Bones are very important. They hold us up, they protect certain organs, they facilitate movement and they serve as mineral storage. Healthy bones need proper nutrients, a balanced pH and some form of weight bearing exercise.
Proper nutrition for bones means a form of calcium that the body can easily assimilate. Not all forms are equal. Plant sources are the best. Include lots of broccoli and dark greens in your diet. For supplements, look for a calcium that is absorbable. Calcium citrate and calcium citrate-malate are the most absorbable conventional supplements; calcium carbonate the least. Other good calcium for bones include micro-crystallized hydroxyapetite and chelated calciums.
Proper nutrition for bones also means other minerals such as magnesium, boron and silica. Magnesium needs to be emphasized. If you are magnesium deficient, supplementing calcium will not build bone, but will deposit calcium in your soft tissues. However, when adequate magnesium is supplied, calcium levels rise even without direct supplementation. The ideal ratio of calcium to magnesium is somewhere between 2:1 and 1:1.
Adequate stomach acid is essential to proper assimilation of calcium. Bone spurs are a symptom of insufficient stomach acid (and not enough magnesium). Antacids are not good sources of calcium, because they decrease stomach acid. Supplementing digestive enzymes can help assimilation of calcium.
Balanced pH is very important since the body uses calcium to neutralize an acid pH. If you are not eating enough alkaline foods to balance your intake of acid foods, the neutralizing substance will come from your bones. Eat balanced. This means lots of vegetables and fruits.
Note that dairy products are not necessarily good for our bones because many people cannot assimilate the calcium in milk and other dairy products. Note that countries with the highest dairy consumption also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. Dairy products are acidifying and need to be balanced with alkaline foods like fruits and vegetables. Supplemental magnesium will also make the calcium from dairy products more available.
Sodas are especially bad for our bones. They are extremely acid forming, especially the diet sodas. Sodas also contain phosphates which can not be assimilated without calcium in proper ratio. If you are not consuming calcium with your soda, your body will get what it needs from your bones. If you are concerned about bone health, cut out sodas.
Vitamin D will help your body utilize calcium, but it may or may not end up building bone density. You need vitamin K along with the D for the body to know to build bone. Vitamin K is like a natural Fosamax without nasty side-effects. Plus K is a stronger antioxidant than vitamin E and Co-Q10.
So, for better bones, eat right, eliminate sodas, exercise and take supplements that really work to build strong bones.
Margaret Durst is a naturopathic doctor who owns The Green House, a herb, vitamin and health food store in Mason, Texas.