I was giving a short nutrition talk to our new boot campers and as a homework assignment, I had them cut out some things from their nutrition. We kept it simple at first, ‘things that are white.’ Bread, pasta, rice, sugar, and dairy. Whenever I mention to cut out dairy, I always get the question, ‘What about calcium?’ I love this question because it’s driven by mainstream media, very smart lobbyist that get paid a lot of money, and incredible marketing.
The calcium question is based off of this premise; if I don’t consume enough calcium then my bones won’t get what they need and I’ll get osteoporosis. To understand better here what is going on, let’s discuss first what osteoporosis is….
There are two different types of bone cells Osteoblasts and Osteoclasts. Osteoblasts create bone (which is funny, I always get these mixed up because I want Osteoblasts to be the ones that destroy bone ya know blast it away….get it? ). Osteoclasts break down bone. Both of these cells work in tandem with each other. You see, the state of your bones is always in flux. The reason why is because they react to the stresses placed on them. When you are doing something that causes more stress against gravity (like resistance training) the Osteoclasts break down bone where it isn’t needed and the Osteoblasts re-allign it to where the stress is being applied. This is a good thing this means that the bones adjust to the stresses being place on it and they become stronger.
Where problems occur, osteopenia which later progresses to osteoporosis happens when the Osteoclasts breakdown more bone then the Osteoblasts produce. The assumption put forth by marketing is that bone is made up of calcium and if I supplement my diet with more calcium then this won’t happen. Yes bones are made up partly of calcium, but this is an extreme oversimplification. In actuality, there are two parts to the equation to keep the Osteoblasts working correctly. The first is calcium absorption. Yes, you must consume some calcium for you bones to have building blocks. The truth of the matter is though, that calcium sources such as dairy are very poorly absorbed. This means that you consume dairy in order to get the calcium, but the calcium doesn’t get to where it’s supposed to go. The same holds true for calcium supplements. In reality, if you consume too much calcium you will get a fun little present known as a kidney stone. That’s ultimately where much of the calcium will end up. Moreover, did you know that dairy in its natural state doesn’t even have a lot of calcium in it? Manufacturers fortify dairy with calcium and vitamin d in order to make it more ‘healthy.’ It’s a marketing thing to get you to buy more dairy (they have very powerful lobbyists in congress).
The bigger part of the equation, and the part that most people over look is calcium excretion. Let’s back up and instead of focusing on the problem of the Osteoclasts overworking the Osteoblasts let’s look at why that is happening. This is happening because the bones are lacking calcium yes, but they are lacking calcium because they are getting rid of, aka excreting the calcium that they have. Now why is that happening? Here’s the question people fail to ask. America and the world want a quick fix answer and a drug or supplement to just solve their problem instead of treating the underlying cause. The underlying cause of the bones excreting calcium is due mainly to inflammation. Most people are running around here with low grade systemic inflammation. This is caused by the traditional american diet of fast food, processed food, and generally crap that should not be consumed on a regular basis if at all. Newsflash right?!!? Here’s another breaking news flash, dairy is inflammatory to most people, thereby contributing to the problem! The nutrition that we teach at CrossFit Bartlett is anti-inflammatory.
If you want to prevent Osteoporosis, combat it in several ways. Quit eating processed crap that is passed along as food. Cut out highly inflammatory things like dairy and grains (a whole other discussion). This will decrease your inflammation. Secondly, consume things that are anti-inflammatory such as fish oil (omega-3’s). Thirdly, consume things that are bio available and used in bone construction, vitamin D and Magnesium. Most people are low or deficient in both of these areas, and both of these things are critical in bone growth. Also, if you consume real foods that are high in calcium this will be available for you to use and be more effective, some examples are kale, spinach, broccoli, and almonds. Lastly, do things that will stress the bones properly in order to form good bone growth. This means do resistance training against gravity. This will re-allign the bones and make the bones stronger.
I know you may be a skeptic, but we have plenty of older female clients who have actually increased their bone density following these recommendations. Good luck!
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