How to build and strengthen our bones

As we age, if we are leading a sedentary lifestyle for a longer period then we will lose not only muscle mass but also bone density as well. If we are not getting enough nutrients, or not supplementing with vitamins and minerals, then this could lead to osteoporosis. This occurs mostly in combination with hormonal changes and can be a significant challenge to so many people’s health.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that is caused by a progressive loss of calcium which leads to the bones becoming brittle and thus easily broken. Osteoporosis increases with age and is especially common in postmenopausal women, a result of drops in estrogen. For example, the low bone mass and a deterioration in the bone microarchitecture in osteoporosis is responsible for around 90 percent of all hip and spine fractures in women over the age of 65. It can also occur in people who are immobilized for long periods. It is one of many diseases and conditions that has been linked to inappropriate nutrition.

There are no early onset symptoms for osteoporosis, but when the bones begin to weaken the individual can experience back pain, poor posture, and easily breakable bones. In the early stages the lower bone mineral levels can also lead to a drop in physical strength which might be noticeable in the grip strength weakening. It can also lead to brittle, easy to break fingerand toe nails. In the latter stages the most common symptoms include fractures from falling, a drop in physical height, back pain, neck pain, and kyphosis (a curling of the spine).

If you are not following a well balanced diet with good quality proteins such as lean meat, wild caught fish, eggs, dark leafy vegetables, fresh seasonal fruits, and healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and seeds then you may need to use supplements. Bone building vitamins and minerals can be helpful to prevent bone loss, however a high nutrient dense diet and regular exercise, especially resistance training, should be the first choice.

Here is a quick summary of some vitamins and minerals that could be beneficial for increasing bone strength as we age.

Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium from the intestines and for its reabsorption from the kidneys, and therefore increases calcium’s availability while also stimulating its use in bone.

Vitamin K (especially K2, Mk7) plays crucial roles in the body and K2 is responsible for ensuring that calcium is deposited in our bones and not in our arteries. Vitamin K (K1 and K2) also decreases the body’s production of pro-inflammatory compounds and helps to lower overall inflammation, which is especially important for postmenopausal women.

The B Vitamins (B6, B12, folate and riboflavin) are needed to prevent levels of homocysteine from accumulating, which would otherwise interfere with collagen cross-linking and cause a defective bone matrix and increased bone fragility.

Vitamin C stimulates the activity of alkaline phosphatase to help in the formation of bone- building osteoblasts. It is also required for forming a strong bone matrix.

Calcium is necessary for blood clotting, neurotransmitter release, nerve conduction, and muscle contraction. It is important to keep the body’s calcium levels healthy because when there is not enough calcium to maintain essential blood levels our body will draw on calcium stored in our bones to maintain normal blood concentrations.

Boron is essential for our bones, as it is needed for the conversion of estrogen into 17- beta- estradiol. This is the form in which estrogen increases our bones absorption of magnesium, which forms the crystal lattice structure of the bones. Boron is also necessary for converting vitamin D into its most active form, necessary for calcium absorption.

Magnesium has many functions in the body, it activates more than 350 enzymes, is involved in the production of ATP, helps regulate the secretion of parathyroid hormone and calcitonin, and is crucial in the process that gives structure to our bones. About two-thirds of the magnesium in our bodies goes into our bones.

Zinc is essential for the immune system and also for our cells ability to respond to insulin. Without enough zinc, osteoporosis and many other chronic diseases may develop. Zinc deficiency also reduces the body’s production of osteoblasts.

And finally, strontium is also important in bone health. It slows down the development of osteoclasts and also enhances the development of osteoblasts.

Of course be cautious before you take any of these vitamins and minerals, as both your current health level and also the dosage and quality of the supplements can play critical roles in how your body reacts. Please be sure to ask your physician’s advice before you take anything.