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