There has always been a common misconception about nails and what they actually do. Why do human beings need nails on their hands and feet? I’d wager that most people have no idea why and before you say it, it's not just for painting them!
Firstly, let us go through what nails are. A fingernail is produced by living skin cells in the finger. A fingernail consists of several parts including the nail plate (the visible part of the nail), the nail bed (the skin beneath the nail plate), the cuticle (the tissue that overlaps the plate and rims the base of the nail), the nail folds (the skin folds that frame and support the nail on three sides), the lunula (the whitish half-moon at the base of the nail) and the matrix (the hidden part of the nail unit under the cuticle) .
Fingernails grow from the matrix. The nails are composed largely of keratin, a hardened protein (that is also in skin and hair). As new cells grow in the matrix, the older cells are pushed out, compacted and take on the familiar flattened, hardened form of the fingernail .
So now that we know what they are and how they are composed, why do we have them? "We have fingernails because we're primates," said John Hawks, a biological anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Fingernails are one of the features that distinguish primates, including humans, from other mammals. They are essentially flattened forms of claws .
Scientists suspect primates sort of lost their claws and fashioned broad fingertips topped with nails to aid in locomotion. While claws would have provided excellent grip as our mammalian ancestors clambered up large tree trunks, they would have been a nuisance for larger-bodied primates trying to grasp smaller branches while scrambling across tree canopies for fruits. Rather, primates developed broader fingertips made for grasping .
About 2.5 million years ago, fossil evidence suggests early humans first picked up stone tools, which is about the same time our ancestors also developed even broader fingertips than earlier primates. To this day, humans sport broader fingertips than other primates . Whether fingernails are an adaptation that helps to support broad fingertips or a side effect from the loss of claws is unclear, Hawks said .
The chief function of a fingernail is likely protection. Nails have no nerve endings, which is helpful, considering they're constantly in contact with our environment. It's argued that they evolved to be so tough in order to protect us from trauma both minor and major. Horse hooves, similarly, have no nerve endings, allowing us to "shoe" them the way we do. We don't put our nails through that kind of punishment, but think how many more broken thumbs there would be in the world if the "shield" of a thumbnail wasn't there to absorb the blow of a hammer ?
What we do know is that they are certainly a part of evolution and that whilst they serve little purpose now, they can be used to let us know about certain aspects of our health. It is well practiced that examining the tongue, eyes and nails can give good indications of one's health and clues as to what maybe wrong with them. Let us for the remainder of this blog focus on nail health and what it can tell us.
“The nail matrix, the site of nail growth that hides a few millimeters underneath the cuticle, is affected by each individual's general state of health,” says Jessica Weiser, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at New York Dermatology Group. “Illness, fever, surgery, trauma, life stressors, and nutritional deficiencies all have different effects on the nails and their growth. ”
Here are some common nail symptoms and what they can mean for your health :
Biting your nails is also another way to get infection into your nails and fingers. If you bite off too big a piece, you can expose the delicate skin beneath your nail, leaving it exposed to any bacteria or pathogens in your mouth—and there are plenty of them. One of the most common forms of infection is called paronychia, and it can cause swelling, redness, pain, and pus-filled lumps. That infection can stick around for weeks at a time, shows a study in the journal American Family Physician. Biting your cuticles—the narrow crescents of skin that rim the bottom of your nail, is the most common cause of paronychia .
Of course, the easiest way to have healthy nails is to live a clean, balanced lifestyle. By doing this, having a positive outlook on life and staying active, you can ensure that your nails will remain in good condition. Where the issue presents for some people (particularly ladies) is when there are no health issues but their nails need to be a little more firmer or stronger. In this scenario there are certain supplements and foods that can help with your nail health.
Consuming protein rich foods such as nuts, beans and fish can help with your nail health. The building blocks of protein are amino acids. When protein is eaten, your digestive processes break it down into amino acids, which pass into the blood and are carried throughout the body. Your cells can then select the amino acids they need for the construction of new body tissue, antibodies, hormones, enzymes, and blood cells .
There are 22 different amino acids, each of which has its own characteristics, and are like the letters of the alphabet. The eight essential amino acids are like the vowels. Just as you cannot make words without vowels, so you cannot build proteins without these essential amino acids. Protein is not one substance, but literally tens of thousands of different substances. The essential amino acids must be consumed in the diet because the body does not make them .
By consuming a diet rich in protein, you will not only remain fuller for longer, but the building blocks inside of the proteins will help with your nail health as well as other processes in your body such as boosting the immune system, muscle growth and as mentioned above, satiety.
Supplements such as biotin, vitamin E and fish oils are also great for nail (and hair) health. Biotin is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin. B-complex vitamins help the body convert food into fuel to produce energy, and are needed for the nervous system to function properly. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, B-complex vitamins are also needed for healthy hair, skin, eyes, and liver. Biotin is needed by the body to metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids, the building blocks for protein. Hair Loss Evolution has great tips for biotin and hair loss .
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, the biotin requirement is likely to increase during pregnancy. "Research suggests a substantial number of women develop marginal or subclinical biotin deficiency during normal pregnancy." Biotin appears to be broken down more rapidly douring pregnancy, and subclinical biotin deficiency has been linked to birth defects such as teratogenesis (abnormal development of the embryo or fetus). Most prenatal supplements will have an increased amount of supplemental biotin for this reason. The appearance of longer, stronger nails during pregnancy and the increased amounts of biotin in prenatal vitamins may be another reason biotin is thought of as a supplement that improves nails .
Cooked liver is a rich source of biotin, with a 3 oz serving providing 27-35 mcg of biotin, approximately 100% RDV for adults. Another one of the best sources of biotin is found in egg yolks. One egg yolk can provide anywhere from 13-25 mcg of biotin, or roughly one third of an adult's daily requirement. Eating three egg yolks would provide 100% RDV of biotin. Remember to cook your eggs, as uncooked egg whites can actually interfere with biotin absorption .
Vitamin E, in a topical liquid form, can help correct certain nail-growth disorders and problems, including yellow nail. In this condition, nail growth takes on a yellowish, thickened appearance. In addition to topical treatment, oral vitamin E supplements have also been effective at treating this condition. Yellowed, thickened nails can also be a symptom of a fungal infection. As an antioxidant, vitamin E destroys free radicals that damage hair and nails. Ultimately, this damage contributes to an aged appearance. By protecting the hair and nails from damage, both topically and through oral supplementation, vitamin E protects healthy growth .
Fish oil contains an essential fatty acid called Omega-3, which most Americans are extremely deficient in. Omega-3 fatty acids nourish your hair follicles for stronger, shinier hair that grows faster, and your nails will also become stronger and less brittle. Take at least 3000 mg of high-quality fish oil per day .
Note that you should only be supplementing for a short period of time (3 months) and should be making sensible diet and lifestyle choices that will help with the overall health of your nails and your whole body. Long-term supplementation is not the answer to nail health, as supplements are wonderful, but long term they can cause more harm than good.
If you feel you require support with your nail health or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
“All disease begins in the gut.” - Hippocrates
For many many years, bacteria has been getting very negative views in the press and media. When we all think of bacteria, we usually think of bad bugs that cause us harm and the answer for most of us is to flock to anti-biotics to help fight off these nasty bugs. Well believe it or not, the majority of the bacteria in your body are there as living organisms designed to help you survive and thrive. During this blog we shall discuss bacteria, what’s good for you, what isn’t and how to keep your body full and thriving with the good bacteria.
Our bodies have trillions of bacteria in them. They all have functions that they perform to thrive and survive. A person which has a good balance of bacteria, is thriving and disease free, we can label as ‘healthy’. Living inside of your gut are 300 to 500 different kinds of bacteria containing nearly 2 million genes. Paired with other tiny organisms like viruses and fungi, they make what’s known as the microbiota, or the microbiome. Like a fingerprint, each person's microbiota is unique. The mix of bacteria in your body is different from everyone else's mix. It’s determined partly by your mother’s microbiota, the environment that you’re exposed to at birth and partly from your diet and lifestyle .
The relationship between humans and some gut flora is a mutual one. It is well known that intestinal bacteria synthesise vitamin B and Vitamin K. The composition of human gut microbiota changes over time, when the diet changes, and as overall health changes . It seems to play a role in many other health-related functions, including metabolism, cardiac health and mood. We are still learning what a healthy gut microbiome looks like. Evidence suggests that a balanced and diverse microbiome might contribute to better health overall, and a less diverse or less balanced microbiome can have a negative impact on health. Having less diverse gut bacteria has been linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and the increase in autoimmune diseases in developed countries .
Fairly recent scientific discoveries have linked having a well balanced gut (intestinal tract) is key to a healthy immune system. Approximately between 70-80% of your immune system is located within your digestive system. The digestive system comprises of cells, proteins, tissues and organs which work together in a complex way to defend the body against harmful bacteria, infectious diseases and toxins.
In fact the gut mucosa connects with the largest population of immune cells in the body. These are also known as gastrointestinal immune cells; which come from the lymphoid branch of the immune system. Their aim is to secrete lymphocyte cells which attack harmful invaders. These lymphatic cells also form bundles known as ‘Peyer’s Patches’ which work together to protect the mucous membranes of the small intestines from infection. They do this by releasing specific white blood cells known as T-cells and B-cells to defend the inside of the digestive tract from infection, as well as the damage that they cause to the intestinal walls. .
Digestion, mood, health, and even the way people think is being linked to their “second brain,” i.e. their gut, more and more every day. The Enteric Nervous System, or ENS, is what scientists are calling the 100 million or so nerve cells that line the entirety of people’s gastrointestinal tracts. The main role of the ENS is to control digestion, but in doing so, it communicates back and forth with the brain as to the overall health of the body’s gut, and in turn, its immune system .
The connection between gut health and mood has been known for some time, as individuals suffering from bowel-disorders such as Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or leaky gut are more likely than others to also suffer from autoimmune diseases and mental issues such as depression and anxiety. Symptoms related to poor gut health can be as obvious as abdominal pain, bloating after meals, reflux, or flatulence, but also less obvious like headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and immune system weakness .
So now that we have seen why it is so important to have a healthy digestive system with much of the beneficial bacteria to help us keep our immune system in top shape, let us see the other benefits of the good bacteria. There has been a study which links the type of bacteria in your gut to whether you are lean or obese. The study found that those that were lean had a much wider variety of gut bacteria present than those that were obese .
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the gut bacterium A. muciniphila — the foremost bacteria in the gut’s nutrient-dense mucus layer — may be the key to developing new treatments against obesity and related metabolic disorders. Researchers found that A. muciniphila were at lower than normal levels in both obese mice and mice with type 2 diabetes, suggesting that the bacteria itself plays a critical role in these two common conditions. When researchers gave prebiotics to the at-risk mice, their levels of A. muciniphila increased, improving the functioning of the gut lining and resulting in a reversal of fat mass, inflammation and insulin resistance .
Other benefits of having good gut bacteria are :
The golden rule in nutrition as with most things in life, is to diversify. This is especially true when it comes to foods that feed your gut. As with most things in the body, there are certain foods which can help restore the good bacteria that we need in the gut. Here are some of them [9,10]:
What also helps the gut bacteria is the use of probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that are either the same as or very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body. Your lower digestive tract alone teems with a complex and diverse community of these bacteria. In fact, there are a greater number of bacteria in your intestines than there are cells in your body .
A probiotic dietary supplement can aid your health in a variety of ways. Lactobacillus species, Bifidobacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii and Bacillus coagulans are the most common beneficial bacteria used in probiotic dietary supplement products. But each type and each strain of each type can work in different ways. Bottom line: Not all probiotics are the same, nor do they all have the same effect in the body .
Probiotics are fantastic to take when you lose your ‘good’ gut bacteria. This can be very useful after taking a course of antibiotics, as antibiotic work by wiping out all bacteria, not just the bad bacteria. The idea behind antibiotics is simple, wipe enough bacteria, and the bad bacteria will eventually get killed off. What you’re left with is a compromised or ‘low’ immune system. Taking probiotics as well as high gut bacteria boosting foods can really help boost the immune system. Everyone should be taking probiotics in my opinion atleast 2-3 times a year. Some of my favourite brands are Just Thrive, MegaSpore and Bio-Kult.
Lastly, i’d like to cover digestion and the microbes. Bacteria (microbes) feed of the food that we eat. What we eat will either feed the good bacteria or the bad bacteria. There have been some cases where someone on a good healthy balanced diet has still had symptoms of a compromised gut, or what is more popularly known as these days, a leaky gut. The main issue here is that foods are not being digested properly in the stomach (due to low stomach acid) and therefore not enough of the nutrients are extracted to feed the good microbes. This in turn lowers the immune system and causes may gut and over time chronic disease issues. The solution to this is to take bitter foods that can aid digestion and cause the stomach acid to balance out. A tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar 10 minutes before every meal can help with this. Also taking Digestive Enzymes or Digestive Bitters can also help.
When we eat, the microbes are fed first. There is a common myth that bacteria are fed last after the body has absorbed the nutrients. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The microbes are fed first, and depending on what is fed to them, either they react in a good or bad way. That is what makes us feel good or bad after a meal and either makes us fight to survive or thrive.
If you think you require support with your gut and immune health or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at email@example.com or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
It is what we all feel racing when we have moments of joy and pain. It’s what usually wins over logic and reason all of the time. It's the one single thing that everyone should take seriously, yes i’m talking about how healthy is your heart?
The heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime, pushing millions of gallons of blood to every part of the body. This steady flow carries with it oxygen, fuel, hormones, other compounds, and a host of essential cells. It also whisks away the waste products of metabolism. When the heart stops, essential functions fail, some almost instantly .
Taking all of this into account, let's look at what literally makes us tick and how we can help maintain a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
The heart works like a pump and beats 100,000 times a day. It has two sides, separated by an inner wall called the septum. The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen. The left side of the heart receives the oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it to the body .
Your heart is made up of three tissue layers:
The movement of blood around the body, pumped by the heart, is called circulation. Your heart, blood and blood vessels together make up your cardiovascular system (or heart and circulatory system). Your body contains about five litres (eight pints) of blood, which your heart is continuously circulating .
As your heart muscle contracts, it pushes blood through your heart. With each contraction, or heartbeat :
It is clear that the heart is one of the most important organs in the human body and it should be taken care of literally because your life depends on it! Before we get onto what is essential to keep a strong healthy heart, let us take a look at common things that can go wrong with the heart and cardiovascular system.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading killers, with over 17 million people dying globally from a heart related condition every year according to the World Health Organisation . There are a number of heart conditions that one could experience or be unlucky enough to be diagnosed with. The most common ones are :
So now that i’ve scared you enough with what can go wrong with the heart, let's see what can be done to keep the heart fit and healthy? Firstly, exercise! Get that heart pumping and get some oxygen around your body! The American Heart Association recommend the following :
For Overall Cardiovascular Health:
- At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes.
- At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
- Moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.
For Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol:
- An average 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times per week.
Remember something is always better than nothing! And everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you've been sedentary for years, today is the day you can begin to make healthy changes in your life. If you don't think you'll make it for 30 or 40 minutes, set a reachable goal for today. You can work up toward your overall goal by increasing your time as you get stronger. Don't let all-or-nothing thinking rob you of doing what you can every day.
Nutrients are also essential for your heart. Here are some of the ones that the heart needs to function well :
One crucial topic I have not covered in detail is the role of cholesterol in cardiovascular health. As this is a vast and complex topic, I shall cover it in a blog of its own to do it justice. What I will say is that cholesterol does play a role in cardiovascular health, but not as much as you may think or are led to believe!
It can be seen by exercising, eating a varied and diet rich in vitamins and minerals and having sensible portions of food sizes combined with the occasional supplement can go a long way to helping our heart and cardiovascular system function at its optimum condition. Like the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
To educate yourself further, head over to Janco Voster's website, my afib heart, and read more on his great guide to heart health. It covers a lot of detail in 10 steps that are easy to follow.
If you think you require support with your cardiovascular health or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
With the shift in weather this time of year for those of us in Europe and North America, common colds, flus and viruses seem to flare up and do the rounds. From using crowded public transport facilities to working in air conditioned offices where the air is ‘recycled’, yes in most cities this time of year it’s a germ fest! So what can be done to ensure that your immune system is at its peak to fight off these nasty bugs and ensure you can have a healthy couple of months going into Christmas and the New Year.
Lets first discuss what is the immune system? The immune system is a collection of structures and processes within the body. It is designed to protect against disease or other potentially damaging foreign bodies. When functioning properly, the immune system identifies a variety of threats, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, and distinguishes them from the body's own healthy tissue .
The immune system is made up of antibodies, white blood cells, and other chemicals and proteins that attack and destroy substances such as bacteria and viruses that they recognise as foreign and different. The immune system also includes :
Without an immune system, a human being would be just as exposed to the harmful influences of pathogens or other substances from the outside environment as to changes harmful to health happening inside of the body. As long as our body’s system of defense is running smoothly, we do not notice the immune system. And yet, different groups of cells work together and form alliances against just about any pathogen (germ). But illness can occur if the performance of the immune system is compromised, if the pathogen is especially aggressive, or sometimes also if the body is confronted with a pathogen it has not come into contact before (this is how most of us get a common cold or the flu) .
So now that we know what the immune system is and how it works, what can we do to keep it healthy and running in peak condition? Here’s a few quick wins that we should all be doing :
What is almost always overlooked is the importance of exercise and the role it plays in keeping the immune system healthy. There have been many studies done that both say exercise is both good for your immune system and could also be harmful for you if you’re over exercising. Some theories of getting regular exercise to help the immune system are the following :
Exercise is good for you, but, you should not overdo it. People who already exercise should not exercise more just to increase their immunity. Heavy, long-term exercise (such as marathon running and intense gym training) could actually cause harm. Exercise makes you feel healthier and more energetic. It can help you feel better about yourself. So go ahead, take that aerobics class or go for that walk. You will feel better and healthier for it.
Let's also look at foods that can help boost your immune system and keep it in top shape:
Garlic (my favourite) - contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria. One ounce of garlic contains 23% of your Manganese RDA, 17% of your Vitamin B6 RDA, 15% of your Vitamin C RDA, 6% of your Selenium RDA and also decent amounts of fibre, calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B1 .
Green Tea - People who drank 5 cups a day of black tea for 2 weeks had 10 times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than others who drank a placebo hot drink, in a Harvard study. The amino acid that's responsible for this immune boost, L-theanine, is abundant in both black and green tea, decaf versions have it too. Optimal dose is several cups daily. Where green tea really excels is in its levels of epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, another powerful antioxidant. EGCG has been shown to enhance immune function. The fermentation process black tea goes through destroys a lot of the EGCG. Green tea, on the other hand, is steamed and not fermented, so the EGCG is preserved. To get up to five times more antioxidants from your tea bags, bob them up and down while you brew .
Sweet Potatoes - To stay strong and healthy, your skin needs vitamin A. "Vitamin A plays a major role in the production of connective tissue, a key component of skin," explains David Katz, M.D., director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Centre in Derby, Connecticut. One of the best ways to get vitamin A into your diet is from foods containing beta-carotene (like sweet potatoes), which your body turns into vitamin A .
Green Leafy Vegetables - Vegetables come loaded with fibre and nutrients and are some of the healthiest foods on the planet. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and cabbages are loaded with essential vitamins and antioxidants that boost immune system functioning .
Berries - Blueberries are famous for their high antioxidant content, but almost all berries are very healthy. They contain flavonoids and phytochemicals, which are powerful antioxidants. Berries are versatile and can be used to make a range of healthy smoothies, desserts and more for yourself and your kids .
Nuts - Nuts like almonds, peanuts, and walnuts are great sources of fats. They also contain vitamin E and zinc along with a good amount of antioxidants. They are also versatile and easy to mix with different foods. To optimise digestibility of nuts and seeds, soak and dehydrate them first and all nuts and seeds can be easily made into delicious homemade nut or seed butter .
Ginger - Ginger is another ingredient many turn to after getting sick. Ginger may help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses. Ginger may also help decrease nausea. While it's used in many sweet desserts, ginger packs some heat in the form of gingerol, a relative of capsaicin. Ginger may help decrease chronic pain and may possess cholesterol-lowering properties, according to recent animal research .
Poultry - When you’re sick, chicken soup is more than just a feel-good food with a placebo effect. It helps improve symptoms of a cold and also helps protect you from getting sick in the first place. Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B-6. About 3 ounces of light turkey or chicken meat contains 40 to 50 percent of your daily recommended amount of B-6. Vitamin B-6 is an important player in many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body. It’s also vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. Stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients helpful for gut healing and immunity .
In addition to consuming healthy foods, it's also critical to stay hydrated in order to help keep your throat and airways clear, says Maxine Yeung, MS, RD, CDN, NASM-CPT and founder of The Wellness Whisk. But not all beverages help fight illness. "Hot tea is a great way to stay hydrated, provide warmth and comfort to an irritated and inflamed throat and help relieve congestion," says Yeung. "Try to avoid sweetened beverages, like sports drinks and juice, as too much sugar in your body can cause inflammation... which further weakens your immune system ."
When you're trying to fight off an illness, focus on consuming foods that are packed with nutrients. "It's not what to avoid, but what to include in your diet that is important for immunity," says Toby Smithson, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com. And of course, the old adage that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" always applies. "The best way to stave off the cold and flu is try to stay as healthy as possible by maintaining a healthy diet, being physically active and practicing good hygiene," says Yeung. "There is no magical food that can help prevent a cold, but lacking in certain nutrients can contribute to a compromised immune system." So for the best cold prevention, focus on eating balanced healthy meals all year-round .
Lastly, supplements can also be used to help boost and maintain the immune system. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D-3, Freeze Dried Garlic, Ginger Root, Zinc, Magnesium and Olive Leaf Extract are some of my favourite ones to use to boost the immune system. Whilst i’m not affiliated with any supplement companies, if you require guidance on which brands to use, contact me! If you’re using supplements, make sure they are ethically sourced with organic and food based ingredients and are not filled with fillers and preservatives. You should always take supplements on a short term basis.
In conclusion, I would suggest that staying hydrated, avoiding sugary foods, having foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and different colours as well as having the foods I mentioned above and exercising will help you maintain good, healthy and thriving immune system. Processed foods should be avoided as much as possible. The plate you eat should be rich in colours, such as greens, reds, oranges and whites. If you think you require support with your immune system or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at email@example.com or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com
For those of us in the Western part of the world, Autumn and the fall season has started to creep up on us. The days are getting shorter, the weather a lot cooler, leaves have started falling and in the UK especially the rain has started, nothing new there then! For those amongst us that are getting on in their age, it's also the time of year where those bones start aching more and joints start to feel a lot stiffer than they are over the summer months.
Bone health is one of the most common issues for the elderly. With conditions such as arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis being the most common ones. Of course there are many others, but the ones mentioned above are the most common ones that are diagnosed. So why are so many of the elderly generation suffering from bone issues? We shall explore these (mainly osteoporosis) later in this blog, but first let me go into what is a bone and why it is so important for our long term health to have strong functioning bones.
Bones in our body are living tissue. They have their own blood vessels and are made of living cells, which help them to grow and to repair themselves. Proteins, minerals and vitamins also make up the bone. We are born with about 300 soft bones. During childhood and adolescence, cartilage grows and is slowly replaced by hard bone. Some of these bones later fuse together, so that the adult skeleton has 206 bones .
The major functions of bones are to:
Think of bone as a bank account where you “deposit” and “withdraw” bone tissue. During childhood and the teenage years, new bone is added to the skeleton faster than old bone is removed. As a result, bones become larger, heavier, and denser. For most people, bone formation continues at a faster pace than removal until bone mass peaks during the third decade of life. After age 30, bone “withdrawals” can begin to exceed “deposits.” For many people, this bone loss can be prevented by continuing to get calcium, vitamin D, exercise and by avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol use .
There are different types of bones in the human body. These are mainly defined by the shape they are. They can be described as long, short, flat, sesamoid and irregular . They all serve a purpose. Some bones are designed for movement, others for protection. As mentioned earlier in this blog, bones are also essential for creating marrow. This is important for creating blood cells. Red blood cells start as immature cells in the bone marrow and after approximately seven days of maturation are released into the bloodstream. The functional lifetime of a red blood cell is about 100–120 days, during which time the red blood cells are continually moved by the blood flow push (in arteries), pull (in veins) and a combination of the two as they squeeze through microvessels such as capillaries. They are recycled in the bone marrow .
Your bones are continuously changing, new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you're young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and your bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass around age 30. After that, bone remodeling continues, but you lose slightly more bone mass than you gain. How likely you are to develop osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle — depends on how much bone mass you attain by the time you reach age 30 and how rapidly you lose it after that. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have "in the bank" and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age .
There are a number of factors that can also affect bone health. The amount of calcium in your diet, the amount of exercise you do, the amount of tobacco and alcohol you consume, your age, hormone levels, eating disorders and use of medications can all have an affect on your bone health . It's clear to see that having bad eating habits with a lack of exercise can be a major contributing factor to the long-term effect of your bones. Note that as your bones get weaker, the amount of blood cells being produced get limited. This then leads to a number of other issues such as a weaker immune system, lack of muscle growth and lack of energy to name a few. What happens then is that the body goes more into a survival mode of protecting its vital organs and blood flow is reduced to the distal parts of the body. You can see how this can have a dramatic affect on the elderly as they clearly complain about joint issues, lack of mobility, lack of energy and concentration.
The ever growing Osteoporosis problem
If you have osteoporosis it means that you have lost some bone material. Your bones become less dense. This makes them more prone to break (fracture). 'Thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis) mainly affects older people but it can affect someone of any age. Some people have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis in later years. In England and Wales, more than two million women are thought to have 'thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis). Women lose bone material more rapidly than men, especially after the menopause when their levels of oestrogen fall. Oestrogen is a hormone and helps to protect against bone loss. At the age of 50, about 2 in 100 women have osteoporosis. This rises to 1 in 4 women at the age of 80. But, osteoporosis can also affect men. Over a third of women and one in five men in the UK have one or more bone fractures because of osteoporosis in their lifetime. There are estimated to be 180,000 fractures every year in England and Wales caused by osteoporosis .
Whist there are many treatment options for osteoporosis, by far in my opinion using nutrition and supplements is the best way of preventing osteoporosis. Although most of the bone strength (including bone mass and quality) is genetically determined, many other factors (nutritional, environmental and lifestyle) also influence bone. Nutrition is important modifiable factor in the development and maintenance of bone mass and the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Approximately 80–90% of bone mineral content is comprised of calcium and phosphorus. Other dietary components, such as protein, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, fluoride, vitamins D, A, C, and K are required for normal bone metabolism, while other ingested compounds not usually categorized as nutrients (e.g. caffeine, alcohol, phytoestrogens) may also impact bone health .
When it comes to osteoporosis, prevention is the best cure. Lifestyle and diet also contribute. Whilst there are a lot of conventional drugs available, the following Naturopathic approaches as written by Kamhi, E  can also help patients to prevent and help improve osteoporosis:
• Effective dietary interventions
- Making consistent healthy food choices to ensure the body is getting sufficient nutrients to build and maintain strong bones.
- Limit alcohol consumption to a minimum amount.
- Avoid or stop smoking.
- Calcium is the most abundant material in the human body. It is well recognized for its importance in the development of bones and teeth in additional to many other functions.
- The best food sources of calcium, other than dairy, include whole grains, beans, almonds and other nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables like kale.
- Magnesium is the second most common mineral in the body, after calcium. It is important for many metabolic processes including building bones, forming adenosine triphosphate and absorbing calcium.
- Dietary sources of magnesium include nuts, whole grains, dark green vegetables, fish, meat and legumes.
- Magnesium deficiency may impair the production of parathyroid hormone and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, which negatively affects bone mineralization.
• Vitamin D
- Vitamin D is essential for the formation and maintenance of bone tissue.
- Vitamin D is synthesized when sunlight hits the skin and transforms 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
- Food sources of Vitamin D include fish and fish oil.
- Vitamin D is also available as a supplement in several forms. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and alfacalcidol are 3 common forms.
- Boron is ubiquitous throughout the human body, with the highest concentrations found in the bones and dental enamel.
- Fruits, vegetables, soybeans, and nuts can be rich sources of boron, but the level depends on the soil in which it is grown.
- A safe daily intake is estimated to be between 1 and 10mg.
- Strontium is a naturally occurring mineral present in water and food.
- It is believed to be able to decrease bone re-absorption and increase bone formation which increases bone mass, microarchitecture and strength.
- In the United States, strontium is available as a dietary supplement in the form of strontium citrate.
• Vitamin K
- Vitamin K can help maintain healthy bone mass as it is important in the formation of osteocalcin by osteoblasts.
- Green vegetables, chili powder, prunes, sun-dried tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries and figs are all good sources of vitamin K.
Yoga is another valuable tool for everyone's bone health. Not only is yoga weight-bearing, it's the far greater pressure created by one group of muscles opposing another that makes the difference.
So as can be seen, by having a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds as well as some good quality supplements and staying hydrated can have a very positive long term impact on your bones and your overall health.
If you think you can benefit from a diet tailored to good bone health or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com