When I was first diagnosed, the doctor gave me a list of do’s and don’ts. The do’s to build bone and the don’ts to keep from losing calcium. The do's were mainly exercise, walk, jog, or tennis for 30 minutes every day. One of my knees sounds like there is a handful of gravel grinding together every time I climb stairs so I will admit I've been lax on the exercise part of the regimen. But I did call a local tennis organization to see if they have anything for the older set, and am waiting on a call back from them. And I can walk, it's just not much fun walking alone or on a treadmill.
There were actually more don’ts than do’s. Along with cutting caffeine and limiting fat, one don’t was limiting red meats because of the protein, but no more explanation than that. Since then I have learned the reason for limiting protein. Basically, a high protein diet makes the body more acidic and the body compensates by pulling calcium and other alkaline minerals from the bones, flushing them through the kidneys which often results in kidney stones.
However, “plant-based proteins, like that found in soy, lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL (the good) cholesterol. This prevents the build up of arterial plaque which leads to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and heart disease, thus reducing the risk heart attack and stroke. The amount and type of protein in your diet also has an important impact on calcium absorption and excretion. Vegetable-protein diets enhance calcium retention in the body and results in less excretion of calcium in the urine. This reduces the risk of osteoporosis and kidney problems.” – from Feminist Women’s Heath Center. WebMD holds the opposite view, that a high protein diet, either meat or plant-based will raise calcium levels and reverse osteoporosis. The meat-based proponents are a minority however.
My doctor’s solution was to put me on Fosamax and calcium supplements, and assured me Fosamax was safe in spite of the pending lawsuits over jaw deterioration. Taking calcium supplements does not seem to be the only answer, as most websites agree that too much calcium is worse than not enough. Too much calcium and Vitamin D can be toxic and usually comes from supplements rather than from foods. As important as calcium intake is, the key is getting enough magnesium to absorb the needed amount of calcium. From Well Being Journal:
Despite all the calcium hype, ... in general people who consume about half as much as the RDA’s of 1,000 and 1,200 for adults actually have fewer bone fractures and better health than those who follow the RDA, and that high calcium consumption may actually interfere with calcium absorption, result in weaker bones, and cause calcium to be deposited where it is not wanted.
This unwanted calcium results in muscle spasms and bone spurs, both of which I have also developed in the last two years since starting Fosamax and increasing my calcium supplements to 1200mg per day.
And this from Nutrition ATC.
Excessively high calcium intake over time may lead to kidney problems. Kidney stones are associated with both low and high calcium intake. Very high intake can cause kidney failure. Too much calcium can interfere with the absorption of minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium.
Also, supplements in the form of calcium carbonate can neutralize stomach acids which, in turn, can impair the absorption of vitamin B-12 from natural food sources.
Another website which cites many of the same concerns but is concise and easy to read is Natural Calm. However, it is promoting a product so let the reader beware.
An article on The University of Washington website shows that not all calcium supplements are absorbed equally and their conclusion, along with mine is that if a supplement is taken, a chewable is the best choice. After taking a calcium tablet for the last two years, I am now wondering how much, if any, was absorbed. From Helpguide.org, calcium citrate is preferable to calcium carbonate because it doesn’t cause as much acidity, and any kind should be taken in doses of 500mg throughout the day because that is all the body can absorb at one time. The optimum time for taking calcium citrate is at bedtime also, because most bone loss occurs at night. This website goes on to say that a Vitamin D deficiency accelerates bone loss, so even taking 1200mg of calcium a day is useless if there is no Vitamin D also. After reading these additional sources, and assuming they are correct, I have been wasting at least 700mg of calcium per day because I took my supplements at once, first thing in the morning.
So instead of relying on supplements alone to correct my calcium, Vitamin D, and magnesium deficiencies, I am going to supply it mainly the way God intended, with food. Then the body can deal with it better.
As Dr. McDougal says, “The only way to have more calcium entering the body than is leaving it is to eat foods low in protein content (especially those low in animal proteins).” He cites nations of the world with high rates of osteoporosis are the nations with rich diets. I thought his opinion of osteoporosis was interesting:
Approximately 65% of women over 40 years-old living in Western cultures are told they have "diseased bones" (osteoporosis and osteopenia) and are in need of drugs. Of course, this is not true, but it is a great way to sell medications and tests. Naturally, with the demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding, women require large stores of calcium in their bones. After menopause there is no need for these large deposits of calcium and the bones appear less dense upon testing (BMD) – this is normal, not sickness. There are a few women who do have seriously diseased bones, but drug therapy provides minimal benefits with the potential for very serious side effects.
Dr. McDougall does not agree with BMD test results and thinks that the bone-building drugs actually make bones brittle and more susceptible to fracture, and he is not alone in that opinion. One of the reasons I am not upset about stopping Fosamax are the many lawsuits.
Dr. McDougall promotes the vegan diet, and I could do that if it weren’t for the Hubster. I tried it several years ago when a lot of my friends were (and are) eating that way. However, Hubby put his foot down and flatly refused to eat brown rice or to stop eating meat. I’ll admit brown rice takes some getting used to, and it helps if it is smothered with something yummy like a bean and tomato sauce.
Before I close, just a little osteoporosis trivia. Did you know that short, thin, white women are the group of women most likely to get osteoporosis? I’m short and white, but certainly not thin, how is that fair? Did you know that the Alaskan Eskimo is the group of people by location most likely to get osteoporsis? Did you know that remote cultures who eat mostly whole grains and a little fish are least likely to get osteoporosis? Ok, that one is logical.
Foods rich in calcium- the major component of bones
Swiss cheese: 1oz = 250-270 mg
(both swiss and parmesan need to be eaten with foods high in potassium to counteract the sodium)
Dry carob powder
Garbanzo beans aka chick peas
Fortified orange juice
Foods high in potassium:
Raw sunflower seeds
Foods containing magnesium:
Dry raw wheat germ and bran
Natural raw almonds
Raw Brazil nuts
B complex foods:
Foods containing B5 – pantothenic acid:
Foods containing B6 – pyridoxine which is destroyed by cooking
Herbs that contain both calcium and magnesium:
Red raspberry leaves
Foods rich in Vitamin D – which allows calcium to leave the intestines so it can be absorbed by bones
AND DON'T FORGET NATURAL SUNLIGHT
Foods to avoid – interferes with calcium
Excessive protein – causes calcium loss from bones
Sodium – ditto
Caffeine – ditto
*Spinach – bind calcium and make it unavailable
*Rhubarb – ditto
*Chard – ditto
*Almonds – ditto
*Pinto beans – blocks calcium, but soaking several hours, rinsing & cook in new water helps neutralize
*Navy beans – ditto
^Peas – ditto
* = National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends eating one hour before or two hours after calcium rich foods
Natural remedies, My ordinary life, Osteoporosis