Calcium supplementation is a multi-billion dollar industry.
Whether or not calcium helps prevent bone fractures and the onset and progression of osteoporosis is a hotly debated topic. Today I want to tell you about new research that could help you build better bones and for the record, I do think calcium plays an important role in bone health, our bone REQUIRE it. But is it the major player you think it is? The BMJ study would say no.
Here’s some facts:
Fact: Ninety-nine percent of calcium in our body is found in your bones and teeth.
Fact: One percent of calcium is involved in blood vessel and muscle contractions and relaxation, electrolyte function, and other metabolic functions. When we don’t have enough calcium, we may experience muscle cramps, hypertension, insomnia, dental caries, and bone deterioration.
Fact: Women are at high risk for osteopenia (early stages of osteoporosis) and osteoporosis because of our small frame, post-menopausal declines in estrogen and progesterone, and less muscle mass. It is estimated that half of women over the age of 50 experience an osteoporosis related bone fracture in their lifetime.
As for calcium, I don’t love supplementation, it causes a lot of gas and most supplements are poorly soluble forms of calcium (some just go in and out of your tube) so I personally recommend you eat a calcium-rich diet until there is a great supplement to offer. Greens have more calcium than milk by the way so cooked kale, broccoli and chard are better than milk for example. Sound weird to you? Why? That’s where the cows get their calcium for years and years! They eat the grass, which are ‘greens.’
Fact: Weight bearing exercise helps reduce risk of bone fractures. Work out to your level and it’s not about lifting weights, it is more about weight-bearing forms of exercise (jogging, walking, yoga, dancing) NOT lifting dumbells or kettlebells… although those are fine for strength.
Now the new research…
Your intestinal health plays a very large role in your bone health. We already know that if we don’t have adequate stomach acid (like, we take proton pump inhibitors or antacids) that calcium suddenly fails to get absorbed well.
Calcium requires you to have some acid present. Acid blockers are “drug muggers” of calcium and other minerals.
So this is interesting. There’s actually a gut flora-bone signaling ‘pathway’ and in animal studies, researchers proved that beneficial probiotic strains (Lactobacillus reuteri and Bifidobacterium longum) actually mitigated menopause-induced bone loss. Gut bacteria ‘talk’ to the bone cells whose task is to remodel bone tissue. These bacteria dictate the rate of remodeling. The more friendly flora you have, the faster your bone remodels.
Poor probiotic status means weaker bones
That’s not all. Your microbiome and intestinal hormones improve the absorption of calcium and other nutrients you need for a healthy skeleton. It’s about absorbing your calcium, not just dumping a lot into yourself. Follow me? I’ll repeat this differently: It’s about how well you absorb calcium (and other minerals) from the food you eat, it’s not at all about how much calcium you supplement with. Calcium-rich foods, leafy greens, green superfood drinks and so forth.
You have to absorb it or it just goes through your tube. I take from this that high-quality probiotics are the next frontier to reduce risk for hip fractures and falls. Probiotics should be at the top of your list if you are worried about falling down, fracturing your hip or losing bone mass. I bet that sounds weird to you. After all, we don’t associate the gut with bones right? Most people thing of probiotics for constipation, or immune function… so this is really new thinking. But I like to pioneer new thoughts and get you to realize that the commercials on TV are mainly there to run someone’s business.
The truth of the matter is your health depends greatly on your gut.
Your gut health is determined greatly by what you eat.
You can feel great by changing what you eat.
It’s so much easier to take a pill for a quick fix but it doesn’t fix the problem long term, and according to this new research, your ability to walk with comfort is at stake.
Add to it all the medications which mug essential minerals that strengthen your bones… this picture greatly increase your risk for osteoporosis by damaging the gut flora. I think that BMJ headline really did people a disservice because calcium is important for bones. I’m kind of defending it today, but I do suggest you get it mainly from natural sources and if you supplement, use better non carbonate brands. Apparently, calcium is not as big a deal as probiotics. Probiotics are important to bone health, maybe more important than calcium! This is new thinking, so please spread the word and share my article. You can comment below, please no personal health questions to me as I cannot provide medical advice. My forum has been re-opened so that we can ALL help one another.
As many of you know, I am a clinical consultant for Essential Formulas and I love their probiotic Dr. O’hhira’s. That is the one I take.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.