Addressing Osteoporosis Naturally – Beyond Calcium Supplements
By Aidanne MacDonald-Milewski, ND • November 10, 2020
As we age, our bone density decreases due to multiple factors including reduced hormone production, altered exercise activity, stress, medication use, etc. Calcium is often thought of as the most effective bone supporting nutrient; however, supplementing with calcium alone over time can pose increased cardiovascular risk such as plaque formation (atherosclerosis), heart attack and stroke.1 This happens when other nutrients such as Vitamin D, Vitamin K2, strontium, boron and molybdenum are insufficient at putting the ingested calcium into the bones. Instead, the calcium then remains deposited in the blood vessels. The bone supporting effects of calcium should not be viewed in a vacuum and I see this as a common source of confusion for patients.
Without supplementing, how will I get a sufficient amount of calcium in the day?
The diet! The standard recommended daily intake of calcium for adults is approximately 1200mg daily. I like to recommend getting as much calcium as possible from food sources, as these will also provide other vitamins and phytonutrients to support bone health.2
Usually people think of dairy as the richest source of calcium in the diet, yet dairy is not necessarily the best quality source for most individuals.
Other foods rich in calcium include:
- Seafood: wild caught salmon, sardines, anchovies
- Vegetables: green leafy veggies such as collards, kale, broccoli, spinach, sprouts, chard, dandelion greens, mustard greens
- Legumes: dried beans (navy, soy, pinto, lima, etc), chick peas, tofu
- Nuts + Seeds: sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds; tahini
Here you can find links to wonderful, calcium-rich recipes that my colleagues have put together:
- Collard green wraps-https://lakesidenaturalmedicine.com/recipes/collard-green-wraps-2/
- Collard wraps with black beans, olives, and parm- https://lakesidenaturalmedicine.com/blog/collard-green-wraps/
- Quick collard greens with coconut peanut sauce- https://lakesidenaturalmedicine.com/recipes/quick-collard-greens-with-coconut-peanut-sauce/
- Lemon tahini dressing- https://lakesidenaturalmedicine.com/recipes/tahini-dressing/
- Fall Harvest Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing- https://lakesidenaturalmedicine.com/recipes/fall-harvest-salad-with-maple-tahini-dressing/
How do I reduce my cardiovascular risk while taking calcium?
Vitamin K2 and Vitamin D work well together to prevent cardiovascular risk while taking calcium.3 Vitamin K2 functions at the arterial level to prevent calcium from depositing into the walls of the vasculature. Vitamin D acts at the bone level to directly promote calcium uptake into the bones and integrate calcium into the bone matrix to keep it in the bones.
What other nutrients help support healthy bone density?
Strontium, boron, magnesium and molybdenum are other key nutrients necessary in maintaining healthy bone density. Often bone support supplements will include these in low doses as well. Strontium like calcium works to support the matrix of bone itself, while boron increases calcium absorption into the bones.
Aside from supplements and dietary changes, what other lifestyle modifications can I make to support my bones?
Exercise! Gentle resistance or weight bearing exercises put a short-term stress on the bones that is necessary in stimulating our bone repair cells known as “osteoblasts”.4 When unopposed by bone reforming cells, the bone degrading cells known as “osteoclasts” predominate and bone density will decline over time. Gentle body weight exercises or resistance training can help combat this and should be done 2-3 times weekly at a minimum for bone support!
Contact your naturopathic doctor today to talk about bone support methods that are right for you!
1. Reid IR, Birstow SM, Bolland MJ. Calcium and Cardiovascular Disease. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2017;32(3):339-349. doi:10.3803/EnM.2017.32.3.339
2. Anderson JJB, Kruszka B, Delaney JAC, et al. Calcium intake from diet and supplements and the risk of coronary artery calcification and its progression among older adults: 10‐year follow‐up of the multi‐ethnic study of atherosclerosis(Mesa). JAHA. 2016;5(10).
3. Maresz K. Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2015;14(1):34-39.
4. Hong AR, Kim SW. Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2018;33(4):435-444. doi:10.3803/EnM.2018.33.4.435
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.