By Dana Ullman MPH
(Excerpted from The One Minute or So Healer, North Atlantic Books)
This book does not primarily focus on how to use homeopathic medicines but instead provides information on various natural health strategies to treat common ailments.
WARNING: This book is a lighthearted practical health guide. Laughter may be a side effect.
- Both bones and eggshells are made primarily of calcium. Although bones can be impressively strong, depending upon their density, they can break like an eggshell.
- Osteoporesis, a common condition of the elderly, affects women more than men because they have less bone mass and because they produce less estrogen after menopause which reduces the body’s ability to keep calcium in the bones. Osteoporesis leads to degeneration of the spine, humpback, and fragile bones–which are more easily fractured. This condition is creating an elderly population which is fragile, weak, and, like an eggshell, breakable.
Osteoporesis is also creating a legion of shorter elderly people whose vertebrae are compressing against each other due to the loss of calcium from the bone. Perhaps this explains why the Incredible Shrinking Woman got so small.
This epidemic of osteoporesis has created a major market for calcium supplementation. If calcium supplements were listed on the stock exchange, their price would have skyrocketed in recent years. However, if people knew the research about calcium that follows here, the stock’s value would have fallen as fast as it rose.
There are numerous countries that have a very low rate of osteoporesis despite the fact that the people consume as little as 200 mg of calcium a day, considerably less than the 1,000 to 1,500 mg. of calcium that most doctors recommend for pre- and post-menopausal women. The problem in this country is that most women consume too many things that leech the calcium out of their bones.
- Despite the fact that Eskimo women get over 2,000 mg. of calcium a day (from their consumption of fish bones), and even though exercise is a regular part of their life, they are known to have one of the highest rates of osteoporesis in the world. This problem is not due to bad luck. It is because they eat so much protein (as much as 250 to 400 grams a day) and so much fat; this excess causes increased calcium loss. This example highlights the importance of looking at factors that help AND hinder calcium absorption.
Conventional physicians often recommend hormone replacement therapy as a preventive to osteoporesis. Research has shown that lifelong use of these hormones helps to maintain bone strength, though it does not restore bone loss that has already occurred. More troublesome about the use of these drugs are the numerous studies indicating that they create side effects including increased chances of endometrial cancer and heart disease. Also, once a woman stops taking these drugs, calcium excretion is significantly increased.
Here are some strategies which are less costly than drugs, both financially and otherwise, and with fewer side effects. Since having adequate calcium levels in the bone is dependent on building bone strength during youth, it is best to take measures to prevent osteoporesis as early in life as possible. Although the best time to start was when you were a child; the second best time is today.
Strategy #1: Move your bod. Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise such as walking, tennis, dancing, rope-jumping, basketball, and backpacking, helps build strong bones. Swimming is not considered a weight-bearing exercise because of the zero-gravity environment of water.
Strategy #2: Do kinder gentler exercises. Free the neck! Power to the pelvis, Liberate the vertebrae 31! Doing yoga and other gentle exercises help make you limber and stronger. However, headstands and shoulderstands should not be done if you already have osteoporesis.
Strategy #3: Avoid calcium vampires. Calcium vampires are substances that suck the calcium out of your bones. In other words, they stimulate the body to excrete more calcium than is being put into it. Substances which are calcium vampires are alcohol, caffeine, salt, animal protein, fats, tobacco, distilled water, oxalic acid-rich foods (chard, rhubarb, spinach, and chocolate), and aluminum (absorbed from baking soda, aluminum pots, and from certain deodorants). Phosphorus-rich foods and drinks also impair calcium absorption, the worse offenders being soda drinks, milk and milk products, and many processed foods.
Strategy #4: Avoid the calcium vampire drugs. Many drugs disrupt calcium absorption or metabolism, including antacids, antibiotics, anti-depressants, barbituates, cholesterol-reducing drugs, corticosteroids, diuretics, laxatives, and chemotherapeutic drugs.
Strategy #5: Support stomach acid. An inadequate amount of stomach acid can lead to poor absorption of calcium. To increase stomach acid, eat charcoal-barbequed foods or charcoal supplements, eat more slowly, and don’t wash your food down too quickly with a drink.
Strategy #6: Go outside. Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption. You can absorb vitamin D by being exposed to the sun. Get a healthy dose of this sun vitamin (an hour or two), but don’t overdo it.
Strategy #7: Fish for fish oil. Fish oil has a healthy dose of vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium.
Strategy #8: Do the calcium-magnesium team. Calcium and magnesium are a team that work together in your body, so if you take calcium, you should also take magnesium. Pre-menopausal women should take approximately 1,000 mg. of calcium a day, and during menopause they should take about 1,500 mg. The best calcium supplements (in order of preference) are hydroxyapatite, citrate, lactate, gluconate, and carbonate. It is best to avoid taking large doses of calcium at one time; better to take smaller doses more frequently. Also, don’t think that megadoses of calcium are better than the above recommendations; too much calcium can create problems because it displaces iron, manganese, and zinc, and it can lead to kidney stones. The dose of magnesium should be at least 50% of the dose of calcium. For additional help, take 1,000 mg. of vitamin C, which helps to create collagenous fibers to which the calcium of the bone is attached.
Strategy #9: Supplemental supplements. Boron, zinc, copper, and manganese are essential for bone integrity. They are all in green leafy vegetables. Boron is of special value; it has been found to stimulate higher estrogen levels and increase bone density. Supplementation of 5 mg. per day is recommended.
Strategy #10: Calcium-rich foods. Sardines, salmon, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, tofu with calcium sulfate, mineral water, and sesame seeds all will supply your body with calcium. If you choose to get your calcium from milk, yogurt, or cheese, it is recommended to consume low-fat or non-fat products because the body will be better able to assimilate their calcium.
Strategy #11: Horsetail tea. It won’t grow you a tail, but this herb is rich in calcium and silica and can help build strong bones.
Strategy #12: Be born black. While this too is not a one-minute strategy, evidence does show that black people do not experience as much osteoporesis as white people, possibly because they have greater bone mass.