I am at that age where a few close friends of late have told me they have been diagnosed with Osteoporosis, which literally means thinning of the bones and can lead to easy fractures. It can occur in men and women, though is more prevalent in women where bone loss begins several years before menopause and can result in fractures of the hip, shoulder, ribs, vertebrae, forearm or wrist.
More women in the industrialised world die of fractures related to bone thinning than from cancers of the womb, cervix and breast put together. These are disturbing statistics, especially in light of the fact that skeletal material dating back to the 1700’s shows considerably less bone loss of these women compared to modern women despite our supposedly better diet.
“Osteoporosis is not a simple disorder. And it is most certainly not another so-called oestrogen deficiency disease, as some would still have us believe. Neither is it treatable by drinking masses of milk or stuffing yourself with calcium supplements. Surprisingly, both of these actions can actually make the condition worse.” Passage To Power – Leslie Kenton.
So what are the causes of this life threatening illness and what can we do to prevent it? In very simple terms, the main causes are nutritional deficiencies and lack of exercise but let’s look at things a bit more closely.
- Hormonal imbalance – excessive intake of oestrogen as a result of consuming large amounts of red meat, commercial chicken and eggs and dairy products, as well as the contraceptive pill and HRT, can lead to a dominance of oestrogen and low progesterone which contributes to more bone being resorbed than being built. In men, a deficiency of testosterone, combined with poor diet and lack of exercise is a major cause.
- Excessive amounts of dietary protein – When forced to metabolise excess protein (i.e. meat and dairy products), calcium is drawn from the bones to help neutralise the acidic protein waste products. Eskimos, whose traditional diet is high in protein and calcium, have the highest rate of osteoporosis of any group of people. By contrast, the Bantu in Africa who consume a low protein and low calcium diet remain free from osteoporosis.
- Without adequate physical exercise calcium cannot be incorporated in the bones since it is only when bones are put under physical stress that calcium is demanded.
- For calcium to function properly in relation to bone building it has to be accompanied by phosphorus, in the right amount, plus magnesium, zinc, boron, vitamins A, B6, C, D, E and K.
- Taking high amounts of calcium on its own can contribute to kidney stones and interfere with the metabolism of zinc and magnesium both of which play a major role in building strong bones.
- Calcium also needs an acid medium to be properly assimilated in the digestion tract and as we age, the hydrochloric acid content of the stomach tends to decrease.
- Smoking, drinking excess tea and coffee and the use of drugs such as laxatives, diuretics, antacids, tetracyclines and corticosteroids also impede calcium absorption.
- Vit D facilitates calcium absorption into the bones. The ideal for proper calcium absorption is 20% of the skin of the body exposed for thirty minutes a day (longer time is needed if it is cloudy).
Prevention, treatment and cure of osteoporosis:
- Eliminate excessive amounts of meat and dairy products. Choose a mostly vegetarian diet. Include non-dairy sources of calcium such as leafy green vegetables and sea plants, soaked nuts, seeds, legumes, tahini, parsley and sprouts.
- Eliminate foods that are high in phosphates such as processed foods and drinks which are acid forming and therefore calcium depleting.
- Eat a wide range of fresh organic fruits, especially apples, pears and figs that are high in boron.
- To increase hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach, eat foods that have a high enzyme content like sprouts, paw paw, miso and other fermented foods like umeboshi plums. Take one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or take 20 drops of Gentian (80%) and Ginger (20%) in a little water and sip before meals, which also helps to increase hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach.
- Participate in one hour of weight bearing exercise at least three times a week or preferably 30 minutes a day. Weight bearing exercises include walking, jogging, aerobics, yoga, skiing and bicycling.
- Avoid smoking, prescription drugs and excessive tea, coffee and alcohol.