Osteoporosis, defined as a disease of the bones in which they become porous and susceptible to both fractures and chronic pain, affects 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over 50 years of age. The prediction that osteoporosis will develop is usually determined by a bone density scan, which isn’t foolproof due to quality of the bone being just as important as the quantity. Age, medical history and lifestyle factors also play an important role in determining the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Unfortunately, many doctors prescribe preventative medication intended to build bone mass, which may not be necessary and in some cases can do more harm than good due to the drug side effects. Whether you are currently under or over 50 years of age, knowing how to prevent osteoporosis from a natural diet and lifestyle perspective can save you years of inconvenience and pain in your later years.
Below are the 7 most important factors for preventing osteoporosis.
Both weight bearing exercises and resistance training are essential for building strong bones. Examples of weight bearing exercises include running, speed walking, yoga, martial arts, dancing, hiking, etc. Basically any exercise that forces your body to resist gravity will stimulate the cells to make new bone. Resistance training involves using your muscle to lift weight, which further puts muscle pressure on the bones to strengthen them and increase bone mass.
Most people know that calcium is one of many required minerals for building strong bones. However, what many don’t realize is that calcium supplements on their own do very little in terms of preventing fractures or osteoporosis. In fact, one study in 2011 showed that calcium supplements could raise the risk of cardiovascular events and that supplementation for the prevention of osteoporosis needs to be reassessed. Calcium that is not transported correctly will ultimately end up in your soft tissues and arteries, rather than your bones. It is much safer to obtain calcium from food sources such as leafy greens, sea vegetables (10x the amount of calcium found in milk) , nuts/seeds, raw dairy products (cheese is a much better source than milk), etc.
3. Vitamin D3
As many are starting to understand, calcium alone won’t build strong bones. Vitamin D3 is critical for absorbing calcium in the body. It is also an important component for a vast amount of disorders and diseases, responsible for regulating over 3,000 genes. Vitamin D3 is best obtained from the sun (timed exposure without sunscreen, which blocks out UVB rays). Supplementation is also an option, but you’ll need to get your blood serum levels checked to make sure that you are getting the correct levels.
4. Vitamin K1 & K2
Referred to in one study as the third part of the powerful trio for preventing Osteoporosis (Calcium, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K), Vitamin K2 has been shown to completely reverse bone loss in trials conducted in Japan. Vitamin K2’s vital role is to work hand in hand with Vitamin D3 to transport calcium directly to the bones and bone marrow. K2 also activates a protein called osteocalcin after it’s been signaled for production by D3, a key player in calcium absorption. K2 also prevents calcium build-up in the arteries and thus prevents heart disease. Vitamin K1 is also for preventing calcification in the blood and proper calcium bone retention. K1 can be found in green leafy vegetable. The best source of K2 (Mk7) can be found in fermented foods, especially natto. Supplements are available for those who can’t stomach natto or find it easily.
5. Omega 3
An increasing number of studies are connecting Omega 3 fatty acids to bone health. In 2010, NASA conducted studies that found Omega 3 to be helpful for inhibiting bone breakdown, which typically occurs during spaceflight. Another study that appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition found DHA to be a vital constituent of marrow and periosteum (the outer surface of the bone) of healthy bone mineral content. Omega 3 can be found in plant foods such as flax seed and walnuts, but is more abundantly found in good quality fish oils.
6. Healthy Diet
As is the case for overall disease prevention, a healthy diet is critical to maintaining strong, healthy bones. Foods that inhibit nutrient absorption must be removed from the diet. This includes all processed foods and drinks, sugar, gluten (if you are intolerant), trans fats, refined grains, omega-6 oils, etc. It’s also important to keep sodium levels to a minimum to avoid the loss of calcium in the body. Make sure that you choose a good quality Himalayan or Celtic sea salt, which is rich in mineral content. If you are prone to osteoporosis, you may want to limit your animal based protein intake. High protein diets have too much phosphorous, which can contribute to calcium loss in the blood and bones. Two other extremely important nutrients for bone health are magnesium (found in greens, vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans) and potassium (found in most fruits and vegetables).
7. Healthy Lifestyle
Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you live a healthy lifestyle. Drinking more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day has been linked to an increased risk of bone loss. Cigarette smoking has been shown to double the chance of bone loss and fractures. Caffeine as well can decrease calcium absorption and cause bone loss. As a final word of caution, it’s also imperative to do what you can to minimize chronic stress, which can contribute to the depletion of minerals.
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Published On: April 20, 2013