Love your bones

We think of bones as rigid scaffolding in our bodies but in fact bones are living tissue, constantly being broken down and built up again.  
Unfortunately as we age bone can be broken down faster than it is built up.  We reach peak bone density in our early 20s and bone loss starts at 40 and for women bone loss escalates after the menopause.  
What can we do?  Accept these changes as inevitable?  Take medication? I believe there is much we can do without having to resort to medication to keep our bones healthy.
Firstly lets think about a bone friendly diet

  • Eat foods that are rich in calcium.  Fortified tofu, soya milk, almonds and vegetables such as brocolli ad spinach are sources of calcium for vegans.  For vegetarians dairy produce such as milk and cheese are additional sources. 
  • Be aware that caffeine in coffee and alcohol may interfere with calcium absorption
  • Magnesium regulates calcium absorption.  Magneium is found in beans, soya milk, wholemeal bread, almonds, walnuts, cashews and pumpkin seeds.
  • Another nutrient for bone health is Vitamin D which is essential for the absorption of  calcium.  Your body can make vitamin D from sunshine but, because of justifiable worries about skin cancer we tend to block out the sun with sunscreen.  Vegans and vegetarians may need to take a supplement.   For non-vegans the best sources are oily fish such salmon and milk.  
  • Boron in fresh fruits such as apples aids calcium absorption
  • Vitamin K is necessary to activate bone proteins which build bone.  Find it in leafy, green vegetables such as spinach and kale
  • Vitamin C found in citrus fruits, kiwi peppers, blueberries etc helps with collagen production which is a component of the bone matrix
  • An alkaline diet such as a vegan diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables is ideal for bone health as acid forming foods like meat accelerate bone loss.  Fizzy drinks are also very acidic and should be avoided.  
  • Cut down on salt which accelerates bone loss.  A diet rich in potassium, that is with plenty of fruit and vegetables will help counteract the effect of a little salt in your diet. 

Now let's think about exercise. 

  • The best exercise for bone health is weight bearing exercise. I have this week uploaded a video  'How Yoga Boosts Health-bone health'                  which includes weight bearing exercises.  In yoga we use our own body weight as the 'weight' to strengthen bones.  Also when ligaments and muscles pull on bones this stimulates bone cell production and of course yoga provides a way of doing this.  Yoga also reduces stress. Stress affects the health of your bones in that it inhibits osteoblasts which are responsible for bone production.  Progesterone which increases after the menopause has a similar effect and this is why many doctors recommend hormone replacement therapy to boost more bone friendly oestrogen.  Given the possible side effects this may not be for you.  A more natural alternative would be soya isoflavones which are plant based sources of oestogen  and of course yoga can help balance your hormones. Yoga twists, squats and dynamic flows also help with digestion which helps the absorption of the nutrients we talked about above.

Other considerations

  • In traditional Chinese medicine, poor bone health is attributable to weak kidney energy.  This can be strengthened by a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine.
  • If you suspect you may have osteopenia or osteoporosis, that is if you have a family history of osteoporosis, have taken steroids or have had a calcium deficient diet ask your doctor for a DEXA scan.

Over three million people in the UK now have oseoporosis.  Please make sure you don't add to that number.

Article Copyright © 2014 40plusandalliswell

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