Minerals & Bone Health Them bones, them bones, strong bones!
Osteoporosis is talked about at length and considered to be a public health issue. It is estimated that over 25 million people in the United States are affected by this condition. Osteoporosis causes thinning bones and the resultant bone fractures are the real problem. Osteoporosis and related bones fractures are lowest in the areas where people follow traditional ways of life, the traditional whole food diets.
Both men and women will begin to lose 0.5-1% of their bone density or degree of bone mineralization per year starting around age 30. In women, the rate of loss will spike to 2–3% per year for the first 3–15 years following menopause. The key word here is mineralization, not just calcium. We need many nutrients: vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to build strong bones. When we take calcium, as a single constituent nutrient, we upset the whole balance of nutrients in our body. Nutrients work in synergy, not as single substances. If single substances were the key, nature would have provided us with food that was single nutrients, not whole foods with a symphony of nutrients in each whole food.
Calcium, especially from milk products, has been universally recommended as the one main element needed to reduce the risk of fractures. “Drink more milk, swallow calcium pills daily” is what we are encouraged to do. However, that may be the wrong approach. Countries with highest dairy, therefore calcium intake, have the highest fracture rates. After all we have been told about dairy & calcium, how could this possibly be happening?
First it helps to understand the structure and function of bones. Most people, including our health care professionals, think bones equal calcium, period. This is very simplistic, reductionist and far from the truth. Physiologically, bones are composed of calcium phosphate salts (65%) for hardness, and a collagen matrix (35%) for flexibility. If a bone is placed in an acid bath and all the calcium is removed from it leaving just the collagen matrix, when subjected to stress, it will bend, not break. Conversely, if the collagen matrix is removed and all that remains are the calcium salts, when subjected to stress it will shatter.
In other words, a bone with zero calcium will bend, not break, whereas a high calcium/low collagen-matrix bone would break easily. This is why excess calcium can indeed increase the risk of fracture!
For good bone health, we need many other synergistic nutrients: magnesium, phosphorus, boron, copper, manganese, zinc, plus the vitamins C, D, K, B6, and folic acid. In addition, we need sufficient amounts of protein for the collagen matrix, and healthful fats for Vitamin D absorption and protection against bone-destroying free radicals. To obtain Vitamin D, we need 30 minutes or more of sunlight, or at least daylight, every day, without sunscreen. That is because an SPF of 8 blocks 95% of the production of Vitamin D on the skin and anything higher blocks it all. Truly naked skin sun time is best…. Got a place you can sun bathe naked? Naked Sun Time blog post for your reading pleasure.
Here are my dietary recommendations for good bone health:
- Plenty of fresh, local, & seasonal vegetables (this ensures highest nutrient availability); especially leafy greens (remember that cows, horses, and elephants eat green grass and they have strong bones & bodies). Include five to seven servings daily including parsley, root veggies, and cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage.
- 100% whole food eating: no refined foods. Feed your body the way nature intended with natural foods. http://www.paulayoumellrn.com/whole-food-feeding-your-cells/
- Cooking with stocks made with vegetables and kombu seaweed.
- Bone broths made with fish, chicken or beef bones, and a tablespoon or more of organic/apple cider vinegar to liberate the minerals. I soak the bones and vinegar overnight and slow & low heat simmer for hours the next day.
- Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds for the minerals and natural fats.
- Very modest amounts of whole grains for the fiber and complex carbohydrates. Many people do very well eating 100% grain free. 100% dietary removal of wheat/gluten (rye, barley, and oats unless the oats are certified gluten free & organic. Learn about gluten free health in my home study course: Gluten Free Living. All home study courses are donation based.). Modern wheat and its high levels of gluten are hard on the body's health. Traditionally wheat was sprouted and fermented before eating. These processes change the way wheat impacts the body and your cells; bone cells too.
- Beans and naturally raised animal foods (that means grass fed, pasture raised meat) for the protein.
- Butter from naturally raised animals, cold pressed extra virgin olive, flax seeds, avocados, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and unrefined sesame oils for the essential fatty acids.
- Milk and dairy products in moderation: IF you tolerate dairy and/or enjoy it, well then use it, in moderation. Dairy it is not essential in the human diet, this is a case where less can be more. We do not need 3-4 servings of dairy daily for bone health (despite being taught that as kids). Whole foods make healthy bones. If you can, find raw - local, pasture raised & grass fed, whole fat milk... the minerals are more readily available in raw milk.
- Feed yourself some sun! Sun exposure for natural vitamin D production helps with mineral absorption and building strong bones and bodies. See the naked sun time article mentioned above.
- Keep coffee intake lower than higher. Coffee leaches minerals from your body... yup, your bones. This blog posts talks about reducing coffee's acidity in the body: http://www.paulayoumellrn.com/blog/2014/03/03/coffee-getting-rid-of-the-acid-reflux-issue
The following foods are best avoided because they cause an acid condition in the body that leaches minerals out of the bones: manufactured 'food products', refined sugars, refined honey, modern wheat and wheat products, most gluten free products, white rice, refined - white flour: including pasta, white bread, muffins, and, of course, baked flour desserts. Think WHOLE FOODS. I can teach you how to make healthier, whole food treats.
Based on epidemiology and the studies mentioned above, avoiding milk products may also prevent bone fractures. At least, using milk products in moderation, meaning small amounts and not necessarily daily, is a better option. The US Government's advice to drink 3-4 glasses of milk daily is not about your health, it is about marketing milk for profit. I am not against dairy; we just do not need a quart a day per person to ensure bone or bodily health. Traditional cultures eat their dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) raw and fermented.
Unopposed animal protein in the diet can be overwhelming to our systems. We are a nation that eats too much animal protein (meat, milk, dairy products, eggs) potentially causing an acidic condition in the body. The body responds to acidity by pulling minerals from the bones to balance your bodies PH. This means mineral loss from the bones. Cutting down on the amounts of animal protein in the diet stops this mineral loss from the bones. If you think in moderation, not huge chunks of meat per person, you will eat less. Once again, I am not advocating not eating animal protein, but 16 oz. steaks are not required for a 1 person meal. (Animal based protein does have many, many cell nourishing nutrients. Think 3-5 ounces not that 16 ounce prime rib - or share it.)
Opposing animal protein with lots of vegetable in the diet also helps. Vegetables add minerals to the bones and body cells in general. Vegetables also help to alkalize the blood, neutralizing animal protein acidity. Sea vegetables are also high in minerals, making your body cells and therefor bones more mineral rich.
Opposing animal protein with the mineral rich bones and organs helps to stop the mineral loss from high, unopposed animal protein consumption. Eat bone broths and animal organs.Traditional diets did not just eat the muscles (flesh) of animals, birds and fish; they ate the bones and organs! Small bones were chewed up and digested. Large bones were made into broths and eaten as soups. Larger bones were also ground and the powder used to thicken soups, stews and breads. This put animal bone minerals into the body, not just the protein from animal muscles. Organ meats have always been part of traditional diets. Think Native Americans, they used every part of the animal, not just the muscles. Organs are dense nutrition, high in minerals that offset the acidifying, mineral leaching properties of animal protein. It all goes back to whole foods, eating the whole, not just parts of foods. Choose grass fed, organically raised animal products to get the healthiest foods, healthy animal products make healthy nutrition.
Last but certainly not least, walking and weight bearing exercise for at least 30 minutes every day are essential to keep the bones in good working order. Gravity and weight bearing exercise are good for us! Walking barefoot, inside and outside. Rubber soles on shoes cushion the natural vibrations that occur in the bones upon heal impact with the floor and ground. This vibrational impact stresses the bones in a good way; much like push-ups stress the muscles in a good, muscle building way. Take your shoes off, walk outside on the ground and in your home barefoot. Your bones will thank you.
And while you are at it, get down on the floor (bare handed) and do some push-ups. Your upper body muscles and bones will get denser, stronger, and healthier. I have a yoga pose hand out sheet on poses specific for upper body strength. Interested? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking for herbs to use to add balanced minerals to your diet? Click the blue, back there, for information on making mineral rich herb teas.
Possible whole food bone health supplements (taking plain calcium supplements is not the whole bone answer):
- Bone Renewal by The Synergy Company-Organic supplements for lifelong wellness
Vitamin Code Grow Bone System: by Garden Of Life whole food supplements (01/2018: I am not sure how long I will continue to recommend this company as they were sold out to the corporate world. This generally means the ingredients change... cheaper ingredients but same price to enhance corporate bottom line.)
A Wise Woman method of enhancing bone health: Wild Yam
Read more by clicking the wild yam link back there. I recommend only using this brand of Wild Yam, Living Earth, not just any ole' Wild Yam product from any company. This is high quality product formulated for birth control. It is high quality, the correct species, and works or women using it as their birth control. If it was not high quality, women would not continue buying and the product would fail to exist. Nope, I do not get kick backs. Bummer, right?
I have used this Wild Yam for years and years... the benefits to my menstrual cycle and transitional menopausal years has been down right amazing. I have had zero complaints of flooding periods, clots the size of my head, hot flashes, etc. I rest assured knowing my bones are being deeply nourished as well. Yes, I have much faith in Plant Medicine.
Making Bone Broth:
Bone broths are made with fish, chicken, turkey, beef, and lamb bones in water with a tablespoon or so of raw apple cider vinegar to liberate the minerals. (Buffalo, venison, rabbit, wild bird bones are fine as well.) Use only bones, cartilage, feet, tails, etc. from pasture raised or wild animals. Never use bones from commercially raised animals that are given antibiotics, hormones, and/or fed genetically modified feed (corn, soy…). You are what you eat and animals are what they eat. If unhealthy substances were used in the raising of the animals, those substances will be concentrated in the animals bones & body tissues, and therefore concentrated in your finished bone broth.
1. Put slightly meaty bones and cartilage (they do not have to be stripped clean of meat) in a sauce pan or big soup pot (if you have a lot of bones) and cover with water, just enough to cover bones. I squish the bones down into the pot.
2. Add the tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar and cover the pot.
3. I soak the bones in the vinegar water for at least an overnight and then...
4. Slow simmer for hours the next day. I gently bring the bone filled pot to a simmer on the stove top.
5. Then I place in a pre-heated 220 F oven and leave for 5-6 hours if chicken or fish bones and longer if the harder bones of pork or beef (6-8 hours).
6. Remove bones and use as a soup stock for veggie soup or eat the broth as is (add a bit of unrefined sea salt to taste).
7. If making veggie soup, I saute' the veggies before adding to the hot broth to avoid simmering the broth anymore.
8. Toward the end of bone broth simmering you can add herbs that contribute to the anti-inflammatory effects: turmeric & ginger root, marshmallow &/or licorice root, slippery elm bark
I often keep my bones soaking in the vinegar solution for days or week. I put them in a wide mouth canning jar and keep this jar in the fridge. I keep adding bones to this jar until I have enough to justify making bone broth and/or the outside temperature is cool enough to be ok with long oven usage.
Bone Broth FREE eBook from the Truth About Cancer Series: Click Here
Have fun building strong bones & great health.