Healthy Bones: Fact and Fiction

Forget Osteoporosis…

Instead, focus on bone health. One of my favorite mentors, Susun Weed,  suggests we rid ourselves of the emphasis on disease and focus on the nourishment of  the whole body, the whole person.


“Focus on the patient, not the problem.”

Should you take calcium supplements? ? Fosamax,? HRT ?(Hormone Replacement Therapy)  Can you rely on plant remedies and appropriate food choices for the calcium, magnesium and other minerals needed for healthy bones?

Before we dive into nutrition, herbs and drugs, one thing everyone can agree on is that “load-bearing exercise” helps strengthen your bones. But that doesn’t necessarily mean using extra weights; moving your body away from it’s vertical axis (think side-to-side lunges) uses the weight of your own body to strengthen your bones.  Lifting your arms up to about shoulder height for Essentrics® arm exercises uses the weight of each arm (about the same as a watermelon) to “stress” and strengthen your arm bones. But just like treating a whole person, as opposed to one body part, your body needs rebalancing by working all your muscles. Every day.

If you take the recommended drugs, focusing only on the prevention of osteoporosis, it actually increases the incidence of breast cancer. Women who take synthetic estrogen to prevent osteoporosis, even for as little as five years, increase their risk of breast cancer by twenty percent; if they take HRT, the risk increases by forty percent.  AND… there is no correlation between bone density and bone breakage, according to Susan Brown, director of the Osteoporosis Information Clearing House. The reason you only hear about bone density (rather than bone strength and flexibility), is that density is the only thing the drug companies can modify. But more density in your bones does not protect them from breaking.

So if the drugs have negative side effects and don’t actually help reduce your chances of breaking a bone, what can we do?

Old age does not mean weak bones and poor posture. Poor nutrition makes weak bones and lack of movement allows gravity to collapse your spine and make you look older than your years. Believe it or not, simple lifestyle choices are all you need to maintain strong and flexible bones–and the only side effects are positive ones, such as reducing your chances of heart disease and breast cancer.  And supplements? They often do more harm than cost quite a bit.  That’s why I don’t take them. Instead, this is what I recommend consuming to improve or maintain bone health:

  • 1-2 cups daily of  nourishing herbal infusions, Many thanks to Susun Weed for instructions on making these, as well as
  • herbal vinegars , another good source of minerals, added to quality olive oil on your greens
  • one quart weekly of plain, whole-fat yogurt plus seaweed and pastured poultry and meats for their mineral content (make sure the yogurt contains live cultures and no sugar)
  • raw, hard cheeses and high-quality fats
  • plenty of fresh greens in summer (except raw spinach and Swiss chard which should be cooked) with high-quality olive oil and herbal vinegar (greens cooked in pastured butter or quality lard in winter)

And remember to limit the things we know of that can be harmful to your bones: excessive caffeine and alcohol, processed foods, sugar, all soda and vegetable oils.

Simple and wholesome solutions are best, and ironically, the least expensive, for most health problems. For detailed suggestions on good nutrition I am mostly in agreement with, check out Deep Nutrition and Food Rules by Catherine Shanahan, MD.

The problem isn’t osteoporosis; it’s inflexibility. Flexible bones are more likely to bend; brittle bones break–even if the flexible bone is thin,  and the stiff bone is thick. Flexibility is synonymous with health, whether you’re talking about bones or muscles, and you can’t get it from a drug.  Flexibility and bone health are created by nourishing and tonifying. Nourish your bones with the above-mentioned foods and beverages; tonify the muscles around them with Essentrics®.

P.S. on Protein

Increasing mineral-rich proteins increases bone health. You may have heard that animal protein leaches calcium from the bones. This is only partially true. All protein, whether from meat, beans, soy, grains, or vegetables, uses calcium for digestion. Protein from non-fermented soy is especially detrimental to bone health; soy is not only naturally deficient in calcium, it also directly interferes with calcium uptake in the bones.  Therefore, traditional diets wisely combine protein and calcium (i.e. seaweed with tofu, tortillas made from corn ground on limestone with beans) to minimize the problem. Protein-rich herbs such as stinging nettle, oatstraw, red clover, and comfrey leaf provide plenty of calcium, too (1,000 mg per quart plus many other important minerals).

If You’re Still Tempted to Take Supplements…

Calcium is only one  of many minerals needed for strong, healthy bones.  Calcium itself is brittle and inflexible. Think of a piece of chalk, calcium carbonate, and how easily it breaks. A six-and-a-half year study of 10,000 white women over the age of 65 found that “use of calcium supplements was associated with increased risk of hip and vertebral fracture; use of Tums TM antacid tablets was associated with increased risk of fractures of the proximal humerus.” The other minerals found in your bones provide flexibility. Healthy bones are the result when we move daily, and get our calcium and other minerals from herbs and foods. I have enjoyed nourishing herbal infusions for decades which provide a wide array of minerals in Mother Nature’s perfect combination, regardless of whether you choose to eat animal protein.