Bone Health as We Age

Bone Health as We Age

Bone health is an important topic but we don’t really discuss it until we are in crisis mode…i.e. we just got diagnosed with a bone disease.  But in reality, we really need to be thinking about it much earlier in life…like around age 30.

I know, right?!?!  Seems so young to think about our bones but that’s when we really stop creating new bone.  When we hit that age, we have what we have.  And this age is a medium…for some it’s around 25 and others it’s around 35.  So if you’re edging toward menopause or already went through but haven’t put an emphasis on bone health, you really should.

Today, we chat about the different diagnoses, nutrients we need, and where we can get them in food. 

What is Osteoporosis?

Most people are aware of what osteoporosis is and are typically concerned about it as they age.  Particularly women who have gone through menopause.  Osteoporosis is a loss of tissue in the bone.

If we were to crack open a human bone and place it under a microscope, we’d see something resembling a honeycomb.  All bones are porous, it’s just the degree that matters.  When bones become weaker, you’d see a change in the honeycomb structure.  The honeycombs would become less dense and look larger and larger.  This is not good. 

When we have less bone density (i.e. bone loss), we have a higher incidence of fractures and breaks.  The break isn’t the only concern.  We have to think about the implications of lack of movement, infections, and so on.  Our costs go up due to physician visits, medications, physical therapy, etc. 

What Causes Osteoporosis?

This happens primarily for 2 reasons: lack of bone supportive nutrients in the body and/or hormonal changes.  The hormonal changes are what sparks women to be concerned about bone health after menopause.  However, it’s something that is completely preventable as long as women are focusing on bone health BEFORE the “change” sets in.

There is a subset of reasons for osteoporosis development.  This subset falls under the lack of bone nutrients…sort of.  Anyone that has an autoimmune condition OR has battled nutrient malabsorption will be at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.  It makes sense though when you think about it…we just don’t often think about it.

The majority of autoimmune issues start in the gut.  There is a slight hereditary link as well but you don’t express your genes if your body is healthy.  When I have a client that has an autoimmune condition, 9 times out of 10, we are going to focus on rebuilding the gut and ensuring nutrients are being absorbed.  This is the cause with my SIBO, IBS, and IBD clients as well.  You could have an immaculate diet, but if you aren’t absorbing, you are benefiting.

What is Osteopenia, Osteomalacia, and Osteonecrosis?

Osteopenia is sort of like the precursor to osteoporosis.  Your bones aren’t great but they aren’t horrible either.  Being diagnosed with osteopenia should be a warning sign that you’re heading down a road you don’t want to be on.  If you hadn’t already, now would be a good time to pay extra special attention to your diet and nutrient intake as well as your overall gut health.

Osteomalacia is softening of the bone.  This isn’t as common as osteoporosis and osteopenia, but it still happens.  This is typically related to a vitamin D deficiency. 

Osteonecrosis is death of bone tissue.  This occurs mainly due to injury but can occur when we use corticosteroids for a lengthy period.  Again, not as common as the first 2, but something to keep in the back of the mind.

Nutrients for Bone Health

Now to the important stuff…what we need to support healthy bones through life.  Most immediately think calcium, but there are so many other nutrients at play.

This can be tricky.  When it comes to including nutrients for bone health, we have to be careful.  Some of the bone health nutrients compete for absorption in the small intestine.  For instance, calcium and magnesium.  You’ll often see cal-mag supplements.  These are formulated so they are chelated (bound together) and no longer have to compete.  Here’s the nutrients you need:

  • Boron
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin D
  • Phosphorus
  • Protein
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin K2
  • Vitamin C
  • B vitamins

I know…it seems like a lot.  But if you’re consuming a whole foods diet mostly comprised of plants, you should be on the right track. 

Some of these nutrients are necessary for bone structure and bone remodeling.  But many of these are needed to ensure the first set of nutrients are working correctly.  For instance, boron doesn’t specifically act in the bone building/repair process, but it ensures other minerals are acting on the bone as they should be. 

Now, let’s take a look at where we can get these foods in the diet. 

Foods You Should Include in Your Diet

Here is where we really talk diet.  Ensure that you’re including ample servings of the following food groups in your diet on a daily basis.  Food first is important, but supplementing may be called for when it comes to bone health. 

You can find the following nutrients in the listed foods:

  • Boron – nuts/seeds & dried fruits
  • Calcium – dairy (if you’re into that) & dark, leafy greens
  • Magnesium – avocados, nuts/seeds, legumes, tofu, whole grains, & leafy greens
  • Vitamin D – the sun (not a food but the best place to get it)
  • Phosphorus – pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, salmon, tofu, & legumes
  • Protein – all plants have protein, legumes, nuts/seeds, whole grains, & lean animal protein
  • Manganese – pineapple, nuts/seeds, brown rice, oats, & legumes
  • Copper – legumes, nuts/seeds, & dark choclate
  • Vitamin A – red, orange, or yellow vegetables & fatty fish
  • Vitamin K2 – natto, sauerkraut, kefir, hard cheese & egg yolk,
  • Vitamin C – all fruits & vegetables
  • B vitamins – nuts/seeds, green vegetables, beets, legumes, & whole grains

This list is not all inclusive but it gives you a good place to start.  Did you notice any trends?  How about nuts/seeds, leafy greens, legumes, and whole grains?  Ensuring your diet is rich in these foods would be a great way to start feeding your bones.

Supplementing Nutrients

You can’t out supplement a bad diet…that’s all there is to it.  Poor dietary intake of nutrients will cause a ton of other issues besides just bone health problems.  Diets rich in processed foods will also contain anti-nutrients.  These prevent the absorption of nutrients we need.  Processed foods also cause gut issues leading to malabsorption issues.

With that being said, here are a few supplements I like for bone health.  Before starting any supplement, you should always check for drug-nutrient interactions.

  • Jarrow Formulas Bone-Up coupled with a quality MVM
  • Integrative Therapeutics Liquid Cal/Mag coupled with Designs for Health Vitamin D Supreme and a quality MVM

Most supplements have to be pieced together.  It’s hard to get everything you need in one…this is why diet is very important. 

We’ll be talking about my go-to supplements in an upcoming blog so stay tuned for that.

Tell me, what are you doing today to help support your bones as you age?  Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you…and share with your friends!

Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS

I'm Sunny! I'm a board-certified clinical nutritionist with an MS in Clinical Nutrition. I help individuals reduce fatigue, eliminate bloat, and lose weight by healing the digestive tract and balancing hormones. I provide individual and group nutrition consultations nationwide. Join my closed Facebook group today! https://www.facebook.com/groups/140571826548289/

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below