We can fight osteopenia in a couple of ways: taking drugs or altering diet and doing appropriate exercise. The first for the lazy, the second two for those who want more out of life.
What is osteopenia and what is the cause?
Osteopenia is a mild weakening or demineralisation of the bones. Osteoporosis is the severe version. Sadly most only discover they have either condition when they break a bone, hopefully from a small falling over event. But sometimes the discovery is made when a bone breaks after a sneeze or for no good apparent reason. How frightening that must be!
The classic reasons given for developing weak bones lies in low calcium levels taken in from the diet, the aging process reducing bone making hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone and lack of physical exercise. The best source of calcium is constantly touted to be milk, followed by leafy greens. Meat is said to cause it, although it is admitted this may not without some doubts. Click on the link to be taken to a Harvard source of the standard ‘good advice’ about brittle bones.
This advice starts breaking down when we look at the worldwide stats of osteoporosis.
Age standardized hip fracture rates (per 100,000) across different continents.
|North America||US Minnesota||201.65||511.5|
The highest levels are in Norway and Sweden, followed by the United States and England. All countries that love their dairy. The lowest levels are in Cameroon, China, Mexico, cuisines that are not so dairy dependant. In Europe, the lowest levels of osteoporosis are found in Spain. Rather interestingly we have a couple of factors here: less osteoporosis in the countries eating less dairy – and more sunshine in these same countries. Of course, levels in Australia and New Zealand are similar to the other high scorers. Both countries are dairy eaters – and both sunny. But since rates of skin cancer are high here, people cover up or slop on the sun screen. In order to get vitamin D from the sun, we do have to expose our naked skin to it – without burning, of course.
Is dairy the best source of calcium?
So why do countries such as China or Cameroon have such low levels of hip fractures caused by osteoporosis (aside from the slightly worrying under reporting of the condition!) Could it be that dairy isn’t such a good source of calcium after all? And could something else be responsible for causing osteopenia and osteoporosis? Absolutely right. To keep our bones strong we need four things: vitamin D, calcium, heavy exercise and being slightly alkaline. In order to uptake calcium in the diet, we need good levels of Vitamin D, and we can only get that from the sun if we live at the latitude of Lisbon or California. So for many of us, including all of us in the UK and Scandinavian countries, we need to supplement with D3 all year round. Then we can get sufficient calcium from green, leafy vegetables. Why not from milk, cheese and yoghurt? Well, the answer to that lies in the principal cause of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis in the first place – and that is actually hyper acidity. And what things make us acidic? Meat, dairy, grains such as wheat and oats, fizzy drinks and – exercise! What things make us alkaline? Vegetables, fruits, nuts, good salt (!). Click on the link to the more detailed blog on the acid/alkaline base in the body.
The real cause of osteopenia.
Briefly, to be healthy, our body maintains a quite precise level of very slight alkalinity, centering at about 7.4. If we become even slightly acidic, we draw on our stores of the alkalising mineral, calcium, using calcium reserves which are in our bones. As the years roll on with the constant battle to maintain vital alkalinity raging, more and more of our bone mineral mass gets sacrificed to keep us going. So when we hit menopause, since osteoporosis is more common in women than men in most countries, and our hormone levels inexorably sink, our bones become thin and brittle. We trip over a loose paving stone, and, snap. Wrist/hip/ ankle bust.
How to stop it happening.
To stop this from happening, we can either place our faith in pharmaceuticals and hope that taking prescribed calcium pills work – or we can start acting. First off is to build and maintain good levels of Vitamin D3 so we can get the calcium from our diet. We also need to become more alkaline. It is very easy to test acid/alkaline levels. All we need is a test stick which we stick in the flow of the second stream of pee of the day and we can see where we are.
To become more alkaline:
- Eat loads of vegetables and some fruits and nuts.
- Add lime for preference – or lemon to the water we drink. Water: the drink of adults.
- Oranges and tomatoes are acid making, so cut out or drastically reduce intake.
- Grains, particularly wheat, rye, barley and oats make us acidic, so cut these out completely. Oats can be eaten, but not everyday.
- Cut out all fizzy drinks. Fatline/slimline/healthline. All bone destroying and fatness making.
- If things are bad, cut out coffee.
- Take potassium orotate/citrate (alkalising minerals).
- Take a high quality magnesium, like ubermag. (Another important alkalising mineral).
- Consider taking Greens drinks – but mind out for pesticide and heavy metal contamination. I stock the reliable Poliquin Brand.
- Make sure salt is added to food – Celtic sea salt, Himalayan Rock salt, or similar.
Is meat really acid making?
Well, not as much as, say, grains are. Wen we have a good level of meat protein in the diet, this stimulates the body to produce the hormone, IGF 1, which builds and remineralises bones, so counteracts the bone breakdown. When meat, dairy, fizzy drinks and grains, especially wheat,rye, barley and oats are eaten, sulphuric acid is produced as a by product of their breakdown. Only meat has bone remineralising properties. However, a high meat diet still must be counterbalanced with a high intake of lovely veggies. 1
Exercise and acidity and bone loss/building.
Exercise makes us acidic. Cardio exercise makes us acidic but has no benefit to stressing bones enough to encourage bone formation. Heavy weights help, make sure that the weight is lowered more slowly than it is lifted to pull on the bones and cause them bone building stress. Leaping down also encourages the body to lay down bone in response to the stress of landing. A good strengthening programme, combined with good sleep encourages the bone building hormone, IGF1, so encourages strong bones. Just going out for a jog does nothing for our bone density – and if we run hard, we weaken our bones by the amount of acid we produce. So after all exercise, particularly if we only do cardio, it is wise to take take the active steps listed above to counteract the acid produced by the body during the activity. Yes, exercise is good for us, but as a part of a whole healthy plan.
Alkalinity and kidney health.
Becoming more alkaline helps the kidneys excrete more efficiently, and so aiding their health and preventing kidney diseases from getting a hold. This also helps the liver detoxification.
In order to keep ourselves slightly alkaline, we need eat copious amounts of veggies, cut out the fizzy drinks and health destroying grains. Dairy should not be regarded as a source of calcium, but rather something that has to be counterbalanced by the sprouts, which are a good source of calcium AND are alkalising. Just hoping that the bit of sun we got on holiday, plus the occasional moment in the garden in June gives us good levels of Vitamin D all year round is delusional. Regular D3 supplementation not only helps our bones, but helps our mood, helps detoxification – helps every cell in our body. So looking after our bones means looking after ourselves, and everything will get better in life as a result. Sadly though, world peace will not break out.
- If vegetables, particularly green vegetables taste horrible, this is a sign of shortage of Omega 3 fish oil. So take a generous amount of fish oils – must, must, must be clean, therefore can’t be found in the shops! – each day until cabbage becomes inexplicably nicer. [↩]