Healthy bone is a living tissue. It supports and protects our body, and gives it strength and flexibility. You can consider bone as a bit of a bank – a bank for minerals which we can deposit and re-draw as needed. It is not simply a hard, rock like substance. It’s dynamic, and changing all the time. Approximately 50% of our bone is minerals, 28% collagen and 22% water. Collagen is effectively the lattice work that holds it all together.
Our bones also contain marrow. Red and white blood cells, as well as platelets are manufactured in the bone marrow – all critical to our health. Bone marrow is revered in many indigenous cultures and is becoming more common place with the paleo movement as well. Wild animals tend to suck the marrow out of any kill first, before eating the meat surrounding the animal – clearly an inbuilt survival instinct and ‘knowing’ that this is where the ultimate source of nutrition lies.
Degenerative bone conditions such as osteoporosis, result from a loss of calcium from the bone, making it more brittle and susceptible to fractures and breaks. Many other minerals are involved in building and maintaining healthy bones though.
In western medicine practices, we tend to think only of calcium when thinking of boosting bone health. It’s interesting to note, that in eastern medicine practices, the focus is more so on building up all the structural elements of the body by use of herbs, foods and treatments including acupuncture. Funnily enough, a lot of the foods and herbs used may not even necessarily contain much calcium! TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, explains bone problems as an issue with the kidney-adrenal function, as these organs are vital to the supply and uptake of minerals for our bones. Our western lives tend to be heavily acidic in our food choices, which puts a burden on the kidneys. We also tend to live quite stressed lives, putting a burden on our adrenal glands!
It’s a widely held belief that we need to ingest a lot of dairy to ensure enough calcium for strong bones. This is absolutely not the case. Ingesting dairy and other animal products makes our blood acidic, and in order to neutralise this detrimental acidity, the body actually draws alkalising minerals such as calcium out of our bones! Dairy is detrimental, not beneficial to osteoporosis. To read more about this, head to my earlier blog -> http://saltuary.com.au/cows-milk-osteoporosis-healthy-bones/
From a chiropractic viewpoint, calcium metabolism can be viewed as being connected with our balance centres. Our sympathetic nervous system (responsible for our ‘fight, flight’ stress response, and many other things too of course) influences bone turnover by stimulating the cells that break down bone and inhibiting the cells that form new bone. This results in loss of bone density and weaker bones. Chiropractic care, by balancing our sympathetic nervous system and the areas of our brain responsible for balance, may play a role in an individual’s balance and bone density.
Aside from acidity, other causes / risk factors for osteoporosis include family history, hormonal changes and inflammation. Natural medicines offer support and help for these factors too. If you have reason for concern with any of these aspects, I’d suggest going and speaking with someone qualified to help.
Magnesium also plays a large role when it comes to bones. Magnesium stimulates the production of a hormone that increases calcium in the bones, and keeps it from being absorbed into surrounding soft tissue. Magnesium rich foods include: seaweeds, beans including mung / black / lima beans, nuts (especially almonds & cashews), sesame seeds and chlorophyll rich foods including spirulina, alfalfa and barley grass.
If your calcium levels are out, it’s highly likely that your other minerals are out of balance too. It isnt always as simply as just taking additional calcium! This can sometimes do more damage than good.
To enhance calcium levels in your body:
- Bare it baby! Ensure you expose your skin to at least 15 mins per day of direct sunshine. Your body needs this to create vitamin D – the ‘sunshine’ vitamin! When I say ‘direct’ sunshine – that means not through a window or sunscreen. It means your bare, naked skin under the suns beams 🙂
- Exercise. Weight bearing exercises are especially great for plumping up your bone health.
- Minimise oxalic acid in foods, as it can bind to calcium and stop you absorbing it. Oxalic acid is found in rhubarb, cranberries, plums, spinach and beet greens. These things are fine to eat, just watch that you ‘minimise’ them, especially if you have bone problems.
- Pre-soak all grains and legumes before cooking to minimise their phytic acid component. Phytic acid is considered an ‘anti nutritive’ as it can prevent minerals from being absorbed. You may have seen ‘activated’ nuts etc in your travels. This basically means they have been pre-soaked and are much better for you as they’re easier to digest.
- Increase silicon containing foods. Silicon is found in plant fibre. Good sources include lettuce, parsnips, buckwheat, cucumber, celery, strawberries and carrots.
- Broth can help to build bone due to the collagen component too. We stock good quality, ready made broths at Saltuary for those that dont have time to make their own.
- Avoid the nightshade family of vegetables as they may cause problems with calcium digestion. These include tomatoes, chillies, potatoes, eggplants, capsicums.
If you have any concerns about your bone health, come in and discuss these with us. We have a range or treatments, supplements and nutritional recommendations that may be of benefit.
- Lisa, our Acupuncturist, is available every Tuesday and Saturday to help.
- Tiina, our Naturopath, is available Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
- Mark, our Chiropractor is available on Fridays.
- Mark, Lisa and Tiina all like to work together on their clients healthcare, and are all covered by private health.
So here’s to our skeletons! 🙂