Our bones which make up our skeleton, are an active organ that is continuously broken down and built back up throughout our lives. There are two cells responsible for this: Osteoblasts, the cells that instruct the body to build bones, and osteoclasts the cells that instigate the body to break down bone.
As bones are broken down the stored minerals; such as calcium are released into the bloodstream. When these two molecules are working together, bones remain healthy and strong.
If they become out of balance, osteoclast production over takes osteoblast production. This results in bone being broken down quicker than they are being rebuilt.
Osteoblastic activity has a tendency to reduce with age and osteoclastic activity increases.
There are some lifestyle factors to consider that support our bodies to keep this process more balanced:
- Avoid refined sugars, fizzy drinks, caffeine, alcohol and smoking. These all can have a negative impact on bones.
- Include healthy fats in your daily diet; these are your omega 3’s from algae, flax seeds and oily fish, such as sardines, mackerel and salmon. The forms of omega 3 EPA and DHA reduce inflammation in the body, therefore reduce the activation of osteoclast activity, while increasing osteoblast activity to build new bone.
- Include protein from grass-feedorganic meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, lentils and beans. Protein is essential for collagen and bone formation, it is the building blocks.
- Have a diet rich in green vegetables; which contain good levels of magnesium, calcium and vitamin K while supporting the body to be in an alkaline state.
- Keep your gut healthy so you can absorb adequate amounts of the minerals and nutrients needed to build strong bones. Do this by including plenty of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, live yoghurt and apple cider vinegar. If you feel your gut is out of balance, have taken antibiotics recently or are on antacids or stomach acid blockers consider taking a probiotic. This will help to keep your gut healthy with good bacteria, which in turn supports absorption of nutrients and plays a role in the production of Vitamin K2.
- Take regular weight-bearing, resistance and impact exercise such as weight training, hiking, jogging, dancing, racquet sports and walking. These activities cause a stress on the bones and makes them have to work against gravity, which is effective at improving bone mass.
Nutrients to consider
Calcium; well known for strengthening bones, but as it also is involved with other body functions such as the contraction of muscles and proper blood clotting, if we don’t have enough calcium in our diets, and it is not absorbed and utilised in the body, calcium is then taken from the bones to enable these other vital physiological functions to still occur.
Good food sources of calcium include:
- Milk, cheese and yoghurt
- Canned fish with bones; particular sardines and salmon
- Almonds, almond butter and ground almonds
- Dark leafy greens and broccoli
- Soy products that have been traditionally produced such as tofu and tempeh
Magnesium; essential for bone health. With around 60 % of the body’s magnesium found in the bones, and is a cofactor for over 300 enzymes, including those that regulate the metabolism of calcium. It is involved in the bones structure, working with both calcium and potassium. This helps to regulate bone turnover. Another important link is its ability to help decrease inflammation in the body, which has been linked to bone loss.
Food Sources of Magnesium:
- Brown rice
- Spinach, Swiss chard and green leafy vegetables
- Lima beans
- Dark chocolate and cocoa
- Pumpkin seeds
Vitamin D; also called Calcitriol, is required for achieving healthy strong bones, as it helps regulate how much calcium is released into the blood and absorbed in the intestines, using a feedback mechanism via the kidneys. Without adequate vitamin D, either from diet or skin exposure to UV sunlight children can develop rickets causing bone weakness, bowed legs, and skeletal deformities. In adulthood the condition is referred to as osteomalacia.
Food Sources of Vitamin D:
- Egg yolks
- Cod Liver Oil
- Sunlight. Although not a food is an excellent source in the summer months as allows the body to produce the active form of vitamin D via a cholesterol derivative found in the skin.
Vitamin K2; there are two main forms of the fat soluble Vitamin K; one of which plays a role in blood clotting and is high in green leafy vegetables, this form is known as K1 or phylloquinone. Vitamin K2 or menaquinone however has a completely different role, it helps calcium to be used to build and maintain bone and avoids calcium being deposited in the arteries, other blood vessels and soft tissues, such as the heart and kidneys. Some studies have found inadequate vitamin K intake has been linked toosteoporosis.
Food sources of Vitamin K2:
- Whole milk dairy products
- Liver and other organ meats
- Egg yolks
- Fermented soy; natto, tempeh etc
Boron; plays an important role in the maintenance and growth of healthy bone tissue. It enhances the absorption of magnesium, and is a cofactor for an enzyme which converts vitamin D into its most active form, that then increases calcium absorption. Additionally has a positive impact on how the body converts estrogen into the biological active form that also increases calcium absorption while increasing osteoblast activity.
Food sources of Boron:
- Dried fruits; particularly prunes, raisins and apricots
- Nuts; especially almonds and hazelnuts
- Red kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas
- Red grapes and peaches
Phosphorus; gives bones and teeth strength, as well as helping with the regulation of the level of calcium in the blood.
Food Sources of Phosphorus:
- Salmon and tuna
- Pork, chicken and turkey
- Milk and yoghurt
Zinc; is involved in the formation of collagen threads, which are crucial for the depositation of calcium and phosphorus bonds that make up bone structure.
It also plays a role in bone mineralisation and regulation of bone turnover.
Food Sources of Zinc:
- Lamb and grass-fed beef
- Seafood; particularly oysters
- Pumpkin and hemp seeds
Floradix Saludynam – a gentle liquid formula with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D.
Natures Aid Osteo Advance – a daily supplement with Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc & Vitamin K2.
Together Bone Aid – an ecofriendly product with natural plant-based calcium form seaweed.
ViTal Vitamin D Plus – an excellent formula with great absorbable forms of magnesium, B12, K2 and D3.