This is something I hear day in and day out. You went to get a check-up and the doctor tells you that you have Osteoporosis, are developing Osteoporosis, or might possibly develope Osteoporosis sometime in your life and, if you're wise, you better start supplementing with Calcium before he gives your Boniva. That future looks pretty bleak to me. I am going to confidently claim (with absolutely no FDA approval) that, even though your Calcium levels may increase on a blood test, supplementing with Calcium does NOT build healthier, stronger bones. In other words, you don't have to rely on horse pills to save your skeleton. So what does build stronger bones? To better understand, let's first examine what weakens them.
I am convinced that nothing weakens bones more than an acidic environment within the body. Our bones are a mineral storehouse that give us structure and alkalinity. Whenever our blood becomes acidic, our bones give off Calcium, Phosphorous, and Sodium to buffer the acidity of the blood. After decades of acidity, our bones have literally become excavated and we begin to see tiny holes (porosis) of our bones (osteo). The first step to retaining the mineral content of our bones is to maintain a healthy blood pH.
We live in a protein-obsessed world full of protein powders, protein bars, and excessive portions of meat. Protein, though a necessary nutrient, is the most acidic for the body to process. Several studies have found that anything over 47g of protein results in a loss of Calcium. As I said earlier, blood acidity is the major cause of Calcium loss from our bones. If protein is highly acidic, one can easily understand that too much of it may result in less minerals and weaker bones.
All processed foods are devoid of fiber. Fiber contains minerals that restore balance to the body's pH and assist with the assimilation of minerals, including Calcium. For example, wheat berries lose 92% of their Magnesium content when they are refined into wheat flour. That's huge! The fibers of plant foods are also rich in Silicon, which is a vital mineral for bone health. If you take into consideration that processed foods are also loaded in sugar and hydrogenated oils, one can see that crackers, cookies, and other packaged foods are low in minerals and high in acidifying sugars and oils that can lead to bone loss.
Refined sugar is known to some nutritionists as a "non-food". Some even call it a "negative food". This is because sugar is an extremely potent package of energy that has no minerals, vitamins, or enzymes to help with its assimilation. It is the example of a dead food. Once we ingest refined sugars, our bodies have to give up their own minerals and enzymes just to process it. It is like a vacuum cleaner sucking up our minerals and vitamins. It should be completely avoided, or rarely ingested at all.
Now, let's take a look and see what factors build and maintain bone health.
An alkaline body with a balanced blood pH will not rob the bones of minerals. Instead, the blood will oxygenate, retain mineral nourishment, and thrive. Many conditions can be easily reversed or treated through following an alakine diet. You can look at this chart for a comprehensive list of alkaline foods. I recommend you buy pH testing strips and test your morning urine to see how the previous day's foods affected your body. I've found that cutting out processed foods, increasing fresh green vegetables, and eating rice and beans in place of animal proteins dramatically improves blood pH and helps to alkalize the system.
Magnesium stimulates the production of a hormone called calcitonin. Calcitonin increases Calcium absorption in the bones and pulls it from the soft tissues in the body. Osteoarthritis is just one of the conditions caused by calcification of the body's tissues. A diet rich in Magnesium can ensure that Calcium is going into the bones and not into your tissues. Seaweeds, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables are loaded in Magnesium. Hijiki, wakame, kelp, amaranth, millet, brown rice, black beans, mung beans, almonds, sunflower seeds, kale and collards are some of the best sources of, both, Calcium and Magnesium.
There is no better source of Calcium than that of green vegetables. Green vegetables are rich in Calcium-assimilating minerals and vitamins like Phosphorous, Magnesium, A and C. Their green pigment comes from a substance called chlorophyll which is found in all plants, but especially concentrated in those like kale, collards, wheat/barley grasses, and algaes like spirulina and chlorella. Chlorophyll, which has magnesium at the center of its molecule, is a form of stored sunshine that acts much like vitamin D in the body - and we all know the importance of vitamin D in the absorption of Calcium. Better yet, green vegetables are alkalizing which allows the body to retain the Calcium and other minerals without losing them to an acidic environment. The only exceptions to the rule of green vegetables as good sources of Calcium are spinach, chard, and beet greens. These greens contain oxalic acid which inhibits the body's absorption of Calcium. These should be used sparingly or not at all if you have mineral and bone issues.
All plant fibers contain Silica, a form of Silicon. It is important to note that 33% of our bone is made of collagen. Silica is a collagen-generating mineral that will build the inner parts of the bone that allow flexibility to prevent breaks and fractures. Silica is especially concentrated in the skins of fruits and vegetables. Cucumber skins and watermelon rinds are very concentrated sources. Shavegrass, or Horsetail, is an herb that is absolutely saturated in Silica. Making a daily tea or infusion of Shavegrass can ensure you a healthy dose of Silica and other bone-building minerals.
So, what builds stronger bones? Staying alkaline and eating plant foods that are rich in minerals and cholorophyll. An organic, whole-food diet made up of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds, seaweeds, and fresh local fruits should exceed your RDA of vitamins and minerals. Moderate exercise, especially low-impact exercises like yoga, will help the bones stay strong and promote elasticity in the joints as we age.
Herbal infusions are one of the best ways to mineralize the body and can effectively replace most mineral supplements. Herbs are loaded in minerals and chlorophyll, all of which become infused into the water that they are steeped in and are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. My favorite mineral and bone blend is Alfalfa, Nettles, Shavegrass, Dandelion Leaf, and Peppermint. I can feel it alkalizing my blood and nourishing my whole body when I drink it. Simply put one tablespoon of each herb in a quart-sized mason jar and cover them with 4 cups of boiling water. I let mine steep overnight, or at least, for four hours before drinking.
If you still think you need a Calcium supplement, I strongly encourage you to choose a whole food calcium supplement over a synthetic one. Synthetic Calcium is literally equal to eating a rock. The body has a very hard time breaking it down, which can lead to Calcium deposits in the heart, kidneys, and other tissues. Take a supplement that is low in Calcium and high in Magnesium. Make sure it has D3, K2, Magnesium, Boron, Silica, and some greens like alfafa, spirulina, or nettles to assimilate the Calcium.
All minerals work together in a natural, delicate balance that no scientist, herbalist, or practitioner can completely understand. Only nature knows this balance. This is why I feel that only nature, not supplements, should maintain this delicate balance. A proper diet, along with herbal infusions, can easily maintain this balance and keep you in good health.