5 steps to help keep your bones strong

It’s more than just calcium! Follow these 5 steps to help keep your bones strong

June is National Osteoporosis Month. It is often described as a silent disease, as people may not realise they have weakened bone strength until they have a fracture.

Bone mass decreases from 40 years of age, and for women the loss of bone can be enhanced after menopause due to the loss of oestrogen. But whilst bone mass naturally starts to decrease with age, osteoporosis is not a normal part of ageing.

Whilst the assumption is to consume dairy to keep calcium levels high, this can be counter-productive.  Read on for these essential 5 steps you should follow to support healthy bone mass into old age.

1. Take Vitamin D3 supplements all year round

5 steps to help keep your bones strong

Vitamin D is required to absorb calcium from the gut and into the bloodstream (from where it can be transported into bone). You may consume adequate calcium but if you are deficient in D3, the calcium may pass through the gut and be excreted.

Food sources of vitamin D are too low to provide adequate intake. When skin is exposed to UVB rays from the sun (without sunscreen) it manufactures vitamin D. But if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, your exposure to sufficient sunshine is extremely limited. There is insufficient exposure to UVB rays throughout the winter months Even in the Summer, you may not have adequate exposure to sunshine.

Taking 1000iu Vitamin D3 year round is a sensible and recommended precaution, particularly in the UK and especially for the older population.

2. Keep Magnesium levels high

5 steps to help keep your bones strong

We all know that calcium is the main mineral in bone. But you may not realise that magnesium is required to synthesise vitamin D. It is also required to minimise bone breakdown (that releases calcium from bone) and support bone building activity (that transports calcium into bone). Without adequate magnesium, calcium may linger in the blood stream and find somewhere else to settle. It can settle in joints (creating pain), or in the arteries (contributing to arteriosclerosis). This is not good news.

The best magnesium sources are dark green leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli, cabbage), nuts, seeds and wholegrains (like brown rice).

3. Address low stomach acid

5 steps to help keep your bones strong

In my clinical experience, low stomach acid is far more common than high stomach acid, yet many people are taking stomach lowering medications (proton pump inhibitors- PPIs). Why is this relevant to bone health? Because minerals (like calcium and magnesium) need to be ionised into their most bioavailable form to be transported from the gut into the bloodstream.  And this requires a low (acidic) pH in the stomach.

If you experience bloating, burping, indigestion, a feeling of fullness, discomfort under the sternum, it may be indicative of insufficient stomach acid.

Eat mindfully, chew food well, try to eat in a calm (non-stressed) manner and eat some bitter foods (rocket, chicory) to encourage digestive secretions. These actions can help to stimulate stomach acid secretion when you eat.

Please visit my other blogs on digestion to learn more or engage the help of a fully qualified nutritionist or naturopath.

4. Is your diet high in mineral depleters?

5 steps to help keep your bones strong

There are certain compounds in food that can actively bind to minerals like calcium and magnesium and inhibit their availability to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

These mineral inhibitors are: phytates found in grains (e.g. wheat, oats), nuts and seeds; oxalic acid found in spinach and rhubarb; phosphates found in certain fizzy drinks; caffeine found in tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and energy drinks.

Nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables are all important components of a “healthy” diet, so how can you eat these foods yet limit the potential depleting effect? You can soak then rinse nuts and seeds to reduce the phytic acid. Sourdough bread which is fermented reduces the phytic acid content. Soaking then cooking oats reduces the phytate levels. Cook spinach (and rhubarb) rather than eating raw in salads or smoothies.

5. Feed your gut microbiome

5 steps to help keep your bones strong

Back to the gut yet again! More and more research links the gut microbiome to health and disease, and this includes osteoporosis.

Certain bacteria- Lactobacillus acidophilus – one of the most well studied species of beneficial bacteria – has been found to support calcium availability in the gut. And a lack of this bacterial strain has been found in those with osteoporosis.

“Feed your gut microbiome” should be as important as feeding your body. To do this follow a high plant based diet with a very diverse range of vegetables, colourful fruit (berries and pomegranate) and apples aiming to achieve “10 a day”. There is no one plant food better than another, it is about variety, so aim to include different vegetables from those you normally buy.

The next time you think of upping your dairy intake to support strong bones, I urge you to revisit this blog and reflect whether you are following all these factors. Dairy alone will not prevent osteoporosis.

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Again, thanks for reading. 

Keep your eye out for more articles and Peyton Principles in the media.


Gut Health Nutritionist Caroline Peyton Principles
Caroline is a Professional Nutritionist, Naturopath based in Wiltshire.

A little more about me…

Providing expert, personalised, health advice utilising 10 years of nutritional therapy and naturopathy experience with a strong emphasis on digestion and gut health. Zoom or face to face Consultations.

I also develop and deliver well-being in the workplace workshops.

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