Healthy Bones and the “Blue Zones” Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 I discussed the factors that increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. If you haven’t read it yet I encourage you to begin there because it lays the foundation for this article. Part 2 reveals how to significantly reduce your risks and how to rebuild strong and healthy bones, no matter your age.

First Things First

Before discussing nutrition I want to emphasize the importance of daily exercise. The experts agree that this is absolutely essential, so do something every day to strengthen your muscles. If you lift weights, use a stretch band, perform isometric exercises and/or yoga postures hold the stress position during each repetition for eight seconds for best results.

If you are shrinking in height or your spine is developing a curve, consider “backpack therapy”. Choose a small and comfortable child’s backpack, and add a few books. Wear it around the house, out for a walk, during errands, etc. a few hours each day until it begins to feel light and then add another book or two. This is a gentle and easy way to stress the muscles around the spine to help strengthen the vertebrae. I’ve heard from several women that it works, so be consistent. Important: avoid spinal bends (no toe touches) if you know your spine is weak. Ideally, work with a physical therapist to help you learn which exercises are best for you.

Shorten the amount of sitting time and remain as active as you can.** Besides all of the tremendous physical benefits you’ll also feel more cheerful. Here’s an article that will help abolish your excuses.

Dietary Guidelines—No Milk in Sight

Statistics show that there is a negative correlation between the quantity of meat, dairy and other animal foods and incidence of osteoporosis (as well as osteoarthritis). People who live in what National Geographic calls the “Blue Zones” in the US and around the world have far better health and longevity than the rest of us. What do they share in common? They eat a whole food plant-based diet, with no (or minimal) animal products and always completely natural. Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds and herbs and spices provide substantial nutrition as long as junk foods/beverages (anti-nutrients) are avoided.

Think about where the largest, strongest and gentlest animals on earth obtain their protein, calcium and other vitamins and minerals: you guessed it – green leafy vegetables. Bountiful quantities of greens are fundamental to a bone-healthy diet. A giraffe with osteoporosis has never been found in the wild.

Plant foods are rich in fiber, necessary for a healthy microbiome, which aids in assimilation of nutrients, reduction in inflammation and much more. The healthiest folks in the world consume the most plant fiber. Beans and legumes are rich sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. If your digestion is weak and beans cause problems read our section on low stomach acid to learn how to resolve it. Food sources should be your first choice for obtaining nutrients and supplements are very useful to fill in the gaps.

Essential Minerals for Strong Bones

Calcium (700-1000 mg/day) White beans, dried figs, bok choy, kale, blackstrap molasses, black-eyed peas, almonds, oranges, sesame seeds, turnip greens, almond “milk”. Be careful– excessive intake of calcium supplements can increase risks of heart disease and strokes. Here’s how to know which calcium supplement to choose.

Magnesium (320+ mg/day; experiment to find your best dose.) Cooked spinach and Swiss chard, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans avocado, dried figs. This mineral is so important for the entire body I suggest you always have a high-quality magnesium supplement in the house. Here’s why.

Silica/Silicon dioxide (5+ mg/day) Steel-cut oats, brown rice, bell peppers, soybeans, celery and cucumbers all contain silica but this mineral is far more bioavailable in supplement form. It’s a precursor to collagen creation, plays an important role in bone calcification and works with calcium for bone strength. Invest in a quality supplement and take it every day, forever.

Boron (3 mg/day) Raisins, almonds, hazelnuts, apricots, avocados, Brazil nuts, red kidney beans, walnuts, cashews, prunes. Boron delivers a mild estrogenic effect, which is why it is so helpful to bones. If you are taking prescribed estrogen avoid taking excessive amounts of boron and have regular blood tests to make sure your estrogen levels are in a safe range. This trace mineral is even more important for those without adequate vitamin D.

Zinc (15 mg/day) Pumpkin seeds, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds (especially cashews), whole grains, avocados, pomegranates, raspberries and unsweetened dark chocolate. Zinc encourages osteoblasts, the cells that build and repair bone.

Copper (2-2.5 mg/day) Dark chocolate, chickpeas, lentils, cashews, hazelnuts, raisins, apricots, prunes, avocado, kale and asparagus are all good food sources. Connective tissue formation requires copper due to its being vital for cross-linking of collagen and elastin and bones depend on connective tissue.

Manganese (3- 5 mg/day) Pecans, almonds, whole grains, beans, spinach, sweet potato and raw pineapple. Women with osteoporosis tend to have decreased manganese levels compared to women without osteoporosis.

Selenium (60-75mcg+/day)  Brazil nuts (just 1-2 nuts/day), lima beans, pinto beans, shitake mushrooms, chia seeds, brown rice, walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, broccoli, cabbage and spinach. This anti-cancer antioxidant is good for your thyroid and supports healthy bones.

Potassium (1600-2500 mg/day) Potatoes, yams, cooked broccoli, cooked spinach, mushrooms, peas, cucumbers, white beans, baked acorn squash, most fruits, esp. bananas, coconut water, oranges, melons, apricots, grapefruit, prunes, raisins, dates and many other fruits and veggies. Potassium neutralizes metabolic wastes which spares calcium, reducing urinary calcium loss.

Phosphorus (700-100 mg/day) Lentils, almonds, peanuts, beans, pumpkin seeds, whole grains. Phosphorus works with calcium and magnesium for proper growth and formation of bones.

Nickel (100 mcg/day) Soybeans, nuts, seeds, chocolate, oatmeal, legumes, and peas.

Vanadium (10-20 mg/day) Grains, spinach, mushrooms, black pepper, parsley, beer, wine. Ideally get this as a chelated supplement form; it’s poorly assimilated from food. This mineral supports bone development.

Vitamins for Strong Bones

Vitamin D3 Multiple studies show that 2000 iu per day is a safe and effective amount to supplement, but your blood test results will show if you need more. Taking very high doses of vitamin D may cause elevated blood calcium (hypercalcemia ), which may lead your doctor to a false conclusion that you have a tumor on the parathyroid (which is also a cause of hypercalcemia). The ideal way to avoid this is to get early morning or late afternoon sun exposure (without sunscreen) as often as possible. The body is adept at self-regulating vitamin D levels from sun exposure. When the body wants less vitamin D the skin darkens naturally, preventing too much D from being made. This is why people from parts of the world with more intense sun exposure, such as between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, inherit darker skin.

Vitamin K2 (as MK-7) (1000 mcg/day) ideally, take a supplement. K2 (Menaquinone) helps deposit calcium into your bones and teeth where it belongs, preventing it from lodging in soft tissues and on artery walls, thereby also reducing risk of heart disease. Warning: people taking blood thinning drugs such as Coumadin®/Warfarin therapy should avoid taking vitamin K2 in supplement form. Request that your doctor switch you to aspirin therapy or one of the newer anticoagulant drugs instead since Coumadin® is proven to cause bone loss and fractures.

Vitamin B-12 (as methylcobalamin– 1000-9000 mcg/day, depending on how deficient you are) Take this as a supplement. It is important for the function of osteoblasts which rebuild bone. Read this recent article to discover more about this important vitamin.

Osteoclasts, Osteoblasts and “Bone-Density” Prescription Drugs

Understanding how bones naturally break down and repair is important to understand. Osteoclasts are cells that remove dead bone tissue (resorption) and bone-forming osteoblasts follow by repairing and rebuilding the bones. This process is continuous and ongoing, beginning in childhood. With a healthy diet and lifestyle, as described in these articles, and by carefully reducing known risk factors, it is designed to continue through the end of life.

But when it doesn’t and an imbalance in biochemistry leads to bone loss many people go to their doctor for help. Since most doctors have no nutrition training they are left with their favorite tool—their prescription pad. There is a group of drugs called bisphosphonates* (Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel and many others) that doctors commonly prescribe to people with osteoporosis. These drugs alter the cycle of bone formation by inhibiting osteoclasts and thereby preventing bone resorption. In this way they prevent further bone loss, which seems like a good thing. You can see the problem here, right?

If bones are filled with increasing amounts of dead cells there is no room for new, healthy bone tissue to be deposited in its place. As a result bones look thick but become brittle. (Compare a dead tree branch with a live one. One snaps into pieces while the other is flexible and strong.) It may take up to two years for this to occur, yet the studies provided to the FDA for approval for these drugs were (conveniently) short term studies. These drugs also come with a long list of known adverse effects including death (osteonecrosis) of the jaw bone! Please do your due diligence if your doctor ever prescribes one of these drugs to you. You have many natural options.

Enhance Your Stomach’s Natural Acidity

Eat protein foods, such as beans, first so that your stomach acid isn’t wasted. Vegetables and other carbs don’t need acid to digest, so eat them last. Supplement immediately before a protein meal with a digestive aid containing Betaine HCL with pepsin, and immediately after a meal with pancreatic enzymes. Experiment with the dosage of both to find the most effective potency for you. My favorites are Betaine HCL and Zypan, both available from 888-221-4116.

Take your vitamin and mineral supplements with those meals for optimal absorption and assimilation. Insufficiently acidic or weak stomach acid leads to deficiencies of major minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, iron and selenium, as well as vitamin B-12. Even if you take supplements, having low stomach acid will inhibit their assimilation and bioavailability.

Avoid drinking beverages with meals since it dilutes stomach acid making it too weak to do its job. A few sips of water during and after a meal are fine, but consuming soft drinks, iced tea, coffee, beer or too much water will dilute the digestive juices.

It’s Your Turn

Now that you have the information and resources in these two articles you can take back your power to stay strong for the remainder of your life. I encourage you to share this information with loved ones and friends. There are countless reports of people who were diagnosed with osteoporosis regaining bone density and strength through diet, lifestyle changes and exercise and regaining their quality of life. You have every reason to feel optimistic!

Thank you for choosing Healthy Habits® as your trusted resource for quality products and valuable information. Your health and well-being is our #1 priority. For more information or a personalized approach consider joining the Healthy Habits Association®.

*Bisphosphonate drugs also interfere with Coenzyme Q10 production, a powerful antioxidant with many functions in the body.

**Studies have shown that individuals who practice tai chi have a 47% decrease in falls and only 25% of the hip fracture rate as compared to those who do not practice tai chi regularly.

Home test for vitamin D: