Is Calcium supplementation alone always the answer in Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a multi-factoral disorder and nutrition is only one factor contributing to its development and progression. Calcium supplementation is usually suggested yet we routinely exceed our dietary intake of calcium and therefore we shouldn’t be deficient on the modern diet.
Turning our attention to the nutrients that aid calcium’s absorption and retention, namely vitamin D and magnesium therefore seems more necessary as well as considering other lifestyle factors that could be depleting calcium stores.
Most of us are deficient in Vitamin D so having your levels checked with a GP is a good place to start when you are considering bone health. The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium from your diet and it also maintains serum calcium and phosphate concentrations which enables bone mineralization. If you don’t have enough vitamin D, calcium cannot be absorbed from the diet and the body will take it from its stores in the skeleton. This process weakens existing bones and prevents the formation of strong, new ones. Vitamin D is found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel (no more than 2 portions a week) as well as fortified foods. Sunshine is also needed to synthesise vitamin D through the skin and just 10 minutes a day on your face and hands can be enough to increase your stores over the Summer (although please take precautions if you need to). Once you have had a test to determine your levels your GP can also recommend a vitamin D supplement to raise your levels.
The Role of Magnesium
Magnesium works with vitamin D to control calcium levels. Magnesium is calcium’s pair in nature and it is the dietary ratio of these two minerals which ensures calcium absorption and retention. If too much calcium is taken in the diet it suppresses the absorption of magnesium which results in calcium deficiency! This ratio is exaggerated in the modern diet when tends to be high in calcium and low in magnesium rich foods. For example in fish, there is 8mg of calcium and 26mg of magnesium whereas in milk there is 116mg of calcium but 12mg of magnesium – whilst milk contains more calcium it will be poorly absorbed due to the lack of magnesium. Magnesium is another mineral that we are usually low in as the levels in our soil are depleted and most magnesium is found in the outer coating of grains which is removed during refining. In addition, calcium is usually added to wheat which upsets the ratio again. Start increasing your intake of magnesium rich foods by eating legumes, nuts and wholegrains so that the calcium you are eating can actually be absorbed! Magnesium supplements are usually poorly absorbed but there are companies that make magnesium flakes that you can put in the bath (not Epsom salts) which are not only great for aching muscles but your body only absorbs what it needs from a more natural form.
Other factors to consider are sugar, high salt consumption, high protein intake, tea, coffee and alcohol which can wash away dietary magnesium so you must also consider these factors if you want to improve your bone health. For your information, too little protein in your diet can be associated with poor recovery from osteoporotic fractures so make sure you include good quality protein at every meal.
What else can I do to help?
Resistance exercise (weights), in conjunction with the above dietary measures, can also have a beneficial effect on bone health as it increases bone density and reduces fractures. These types of exercise works by putting tension on your muscles, which puts pressure on your bones, which respond by creating fresh, new bone. If you encounter pain or problems whilst exercising, be sure to let your chiropractor know so we can review your exercises and technique.
I hope this article has shown that whilst calcium has its place in managing osteoporosis and bone health, other factors are also necessary and should therefore also be considered once osteoporosis has been diagnosed but more importantly for its prevention.
This information is supplied by Registered Nutritional Therapist Nicola Russell from the Way to Eat, Midhurst.
To visit Nicola’s website, please follow the link here: The Way To Eat