People over age 40 have naturally more weakness in weight bearing joints and some osteoarthritis is universally seen by age 70. However, a healthy food foundation can be the difference between knee and hip replacements and jump roping into your 90's.
When I say bone health, you think calcium and may picture avertisements of celebrities with a milk mustache. Doctors are recommending additional calcium for bone growth but we are still seeing epidemic rates of osteoporosis, nearly one third of Americans, what gives?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and 99% of it resides in the skeletal system. We need calcium for bone formation but this is not resolved by taking a lot of calcium supplements. Calcium relies on 7 major cofactors for absorption and utilization in the body. Let's take a look at these 7cofactors in detail so that you can investigate why you are not absorbing those calcium supplements and instead have really expensive pee.
7 Major Cofactors in Calcium Absorption
The first and most important factor in absorbing calcium or any mineral is an acidic environment such as in the stomach. Proper stomach acid should be between 1.5-3.5 on the pH scale of 1 = very acidic, 7 = neutral and 14 = very alkaline. If you are taking a proton pump inhibitor, AKA antacid, to prevent your stomach from producing this necessary acid, you can forget about absorbing any minerals. It takes a very strong acid like the HCl pumped into our stomach to cleave the minerals, vitamins, and nutrients from our food or supplements. If you are taking a prescription antacid, talk to your physician about weaning off so that you can actually heal your gut and begin an HCl protocol that will allow your stomach to digest nutrients properly.
2. Essential Fatty Acids
You must have known this article would say "please eat more fat." You read my tag line right? Here is another reason to eat heart healthy fats, for the health of your bones and joints. To properly absorb calcium we need an essential fatty acid to transport the calcium across the cell membrane. I use a simple pH test in the mouth to test if the body has enough fatty acids to alkalize the mouth and I have to admit not many pass. Americans have an epidemic deficiency in fatty acids which I think stems from our low fat foods and the trans fatty acids in processed foods. Unfortunately, the fats in synthetic vegetable oils, those the American Heart Association labeled as "heart healthy", do not help calcium into the cells. They become trans fatty acids when heated or processed and they transport like broken elevators in the body. Most processed food is made with hydrogenated oils, AKA trans fatty acids, so we end up with a lot of broken elevators unable to transport calcium into our bones. Be sure to avoid all refined vegetable oils, corn oils, hydrogenated oils, and canola oils for optimal been health.
3. Fat Soluble Vitamins
Fat soluble vitamins which include: A,D,E, and K are only found in the essential fatty acids. Vitamin D works with the parathyroid to manage the level of calcium in the blood. Cholesterol is converted by the liver into the biological form of vitamin D3. Food manufactures are finally changing some of there old formulas of Vitamin D2, the plant form that is not readily available for the body to use, into D3 enriched formulas. Our liver has to work over time to convert this D2 into a usable form. Our liver has 450+ other jobs to do and is the primary organ dealing with detoxing synthetic chemicals. I don't know about your liver, but mine is overburdened already. The easiest way to absorb both the calcium and the vitamin D necessary as a cofactor is to eat them together in foods where they naturally occur in the appropriate ratios, like whole fat dairy from cows that ate their natural diet of grass.
4. Hormonal Balance
It is the job of our hormones to keep the blood calcium levels in a homeostasis, like an orchestra that plays many different instruments to create a balanced melody. If we are taking sex hormones in the form of birth control or estrogen therapy, the balance can be out of tune, or likewise if there is an abundance of stress hormones, we can get out of tune. If our thyroid, pituitary, adrenals or parathyroid are not actively sending healthy hormones we will also see an upset in the homeostasis. The question to ask when one of these organs is not sufficiently active is, "why is my thyroid slowing down?" Taking a medication that kicks that organ like a slow horse will greatly impact the hormonal balance of the entire body, and the absorption of calcium, sometimes in an irreversible way.
5. Systemic pH
Bone is a major buffer of calcium and likewise calcium is a major buffer of bone. In English, that means when our blood becomes too acidic, it pulls calcium from the bones, and when our blood becomes too alkaline, it deposits calcium. When excess calcium is deposited, for example, when we are taking too many calcium supplements and not digesting them properly, that excess can form bone spurs or calcifications. Instead of taking an over the counter calcium supplement, let's first make sure you are digesting calcium properly. If you have been prescribed a calcium supplement, please reread number 1.
Cartilage is 65-80% water and proper hydration can make our joints feel more like spongy shock absorbers. Our blood is mostly water, 92% and good hydration ensures that the blood is fluid enough to transport calcium throughout the body. The electrolytes transferred by water are also very important cofactors in the absorption of calcium; primarily sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate. These electrolytes can be easily knocked out of homeostasis when we play around with "low sodium" and "vitamin water" concoctions that are not natural. Also diuretics and soda with very high phosphoric acid can create an imbalance and calcium loss. The easiest way to maintain homeostasis is to drink at least half of your body weight in a non-carbonated mineral water and eat a variety of real foods which contain appropriate proportions of electrolytes.
7. Other Minerals
Finally calcium must be in balance with other micro minerals such as zinc, boron, manganese, and copper. The entire 7 systems above are supported by trace minerals. The autonomic nervous system is balanced with alkalizing minerals into a relaxed parasympathetic state. We need to be in a relaxed parasympathetic state for proper digestion. Essential fatty acids are required to help tissues utilize minerals and water transports them around our body. Minerals such as iodine and selenium support the thyroid which helps regulate the hormonal balance and chromium is necessary for insulin production to help manage our blood sugar. This is important because high blood sugar impairs hormone production, mineral absorption, and further depletes calcium from the body.
Our bodies are amazing instruments that run efficiently on the natural foods our planet has to offer. Where I see us heading is into a dangerous game of trying to be out perform mother nature. Yes, we have turned the brick phone into a handheld piece of art and are sophisticated enough to travel into space. However, when it comes to the body, our design has not had that many changes over the last 40,000 years. We still have 2 legs, 2 arms, a brain, a stomach, a pancreas, a gallbladder, etc. We still must eat and poop to live and we find the most optimal nutrition for the body in wild game and gathered seeds and berries.
When I see people replacing real foods with packaged "foods" of convenience I see problems occur in our perfect design. When I look down the alternative path of just eating real food, I see us working synergistically with our gut. We are what we eat my friends, it is the absolute truth. So eat your rice cakes and skim milk if you want brittle bones but save your money for expensive supplements, hormone therapy and finally that hip replacement. Or join me in the path of eating vegetables from gardens, meat from healthy farms, pastured egg yolks, whole raw milk and real butter. Not only do these foods taste better, but they allow your body to build healthy bones and maintain them for a lifetime.