We talk a lot about heart health, brain health, and gastrointestinal health but we rarely talk about bone health. Our bones are vital to our health, not only providing structure to our body and protection for our organs. Bones also produce red blood cells that carry energy-producing oxygen to the rest of our body and white blood cells that fight infection. Bones act as a mineral storehouse, releasing minerals like calcium and magnesium into our bloodstream. Our levels of calcium and magnesium on a blood test tell us nothing about our body’s level of these mineral because the bones help to maintain the level in the bloodstream. The bones are the mineral “bank”. If you don’t replenish that bank by eating foods rich in minerals then your bone health will suffer.
It is estimated that 52 million men and women in the U.S. have osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become weak and break easily. The epidemic of osteoporosis is happening because we aren’t taking care of our bones. Good nutrition is vitaly important. There are more than 20 nutrients that are needed to keep our bones healthy including protein, healthy fats, >10 minerals (it isn’t just about calcium), vitamins, and hormones. And it isn’t just about the foods we AREN’T eating. Foods and beverages that we eat can be “bone drainers” including caffeine, excessive alcohol, sodas, white sugar and flour. Lifestyle factors can also be “bone drainers” including stress, lack of exercise, and lack of sunshine. Medications can also act as “bone drainers”, most notoriously antacids, acid blockers, thyroid medication, diuretics, and antibiotics.
So how do we reverse this trend?
- Avoid the “bone drainers” above
- Eat more bone building foods like lean protein, vegetables/fruits in all colors of the rainbow, nuts and seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of water
- Exercise on most days
- Get 10-15 minutes of sunshine per day
Your bone is living tissue, in a constant dynamic state of renewal, building up and breaking down to create new, healthy bone. There is a simple test that can tell you if you are losing bone faster than you are building bone. The Urine Pyrilinks or N-telopeptide, a simple urine test that will tell you if you are losing bone faster than you are building. It is also important to have your vitamin D level checked. Read more about Vitamin D.
There is an great book on nutrition and bone health called The Whole Foods Guide to Strong Bones. I would highly recommend it for anyone who is concerned about osteoporosis.