If you’re suffering from arthritis, osteoporosis, joint pain or a musculoskeletal injury, it’s a good time to learn various ways to protect our bones and joints so they can serve us well throughout our life. Bone health involves a lot more than taking a calcium supplement. Eating foods that support bone growth and strength, exercising regularly, maintaining balance and equilibrium, and taking dietary supplements are all important for promoting bone and joint health.
1. Foods That Support Bone HealthAmericans are notorious for consuming large amounts of processed foods, soft drinks, coffee and foods that are high in sodium and sugar. These foods promote osteoporosis by stripping the bones of the calcium they need to stay strong. The key nutrients that support bone health are calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K, and potassium.
The following foods contain high sources of nutrients supporting overall bone health:
- Milk, cheese and other dairy foods contain calcium and are often fortified with vitamin D.
- Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collard greens, broccoli, cabbage and okra contain calcium, magnesium and vitamin K. Spinach and Swiss chard are high is oxalate acid which binds up calcium, making it less available to the body.
- Soy products, including tofu and soy milk, but make sure they’re organic to avoid GMOs. Soy is a good source of vitamin K, potassium, and calcium.
- Chickpeas contain calcium and magnesium.
- Almonds are a good source of calcium and magnesium.
- Fish, especially salmon, and sardines if you eat the bones, are an excellent source of vitamin d, calcium and magnesium.
- Eggs and sunlight for vitamin D. Mushrooms are the only food on the produce aisle that contain vitamin D.
- Fruits: apricots, kiwi, oranges, berries, pineapples, papaya, dried figs contain some calcium.
- Chia seeds are a good source of calcium for people who don’t eat dairy. They also contain magnesium.
2. Exercise is Proven to Strengthen Bones and Improve BalanceExercise is crucial to bone health. Bones and muscles are strengthened when you engage in weight bearing exercises. Walking, dancing, and running are some of the best ways to improve strength and balance and to avoid falls.
Yoga is another excellent way to condition the body and build balance and equilibrium. Practicing yoga stimulates the osteoblasts (bone cells) that make bone. The Fishman Method, created by Loren M Fishman, MD, is a series of 12 postures that specifically help strengthen the areas of the body that are most prone to fractures: the spine, hip, and femur.2
The yoga postures are available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8SjystaH-E
3. Sleep is Important to Bone HealthMost people are unaware of the association between lack of sleep and poor bone density. The Endocrine Society published a study in 2017 linking prolonged sleep disturbance with lower bone formation.3
In the study researchers found that healthy men had reduced levels of a marker of bone formation in their blood after just three weeks of restricted sleep and circadian disruption similar to that seen in jet lag or night shift work. A biological marker of bone resorption, or breakdown, was unchanged. “This altered bone balance creates a potential bone loss window that could lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures,” said lead investigator Christine Swanson, M.D., an assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Aurora, Colorado. “If chronic sleep disturbance is identified as a new risk factor for osteoporosis, it could help explain why there is no clear cause for osteoporosis in the approximately 50 percent of the estimated 54 million Americans with low bone mass or osteoporosis,” Swanson said.
This is a good reminder to pay attention to your sleep hygiene. It’s interesting to note that taking a calcium/magnesium supplement at bedtime will help you relax and support bone health at the same time. Nutritional supplements that support bone and joint health. Included the above recommended foods and adding a weight bearing exercise regimen is a good place to start. In addition, a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement will give you more protection.
4. But What About Your Joints?Healthy joints are the key to our mobility. As we age our bones tend to lose minerals and our connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, cartilage) tends to lose structural proteins. We might experience stiffness due to the inflammation and thickening of the synovial lining —a joint lubricant that acts as a shock absorber fluid.
1. Boswellia acid, from the Boswellia plant also known as Indian frankincense, helps increase blood flow to joints that are stiff and uncomfortable.4
2. Devils’ Claw, a plant native to Southern Africa, has been shown to improve physical functioning in people with joint problems.5
3. Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM) is a dietary supplement that contains natural glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen and hyaluronic acid, which are all essential for maintaining healthy joint and connective tissues. Of all the types of eggshell membranes used in joint supplements, NEM has the best bioavailability, the highest protein levels, and the best human clinical research backing it up.6,7
Recipe for Mineral-Rich Bone BrothBone broth is different from stock because it cooks for many more hours. The slow and low cooking helps release gelatin from the connective tissues and bones. The gelatin is a broken-down form of collagen, which is very supportive to skin and joints.
In a large soup pan or Dutch oven, place any kind of meat bones you like, apple cider vinegar, carrots, onions, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt.
Fill pot with water to 2 inches above the bones.
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to lowest setting on your stove.
Simmer for at least 3 hours.
Or, cook in an Instant Pot or slow cooker up to 24 hours.