loss of mobility and loss of quality of life.
Who is at risk of Osteoporosis?
Everyone is at risk of developing osteoporosis, as loss of bone as you age is normal. However this bone loss is affected by lifestyle and genetic makeup.
- Women are 8 times more likely to get osteoporosis as their bones are a lot thinner than mens and they live longer, which widens the window in which they can suffer from the condition.
- The lighter your skin and the smaller your frame the more chance you have of suffering from it.
- Low calorie and poor diets, menopause, prolonged bed rest and a sedentary or inactive lifestyle will all predispose you to osteoporosis.
What can you do about Osteoporosis?
Many people today are confused about the issue of osteoporosis and decide to take a supplement of some type, sort of as an insurance policy. They are then surprised when they are diagnosed with chronic bone density loss as they thought they were covered. As can be seen from some of the most recent research, supplementation is not the route to go. There are many factors that contribute to osteoporosis and these need to be sorted out, long before supplementation is even considered. You will see from these notes that eating dairy products can in fact contribute to osteoporosis, yet the media and general medical profession continue to encourage us to drink glasses of milk, to prevent osteoporosis. It reminds me of an old European proverb, An old error is always more popular than a new truth
So lets look at some facts;
Contrary to popular belief, dairy products do not prevent osteoporosis.
The countries that have the highest incidence of osteoporosis, have the highest intakes of dairy.
In a article published in the American Journal of clinical Nutrition (1990 vol. 52 pg142-6), they indicate that dairy products may in fact contribute to osteoporosis. the protein content of milk might have a negative effect on calcium balance by increasing urinary calcium excretion . This is in line with statistics that indicate that the countries that consume the most dairy usually have the highest incidences of osteoporosis. These are most westernized countries.
Dietary calcium and bone fractures in women
In a study conducted over 12 years on 77 761 women, between the ages of 34-59 years, it was found that, There was no evidence that higher intakes of milk or dietary calcium reduced fracture risk. There was no significant difference in the risk of hip fracture between women who drank two or more glasses of milk per day and women who drank 1 or less per week.
Obviously bone fractures and density are affected by more than just calcium intake. Factors such as exercise and sunshine play a vital roll. Previous research shows that salt can cause loss of calcium as can gluten (wheat, oats, rye and barley), smoking ,coffee and tea.
American J Public health 6/97
Supplementation is also not the route to go as we see from the following;
SA Medical Journal Vol. 75 3 June 1989
A 19 member panel prepared the latest information on dietary recommendations and after looking at more than 5000 studies, strongly condemned the use of dietary supplements, maintaining that there was no convincing evidence that calcium supplements were necessary to prevent osteoporosis.
Journal of Internal Medicine 1992 vol.231 pg.161-168
Osteoporosis constitutes an important health problem in modern Western countries and is an increasing problem in the Far East. The clinical condition has no one basis, but many different factors have been suggested to contribute to its development, such as low peak bone mass, early menopause, sedentary lifestyle, cigarette smoking, slender figure, and various dietary components, such as daily calcium intake. The mean dietary consumption of calcium varies throughout the world from 150-200mg per day in the Far East to 5-600 mg per day in the United States to 1000-1200mg per day in the Nordic countries. The dissimilar intake of calcium in the different countries with the same incidence of osteoporotic fractures points to the fact that osteoporosis is a multifactorial disease, where calcium is one of the important contributing factors .
The article goes on to say that sunlight (for the manufacture of Vit D), hormones such as parathyroid hormone, growth hormone, oestrogen and progesterone enhance the absorption of calcium and glucocorticoids, excess Thyroid hormone and possibly calcitonin, suppress the absorption of calcium.
To manufacture sufficient Vitamin D, unheated, unprocessed, unsaturated fats are required to pick up cholesterol from the blood stream (where your liver dumps it) and transport it to the skin, where the sun converts it to Vitamin D. Without sufficient Vitamin D, you cannot use calcium. (regardless of the amount you force down your throat.) Best sources of the right fats are avocado, raw nuts and seeds, olives, sweet corn on the cob and cold pressed unprocessed oils.
The article continues, Instead of focusing on the exact number of milligrams of calcium that should be included in the diet, one should rather centre upon making sufficient efforts to maximize utilization of that calcium.
Factors affecting calcium balance
- Vitamin C in supplement form consumed in large amounts results in the formation of oxalates, which reduces the bioavailability of calcium.
Considering that our RDA is about 60-150mg per day, it is easy to take in excess in supplement form, as most supplements are from 500-1000mg often taken 1-3 times daily.
- Dietary fibre consumed in large amounts (as when adding bran to meals) interferes with calcium absorption as do Zinc, Vitamin A and iron supplementation.
- Caffeine and alcohol increase the urinary excretion of calcium, as does table salt. So use a herb or veg based seasoning.
- Irrational mega doses of vitamins and minerals appear to have an adverse affect on bone status.
- A diet high in protein will increase the urinary excretion of calcium.
Age, Gender, Diet and Bone Loss (Osteoporosis)
In March 1983, the Journal Of Clinical Nutrition reported the results of the largest study ever undertaken at that time. Researchers at Michigan State and other major universities found that by age 65 in the US;
Male vegetarians had an average bone loss of 3% women 18%
Male meat eaters had an average bone loss of 7% women 35%
By the time a woman reaches the age of 65, the average meat-eating woman in the US has lost over a third of her skeletal structure. In contrast, vegetarian women tend to remain more active, maintain erect postures, and are less likely to fracture or break bones even with their increased physical activity. If their bones do break or fracture, they heal faster and more completely.
Phosphates and Gluten can affect Bone Loss
Phosphates found in animal protein and fizzy soft drinks increase the fecal excretion of calcium and increasing dietary sodium (table salt) will result in an increase in urinary calcium.
This often happens when the alkaline balance of the blood stream is thrown out by too much of one mineral, such as sulphur or phosphorus. The body in its attempt to correct the situation invariably uses calcium as a buffer, resulting in a higher excretion of calcium. One of the many reasons to follow a 75% alkaline based plant diet.
Recent published research, in numerous recognized journals, indicated that gluten intolerance could also result in loss of calcium from the bones.
References from: Lancet 14/7/97 & 10/2/96 & 22/1/94, Archives Internal Medicine 12/5/97,J Clinical Gastroenterology 3/97, J Family Practice, American 1/95, J Gastroenterology 10/96,& 8/97 & vol 89/94, Scandinavian J Gastroenterology 2/95, New England J Medicine 2/5/96, J Paediatrics 4/96, Medical J Australia 17/3/97, etc.
Where do hormones fit in here?
The Endocrine (Hormonal) system is intricately involved in maintaining bone density and blood calcium levels. To isolate one hormone (oestrogen) out of dozens and one gland (the ovaries) out of several is ridiculous and dangerous. No one gland or hormone works on it’s own. The Endocrine system is like a large orchestra, conducted by the Pituitary gland. If one member of the orchestra is not present, or not doing it’s job the whole company suffers.
The usual approach is to encourage women to take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in the form of oestrogen. I have personally dealt with three women who have developed breast cancer after being on HRT, which resulted in radical mastectomies. HRT is not the wonder cure it is made out to be. In fact many women have found that their bone density is worse after being on HRT.
Rather we should be looking at the whole body including the whole Endocrine system and following a lifestyle that encourages overall health.
Can Osteoporosis be reversed?
The answer to this is yes, although the average medical practioner will tell you no. When the following guidelines are followed I have always seen a marked improvement in bone density. Usually a time period of a year is required to see a noticeable difference.
To sum up:
Sunlight; – 20-30 minutes a day is needed to convert cholesterol into vitamin D, which is needed to use calcium. Without Vitamin D you cannot utilize calcium.
Exercise; – a minimum of 20-30 minutes a day with regular weight bearing exercise is needed to strengthens bones.
The right fats; – Essential Fatty Acids and polyunsaturated fats from raw plant sources, are essential for the hormonal system to work correctly. These need to be taken on a daily basis and taking Flaxoil (1-3tbsp id ideal) would be ideal, Millbrook & Aim’s Aimega is the best on the market.
Low animal protein diet to avoid osteoporosis.
A high plant based; at least 75% raw alkaline forming fruit and vegetables. Do this by the following three steps;
Try to eat one meal each day that is just fruit.
Eat fresh or dried fruit and vegetables in between meals if you crave sweet or savory foods.
Start all cooked meals with any raw vegetables.
You also need to cut down or remove
Caffeine, Salt, Gluten (wheat, oats, rye & barley – if a gluten intolerance is suspected) and processed food from your diet.
Any substance that upsets the endocrine system could indirectly cause osteoporosis. Sugar, artificial sweeteners and heated fats are just a few.
Special Foods to focus on
Taking Barleylife, Just Carrots and Redibeets, provides an extremely usable source of calcium. Barleylife alone contains an average of 20-25 times more calcium than cow’s milk; the difference in the absorption rate being 80-100% in Barleylife, and 20% in dairy products if you are not dairy intolerant.
Green leafy vegetables have the best calcium/phosphorous ratio for utilization and are therefore the most alkaline forming foods, yet another reason to take your Barleylife.
Remember that being a dried juice the Garden Trio is concentrated plant food not a fractioned supplement. They are therefore not only a good source of minerals and vitamins, trace elements & phytonutrients, but also completely alkaline in the body. Maintaining the alkaline balance in the body is perhaps one of the most important issues when it comes to osteoporosis.
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