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People in the United States consume more dairy products and
other foods high in calcium than the citizens of any other two
nations on earth put together. Why is it then, that the U.S. has
the world's highest rate of osteoporosis and bone fractures
among the elderly? The answer may be surprising.

We have orange juice and antacids that are fortified with
calcium, yet we eat far less total food, take in less calcium,
and get less exercise than our grandparents did. At the same
time we consume more animal protein and phosphate-containing
foods, such as soft drinks. Obviously, we need to eat more of
the right foods and take high-quality supplements in some form
as well.


Osteoporosis is a progressive disease of the skeleton in which
the amount of calcium present in the bones slowly decreases to
the point where the bones become brittle and prone to fracture.
In other words, the bone loses density.


The term osteoporosis is derived from Latin and literally means
"porous bones." Because of the physiological, nutritional, and
hormonal differences between women and men, osteoporosis
primarily affects women. This debilitating disease afflicts more
women than heart disease, stroke, diabetes, breast cancer, or
arthritis. 50% of all women between the ages of 45 and 75 show
signs of some degree of osteoporosis. Over a third of that group
suffer from serious bone deterioration.


Unfortunately, bone loss causes no symptoms while it is
occuring. It is very common for a woman to be totally unaware
that she has osteoporosis until what should have been a minor
accident causes her to break a bone, oftentimes a wrist or a
hip. In advanced cases of osteoporosis, a simple hug can result
in fractured or broken ribs.


As bone loss advances, the vertebrae are subject to what are
called compression fractures, crowding the nerves of the spine
and various internal organs and causing a loss of height. It is
this compression that causes "dowager's hump" that many women
develop as they age. Osteoporosis can also be a contributing
factor in tooth loss; when the structure of the jawbone weakens,
it can no longer hold the teeth firmly in place.


There are two basic types of osteoporosis. Type I, or high
turnover, osteoporosis occurs in some women between the ages of
50 and 75 because of the sudden postmenopausal decrease in
estrogen levels, which results in a rapid depletion of calcium
from the skeleton. It is associated with fractures that occur
when the vertebrae compress together causing a collapse of the
spine and fractures of the hip, wrist, or forearm caused by
falls or minor accidents.


Type II, or low turnover, osteoporosis is linked to dietary
deficiency, especially a lack of sufficient calcium and vitamin
D, which is necessary for the absorption of calcium. Many women
mistakenly believe that osteoporosis is something they need be
concerned about only after menopause. Recent evidence indicates
that osteoporosis often begins early in life and is not strictly
a postmenopausal problem. Although bone loss accelerates after
menopause as a result of the drop in estrogen levels, it begins
in the premenopausal years.


Many people believe that osteoporosis is caused soley by a
dietary calcium deficiency and that it can be "fixed" by taking
calcium supplements. Wrong. While calcium supplements are
important in dealing with osteoporosis, there are other
considerations as well. Vitamins C, D, E, and K all play vital
roles in battling osteoporosis, as does protein. Regulating the
amounts of certain minerals, such as magnesium, phophorus,
silicon, boron, zinc, manganese, and copper, in the body are
also important in maintaining proper calcium levels. Exercise is
another vital factor.


Insufficient calcium intake is one factor, but equally important
are other dietary practices that affect calcium metabolism. A
diet high in animal protein, salt, and sugar causes the body to
excrete increased amounts of calcium. The body is then forced to
"steal" calcium from the bones to meet its requirements.
Caffeine, alcohol, and many other drugs have a similar effect.
Too much magnesium and/or phosphorus (found in most sodas and
processed foods) can inhibit the body from absorbing calcium
properly, because these minerals compete with calcium for
absorption in the blood and bone marrow.


Bone density also depends on exercise. When the body gets
regular weight-bearing exercise (such as walking), it responds
by depositing more mineral in the bones, especially the bones of
the legs, hips, and spine. A lack of exercise accelerates the
loss of bone mass.


Other factors that may contribute to the development of
osteoporosis include smoking, late puberty, early menopause
(natural or artificially induced), a family history of the
disease, hyperthyroidism, chronic liver or kidney disease, and
the long-term use of corticosteroids, anti-seizure medications
and anticoagulants.


What can you do to protect yourself?


1) Eat plenty of foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D.
Good sources include broccoli, chestnuts, clams, dandelion
greens, most dark green leafy vegetables, flounder, hazelnuts,
kale, kelp, molasses, oats, oysters, salmon, sardines (with the
bones), sea vegetables, sesame seeds, shrimp, soybeans, tahini
(sesame butter), tofu, turnip greens, and wheat germ.


2) Consume whole grains and calcium foods at different times.
Whole grains contain a substance that binds with calcium and
prevents its uptake. Take calcium at bedtime, when it is best
absorbed and also aids in sleeping.


3) Include garlic and onions in the diet, as well as eggs (if
your cholesterol level isn't too high). These foods contain
sulfer, which is needed for healthy bones.


4) Limit your intake of almonds, asparagus, beet greens,
cashews, chard, rhubarb, and spinach. These foods are high in
oxalic acid, which inhibits calcium absorption.


5) Avoid phosphate-containing drinks and foods such as soft
drinks, high-protein animal foods, and alcohol. Avoid smoking,
sugar, and salt. Limit your consumption of citrus fruits and
tomatoes; these foods may inhibite calcium uptake.


6) Avoid yeast products. Yeast is high in phosphorus, which
competes with calcium for absorption in the body.


7) If you are over 55, include a calcium lactate (if you are not
allergic to milk) or calcium phosphate supplement in your daily
regimen, and take hydrochloric acid (HCI) supplements. In order
for calcium to be absorbed there must be an adequate supply of
vitamin D as well as sufficient HCI in the stomach. Older people
often lack sufficient stomach acid.


8) If you take thyroid hormone or an anticoagulant drug,
increase the amount of calcium you take by 25 to 50 percent.

9) If you take a diuretic, consult your physician before
beginning calcium and vitamin D supplements. Thiazide-type
diuretics increase blood calcium levels, and complications may
result if these drugs are taken in conjunction with calcium and
vitamin D supplements. Other types of diuretics increase calcium
requirements, however.


10) Keep active and exercise regularly. A lack of exercise can
result in the loss of calcium, but this can be reversed with
sensible exercise. Walking is probably the best exercsie for
maintaining bone mass.


The information presented here is for informational purposes
only. It is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical
condition. It is imperative that you take your health into your
own hands and empower yourself by researching all of your
options. With the vast amount of information available on-line,
you can arm yourself with an arsenal of information that will
assist you and your healthcare practitioner in creating the best
plan of treatment for your needs.




Here are a few resources to
get you started:

http://www.medcohealth.com - This comprehensive website includes
an A-Z Health Page, Digestive Health Center, Drug Information,
Health Encyclopedia and Health News.

http://www.ivillage.com/ - iVillage has been winning awards for
women's health since 1997. You can find information on health
topics from A-Z and research conventional and alternative
treatments. This is a great site, plus there are many other
wonderful features. Plan to spend some time and browse.

rosis.html#A3 - If you are looking for the facts, here is a good
place to start. Here you will find the Warnings/Precautions for
prescription drugs associated with osteoporosis, informative
articles, Osteoporosis Facts and Statistics, Prevention and
Treatment Strategies, and much more.

About the author:
About the author - Kathy Browning is a healing arts practitioner
and wellness coach. She is also the Editor-In-Chief of "The Art
of Living Well", an ezine focused on the mind, body, spirit
connection and the author of "Feng Shui for Abundant Living". Be
sure to visit http://www.cancercomfort.com for more information.





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