Not many people think about nourishing their skeleton. There is almost a belief that once your bones are formed, they are there for good – until they start to break down giving joint problems like arthritis or osteoporosis.
Yet the bones, like every other part of the body, are continually being rebuilt. Fortunately, many nutrition and lifestyle habits can help you build strong bones and keep them healthy as you age, and I’m going to be sharing some of my best tips over the next new weeks.
Bone is a living tissue that is constantly changing and renewing itself. There are two different types of cells in your body that carry out this process: osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Osteoclasts break down old bone, creating cavities. Osteoblasts build new bone, filling the cavities. During childhood and adolescence, there is an emphasis on building new bones, increasing their density and strength. By the time you get to your mid to late twenties, you will have reached your maximum bone strength, which is called peak bone mass. Then, after the age of 40, the ageing process leads to an increase in the breaking down of bone. This means you start to lose bone density and strength, making bones more susceptible to fractures. A fear– or worse still, a diagnosis – of osteoporosis makes many women think seriously about the health of their bones. The ageing process is the silent thief that robs up to 25% of your skeleton by the time you reach 50. Particularly prevalent in women after menopause due to falling levels of both oestrogen and progesterone, getting older increases the risk of bone fractures.
Osteoporosis is also more common in women because they tend to have smaller, less dense bones than men. However, it’s not just a female phenomenon. Osteoporosis is still common in men, affecting one in five, often secondary to another health problem, thanks to decreased testosterone.
There is a genetic component to osteoporosis, so a family history does increase your risk. However, there are a number of other lifestyle factors that also have an impact. Which of these apply to you?
Are you at risk?
- Previous fragility fracture (breaking a bone following a minor incident)
- History of maternal hip fracture
- Thin or small bone frame
- Low levels of sex hormones – lack of oestrogen/progesterone in women, and testosterone in men
- Low Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Conditions that affect the absorption of food like Crohn’s or coeliac disease
- Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism and parathyroid disease
- Use of some pharmaceutical drugs like long-term or high-dose use of steroids, anti-epileptic drugs or antacids
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Low stomach acid or frequent indigestion
- A diet low in calcium Low levels of vitamin D
- Lack of weight-bearing exercise (bodyweight exercise/ weights
People often think what’s needed to protect bones is to crack open the calcium supplements but it’s a lot more complex than that. Although calcium is the most prevalent mineral in bone, osteoporosis is much more than a lack of dietary calcium. Magnesium – used in so many processes in the body – is now considered key in the prevention and reversal of osteoporosis. Even mild magnesium deficiency is thought to be a risk factor in the development of the condition. More than just calcium While bones use phosphorus as building materials, the ability to absorb calcium into bones depends on vitamin D and is assisted by the trace mineral boron. Vitamin C makes collagen, and zinc helps make new bone cells. Vitamin K2 helps prevent the loss of calcium from bones. This orchestra of nutrients is often found in bone-friendly supplements.
If you would like some recommendations please contact me.
More in the next blog!