Osteoporosis, and bone health, is a very big medical concern in North America. What exactly is osteoporosis? Is this disease linked to our diet and lifestyle? As a population we consume a huge amount of dairy products. So what effect are the dairy products having on our bone mass? Good questions!
Osteoporosis is ‘porous bones’ or thinning of the bones, which causes them to become brittle and weak. Our bones are living tissue and are constantly being built up and broken down. When the process of breaking down is happening at a faster rate than the building up process, osteoporosis occurs.
Osteoporosis is a silent but very dangerous disease. Because there is no pain, and no outward signs of it, many people have it but don’t even know it! Often people find out after they have accidently broken a bone. Shockingly, many people who sustain major bone fractures, such as a broken hip, never fully recover. Some even die within a year of having the fracture.
About the bones…
Recently I heard a lecture by Dr. Annemarie Colbin, author of the book ‘Whole Food Guide to Strong Bones’. According to Dr. Colbin, the bones are composed of calcium phosphate salts (65%), which gives the bones hardness and a collagen matrix (35%) for flexibility. In the lecture she stated that if there is too much calcium and not enough of the collagen matrix, the bones will be brittle.
According to Dr. Colbin, having too much calcium in the diet can increase the risk of bone fracture. She maintains that for good bone health, there needs to be a number of other nutrients that work together synergistically: magnesium, phosphorous, boron, copper, manganese, zinc, vitamins C, D, K, B6, and folic acid. The collagen matrix also requires sufficient amounts of protein, and healthy fats for the absorption of vitamin D and to protect against free radicals that can damage our bones.
Our bones and the body’s pH level
Our bones are like mineral savings accounts. Most of our calcium is in the bones, the rest of it is in our bloodstream. The calcium in the bloodstream keeps the acid-alkaline or pH level balanced, which is very important. Nutrients will come and go from the bones, according to what the blood needs.
Our body must maintain a balanced blood pH level. If there is too much acidity in the blood, the body will break down bone mass (make a withdrawal from the bones) and use the minerals to balance the pH level. There are other times when the bones will be built up, if the blood’s pH level is balanced and the right minerals are present for bone building.
How does our dietary lifestyle affect the bones?
Our blood’s pH level (acid-alkaline balance) is extremely important, and it is affected by the food and beverages we consume. While we need both acid and alkaline foods in our dietary lifestyle, there needs to be a balance. If we have a diet that is high in acid forming foods, then our blood pH level will be acidic and minerals will be pulled out of the bones to balance it. If this is happening continuously, the result will be osteopenia (the phase before osteoporosis) and finally osteoporosis.
The long term effects of consuming too many acid forming foods are:
- loss of bone
- loss of muscle mass
- possible mineral deficiency
- negative effects on bone formation, heart rhythm, muscle function (including cramping)
Our standard North American diet is full of acid forming foods. Some of the most common acid forming foods include:
- junk foods
- dairy products
- sugar and sugary foods
- white flour, including baked goods
- all soda drinks
- excess amounts of meat, alcohol and liquor.
By increasing the amount of alkaline forming foods we consume daily, we are able to help our body’s blood pH level remain balanced, and less minerals will be taken out of the bones. The most common alkaline forming foods include:
- vegetables, especially leafy greens
- some raw nuts
- sea vegetables
- grains that have been sprouted.
What about dairy products?
Dairy is a huge industry and the marketing tells us over and over again that we need dairy products (like milk, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt) in order to have healthy, strong bones. In reality, dairy products are acid forming. They cause our blood to be too acidic, therefore causing minerals to be drawn out of our bones. So, instead of helping to build bone mass, dairy products can actually deplete our bone mass.
There is calcium in dairy products and there is some protein as well. But the fact is that calcium is also found in many fruits and vegetables, not just in dairy products. When you consider strong bones and sources of calcium, consider this: the largest mammals on earth (elephants, buffalo, cows, horses) have the strongest bones. They don’t eat dairy products and they are vegetarian. They only drink their mother’s milk for a short period of time, then they eat grass and leafy greens for the rest of their life.
Do you want more information about bone health? Do you need to make diet and lifestyle changes to build your bone density? Contact me, and let’s chat!
© 2014 Cathy Ormon Health Coach. All rights reserved.