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Healthy, Strong Bones at Any Age: Part Two

Back to bones! Check out all the ways you can have strong, healthy bones at any age!

A true bone-building, box office blockbuster wouldn’t be complete without our crowd-pleasing co-stars, vitamins D and K.

D and K FTW!

Vitamin D3 is one of the most useful nutritional tools we have at our disposal for improving overall bone health. This vitamin is unique because, intrinsically, vitamin D3 is in the form of cholecalciferol. However, vitamin D3 acquires hormone-like powers when cholecalciferol is converted into calcitriol by the liver and kidneys. As a hormone, calcitriol controls phosphorus, calcium, bone metabolism, and neuromuscular function. Vitamin D3 is the only vitamin that your body can manufacture from direct sunlight exposure (UVB rays). Yet, with most of us spending too much time indoors and extensively using sunscreens due to concern about skin cancer, we are now a society with millions of individuals deficient in this life-sustaining, bone-building, and immune-modulating vitamin.

Vitamin D3 is actually an oil-soluble steroid hormone that forms when your skin is exposed to UVB radiation from the sun. When UVB rays hit the surface of your skin, your skin converts a cholesterol derivative into usable vitamin D3. It takes up to 48 hours for this form of vitamin D3 to be fully absorbed into your bloodstream and elevate your overall vitamin D levels.

One of the best-known and long-established benefits of vitamin D3 is its ability to improve bone health and the health of the musculoskeletal system. It is well documented that vitamin D3 deficiency causes osteopenia, precipitates and exacerbates osteoporosis, causes a painful bone disease known as osteomalacia, and increases muscle weakness, which increases the risk of falls and fractures. Vitamin D3 insufficiency may alter the regulatory mechanisms of parathyroid hormone (PTH) and cause a secondary hyperparathyroidism that increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

Vitamin D3 is generally found in dairy products and is manufactured in the body from healthy sun exposure. However, dairy products are much too acidic to be considered healthy for the human body and can strip your bones of calcium due to their acidic nature. You can easily get a healthy daily dose of vitamin D3 by lying out in the sunshine, allowing the sun’s rays to make contact with your naked skin. Or, if you want to get a little exercise at the same time, take a 15-to-30-minute walk with your skin exposed. I’m not saying totally naked here, but liberally expose your arms and legs to the sun. If you live in a climate where sunshine is not regularly abundant, you can use a natural, plant-based, transdermal vitamin D cream or take a high-quality oral supplement.

Vitamin K may very well be “the next vitamin D” as research uncovers a growing number of benefits the nutrient offers. However, most people are far too deficient in vitamin K to reap its maximum benefits. Vitamin K comes in two forms: vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Among the many types of vitamin K2, MK-7 is a newer agent with more practical applications because it stays in your body longer. In 2008, a German research group discovered that vitamin K2 provides substantial protection from prostate cancer, which is one of the leading causes of cancer death among men in the United States. Preliminary findings also suggest that vitamin K can help protect you from brain disease. Vitamin K is also seen to contribute to bone health. To raise your vitamin K1 levels, you should eat more organic, green, leafy vegetables. Or take a high-quality oral supplement It is also important to balance your vitamin D and calcium levels when taking vitamin K, as these three nutrients work together.

Interestingly, the highest known source of highly assimilable vitamin K2 comes from a somewhat obscure traditional Japanese food called natto. Natto is made from ultra-fermented soybeans that are cultured with a unique spore that creates two benefits: high amounts of bone-building vitamin K2 and the potent enzyme nattokinase, which has been shown in research studies to decrease the amount of arterial plaque in the heart, thereby staving off some danger of atherosclerosis. Natto is definitely a unique, acquired taste; the experience is somewhere between really potent fermented cheese and soft, sticky tempeh. Personally, I’m hooked on natto and serve it with green onions, sliced avocado, and barbeque sauce on toast for a nutritious flavor explosion!

Eat Alkaline, and You’ll Be Fine

When your body is in homeostasis, it is in a state of optimal balance. All systems are working effortlessly and in a state of harmonic cooperation to keep your body functioning properly. Examples of homeostasis include the regulation of temperature and the balance between acidity and alkalinity (pH). It is a process that maintains the stability of the human body’s internal environment in response to changes in external conditions.

When your body becomes too acidic from stress, negative emotions, or eating too many acidic foods, you are in a state of imbalance and potential disease. In particular, when your blood becomes too acidic, you could die in a matter of minutes unless an alkaline mineral buffers the acidic pH of your blood. So, who gets the call from the body to come in as the cavalry? It’s calcium to the rescue!

Whew—isn’t it nice to know that our bodies have such a sophisticated system of balance to prevent us from a gruesome and untimely death? Indeed—except for the fact that the body pulls the calcium from its most abundant source: your bones. So, you see, if you eat too many highly acidic foods like meat, cheese, milk, eggs, processed flours, white sugar, refined vinegars, and artificial preservatives, your body quickly becomes acidic and therefore a breeding ground for potential disease and loss of bone density.

This is precisely why drinking animal milk is such a nutritional contradiction. Yes, animal milks do contain calcium. However, because your body has to buffer the increased acidity by leaching alkaline calcium from your bones, there is never a net gain in your calcium levels. In fact, consuming acidic foods for long periods of time always results in a net calcium loss. That’s why the developed nations that consume the most dairy have the highest incidence of osteoporosis and bone fractures. For example, in the United States alone, osteoporosis and low bone mass are a major public health threat for more than 52 million women and men over the age of 50 and, if current trends continue, the figure could climb to more than 61 million people by 2020.

So do yourself a favor and source the minerals and vitamins you need from natural whole foods and sunshine and love the way your bones do their job for your entire life!

Check out part one where we discuss bone health!

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