“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”~Proverbs 17:22
It saddens me to see older women diagnosed with “osteopenia” or “osteoporosis” listening to their doctors and taking supplemental calcium and even problematic drugs called bisphosphonates. These are irrational, dogmatic, harmful approaches to the problem of degrading bone as we age.
In my time practicing nephrology and internal medicine, I saw numerous patients suffering from vascular disease while taking the recommended doses of calcium. X-rays revealed perfect outlines of calcified blood vessels and calcified heart valves.
More than one in four women over the age of 65 in the US has been diagnosed with osteoporosis. For someone to be labeled as having this condition, it means they’ve lost 50 to 75 percent of the original bone material from their skeleton, a pretty frightening statistic.
A great deal of misinformation has been propagated for a very long time regarding the nature and proper treatment of osteoporosis. While osteoporotic bone is certainly very deficient in calcium, the administration of calcium does not resolve or improve this disease, not even a little.
Osteoporosis is a focal scurvy of the bones, and a restoration of an appropriate balance of antioxidants, lead by vitamin C, is essential to the reversal of this disease and the subsequent growth of new, healthy bone. Appropriate mineral intake is also essential for the optimal function of these antioxidants in the bone.
Many people believe that bones only lose calcium if they don’t get enough calcium in their diet. Of course, the National Dairy Council is at the forefront for promoting this point of view, as well as the solution that we all need to drink more milk and consume more dairy products – they’ve spent a significant amount of money ensuring that we all believe this, and it does seem logical.
Osteoporosis isn’t a disease caused by calcium deficiency, but a disease caused by excessive calcium loss, which means you can take all the calcium supplements you want, but if your diet and lifestyle choices aren’t healthy, or you’re taking prescription drugs that cause you to lose calcium, you’ll still lose more of this essential mineral from your bones than you can get from your diet.
Dr. Humphries says that the “matrix of bone will incorporate calcium and nutrients where they belong as long as the proper hormones and nutrients are present,” and that gravitational force in the form of weight bearing exercise is essential for a healthy skeleton.
Nutrition is also important, but just taking calcium supplements don’t necessarily do the trick. She points out that science is constantly discovering new things about food, its nutrients, and its interactions in the body that we still aren’t aware of. Additionally, getting enough calcium is just a small factor in preventing osteoporosis.
Dr. Humphries says that a more constructive supplement regimen would consist of vitamin C, vitamin K2, vitamin D3 (in the winter, and sun in the summer) boron, silica and magnesium, which are all much more important for maintaining bone health and preventing fracture than calcium. Excess calcium ultimately ends up in the heart muscles, valves and blood vessels, potentially leading to heart disease, which she has seen firsthand in x-rays.
The recommended calcium allowance for adults aged 19 to 50, and males up to age 70, is 1,000 milligrams per day. For women over the age of 50, the amount is 1,200 milligrams per day. If you aren’t taking a supplement, it would be difficult to consume too much calcium from your diet alone. Over-supplementation with calcium, however, may pose health risks.
Vitamin C does several things to strengthen bones
- It mineralizes the bone and stimulates bone forming cells to grow.
- Prevents too much degradation of bone by inhibiting bone absorbing cells.
- Dampens oxidative stress, which is what aging is.
- Is vital in collagen synthesis.
When vitamin C is low, just the opposite happens. Bone cells that degrade bone called octeoclasts proliferate, and bone cells that lay down mineral and new bone called osteoblasts are not formed.
Studies have shown that elderly patients who fractured bones had significantly lower levels of vitamin C in their blood than those who haven’t fractured. Bone mineral density- the thing that the tests measure, is higher in those who supplement with vitamin C, independent of estrogen level.
Vitamin K2 is important for cardiovascular and bone health, while D3 also helps keep bones strong and the immune system properly functioning.
Dr. Humphries recommends taking 2 to 5 grams per day of sodium ascorbate as a general supplement, but if you have kidney disease or active kidney stones, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider first.
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