Most people associate osteoporosis with calcium deficiency that can be remedied by taking calcium supplements. However, it is not that simple.
People in the United States consume more dairy products and other foods high in calcium per capita than the citizens of any other 2 nations on earth. We even have orange juice and antacids that are fortified with calcium. In spite of our high calcium intake, we still have the highest rate of osteoporosis in the world.
Calcium is not the issue. Bone health is a function of the way minerals are absorbed and used by the body. Bone health also depends on the right combination of minerals not just calcium.
Digestion plays a key role in bone health. Stomach acid is necessary for assimilation of minerals. The typical American diet tends to create stomachs that malfunction. Ninety percent of indigestion is caused by too little stomach acid, yet the majority of those with indigestion take acid blockers which block their ability to absorb essential minerals.
Another major factor in bone health is pH of the body. Too many of the foods and drinks that we consume make our bodies too acid. Acidity causes our body to pull minerals from our bones to help buffer the acidity. Foods that cause acidity are meat, dairy products, sugar, caffeine, sodas, artificial sweeteners and some prescription medications. Foods that naturally buffer acid are fruits and vegetables. It is important to balance the acid forming foods with buffer foods and to maintain a balanced diet to ensure proper mineral assimilation.
Caffeine is linked to bone loss as are carbonated soft drinks that contain phosphates. Both caffeine and soft drinks are acid forming in the body, requiring some form of buffering even if it has to come from the bones.
The correct balance of magnesium, boron, potassium, silica, folic acid, and vitamins C, D, E and K all play vital roles in bone health. Yet many of the more popular brands of calcium are just calcium and vitamin D. There are good supplements available; it just takes some wading through the labels.
The number on the label does not necessarily reflect the amount of calcium you can expect to absorb. The important information to look for is the elemental calcium. It is the elemental calcium that is usable by the body. Not all brands have this information making it even more confusing.
The form of calcium is also important. Many of the popular brands are the wrong kind of calcium. While calcium carbonate is high in elemental calcium, it is not easily absorbed unless it is in an ionic form. Calcium citrate tends to be easily absorbed by the body and is good for those with low levels of stomach acid; however, calcium citrate is only 21 percent elemental calcium.
If you want better bone health, take a good multiple mineral supplement, make sure that you have good digestion, eat plenty of dark green vegetables and minimize the amount of bone leaching substances like caffeine and soft drinks from your diet.
Margaret Durst is a naturopathic doctor who owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.