Updated: May 22, 2022
We hear so much about how important good bone density is but how do we achieve it?
Bones are really fascinating they are dynamic structures that we can not see or feel until we break one! We are not able to know the health of our bones unless we have a bone density scan and like many things that we can not see we do not really pay them a great deal of attention.
In this article I hope to share some nutrition and lifestyle insights that will help you support your bone density. We will be looking briefly at the following:
What is Osteoporosis/osteopenia ? -
Osteopenia refers to a condition where your bone mass gets lower and the inside of the bone structure becomes more brittle from a loss of calcium. If you have osteopenia you are not necessarily going to develop osteoporosis but you may be more likely to.
Osteoporosis is when your bones have reached a stage of weakness and brittleness and are likely to break and fracture easily.
What are the key Triggers?
There are some key triggers that are linked to osteoporosis. Some are lifestyle choices others are not!
Age - the older you are the less dense your bones are likely to be. We unfortunately not change how old we are!! although some people will disagree, My take on this is we can not stop our numerical age from increasing but we can help to stop the aging process.
Females- Both men and women as we age may find bone density reduces. But in women the hormone changes that happen at the menopause directly affect bone density. The female hormone oestrogen is essential for healthy bones. After the menopause, oestrogen levels fall. This can lead to a rapid decrease in bone density.
If you are of slight frame and have a low BMI and are light in weight this can be a contributing factor. A history of eating disorders in younger people can also predispose them to osteoporosis in later life.
Peak bone mass is at about the age of 35. Therefore although its not all down hill from then, it is important that you make food and lifestyle choices that will benefit optimal bone density as you age.
Other triggers that can predispose you to osteoporosis are: Rheumatoid arthritis, Type !1 diabetes, Chronic malnutrition- are you over fed but undernourished? An underactive thyroid- as this gland plays an important role in calcium metabolism. A premature menopause- or hysterectomy.
Cadmium a toxin found in high amounts in nicotine and readily absorbed through inhalation is thought to be the main culprit. Smokers have 4-5 times as much in their serum and 2-3 x in the kidney.
This poison has been shown to Stimulate the formation of osteoclasts. (bone cell that breaks down bone tissue) It also inhibits the inactivation of cortisol. Cortisol Nicotine is toxic too & depresses osteoblast activity ( bone building). It increases the rate at which oestrogen is cleared from the body. Ultimately, the level of cotinine (breakdown product of nicotine) is inversely related to bone Mineral density.
Osteocalcin levels are much lower in smokers. BUT…. Ex-smokers CAN rebuild bone just like non smokers.
It will be interesting in a few years time to find out what health issues (if any )vaping causes
It all seems a little doom and gloom but there are many easy tools that you may want to try to help you maintain a good bone density
Nutrients and lifestyle for healthy bones
Bone is such a dynamic structure it needs so many different nutrients in the right balance. That’s why people who are over fed and under nourished may find in later years they are prone to osteoporosis. I would suggest as well as an excellent diet, a good multi vitamin and mineral supplement.
The following nutrients are utilised in bone development and so eating the foods I have listed regularly as part of your daily diet will help you achieve optimal bone density.
• Calcium – best sources are dark green vegetables
• Selenium – eat a handful of Brazil nuts
• Iodine- from seaweed and seafood
• Vitamin D Sunshine get outdoors as much as you can and expose your arms, legs and torso not just your smiley face.
• Vitamin K from dark green vegetables
• Vitamin A can be obtained from orange and yellow fruit and veg- carrots, peppers, apricots
• B vitamins- whole grains &seeds
• Vitamin C mainly from citrus fruits- oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit.
• Vitamin E from good plant oils
Its not just what you eat its how you absorb your food- If your digestion and absorption is compromised then you may not be taking on all the nutrients that you require. Support your digestion especially as you age with digestive enzymes and beneficial bacteria .
Book a discovery call to find out how I may be able to help you improve your bone density.
5) Exercise and lifestyle for Healthy bones
As a qualified yoga teacher and PT people often ask Which is the best form of exercise? My answer
The form you do regularly!
To improve and maintain bone density weight baring exercise is needed.
Walking, running- off road- road is too impactful and all that pollution!!
Swimming - not weight bearing but is great for relaxation.
Kettlebells- fantastic cardio, flex, strength. I work with some of my clients doing yoga bells- a combination of yoga and kettlebells.
If you would like to receive a you tube video of a yoga bell session then follow this link and in the message box just ask for the yoga bells you tube link..
Yoga, the breath work is really good for relaxation and if asana are done correctly with alignment and mindfulness then increases flexibility and strength. Yoga is very much body weight exercise.
Other forms of Body weight exercise are HIIT- cardiovascular support. However as we age I would suggest a more strategic approach of exercise really focussing on form and alignment rather than throwing yourself around a fitness class.
Use of Resistance bands and stability balls- these are excellent for muscle tome and strength. And help with core stability and balance and that all important pelvic floor!
Try to move around as much as you can. Vary your types of exercise so all different muscle groups get a chance of a work out.
Start with Just 10 minutes every day and in a week you will have achieved an hour. If you find you don’t have time, just check how much time you spend scrolling through social media pages and you will be surprised!!!
If your day is very sedentary just try to move as much as you can. Lack of movement is very detrimental to a loss of bone density. It has been shown that those who are bed ridden – and not moving against gravity can lose up to 1% of bone mineral per week!
With weight bearing exercise you can gain 1-3% bone mineral density per year,
Some factors which can sabotage bone mineral loss
A very high protein diet – Too much meat and rich protein foods have been shown to sabotage bone mineral density by causing increased calcium excretion.
A highly processed diet full of ready meals and additives- Goes without saying as you will be undernourished.
Coffee - As a diuretic caffeine can cause greater elimination of all nutrients from the kidneys. Drinking lots of cups through the day can also have a stimulant effect and disrupt sleep. I love nothing better than a fresh ground coffee in the morning. Drunk mindfully and savouring its delicious flavour..
A high sugar diet not only plays havoc with the pancreas and blood sugar metabolism but can also reduce vitamin and mineral status. Diabetes is linked with low vitamin D status.
Alcohol- basically is a toxin which the liver has to work harder to remove from the body. Alcohol disrupts the metabolism of calcium and vitamin D which are essential in bone formation.
Fizzy drinks- they contain phosphoric acid- phosphorus- another essential mineral. But if the consumption is excessive phosphorus will disrupt the fine balance that is needed for the phosphorus and calcium ratio in bones. This may lead to bone loss if intake is excessive.
As you have hopefully found out from this article, maintaining optimal bone density is multifaceted, there is no one area more important than another but a long term diet of poor food where you are overfed but undernourished and a sedentary lifestyle are not conducive to building or maintaining optimal bone density.