There is skeletal pain (especially in the hip and back), deformities (such as a hump in the upper back), a stooping and rounding of the shoulders, increased susceptibility to fractures, and a reduction in height. Do you find that your clothes are getting bigger? Unfortunately, symptoms are frequently not very obvious until the bones are quite weak.
Osteoporosis is a reduction in the total mass of bone, so that the remaining bone is fragile or "brittle." This weakening continues to increase. The bones actually become thinner. Bone formation is slowed; bone reabsorption increases, causing this loss of bone mass. About 25-30% of all white females in the U.S. reveal symptoms of this condition, especially after menopause. Older men, above 50, also have it, but to a lesser degree than women. Osteoporosis is rare in black men, but somewhat more common in black women. White women in America tend to lose 30-40% of their bone mass between 55- 70. But younger women should be watchful; research indicates that osteoporosis often begins early in life rather than just after menopause. (However, bone loss definitely accelerates after that time, due to a drop in estrogen levels.)
People with larger and denser bones tend to have less trouble with osteoporosis later in life. They started out with more bony structure. A major cause is a lack of calcium intake over a period of years. Other causes include inability to absorb calcium as well, a calcium-phosphorous imbalance (too much phosphorous), lack of exercise, or lack of certain hormones. Still other factors include late puberty, early menopause (natural or artificially induced), chronic liver or kidney disease, and the long-term use of anticoagulants, corticosteroids, and antiseizure medications. Smoking is an excellent way to damage your bones. Compression fractures in the vertebrae occur as bone loss advances. This causes a loss in height and crowds the nerves, resulting in pain. Nerve damage is possible. Older women often have a hump in the upper back as a result. Osteoporosis can also result in loose teeth which fall out, because the jawbone has weakened.
There are two types of this disease: Osteoporosis, Type I, is thought to be caused by hormonal changes, especially a loss of estrogen. Osteoporosis, Type II, traces its cause to dietary factors (lack of calcium, vitamin D, etc.), poor absorption, and intake of foods which block absorption.
There are many plant foods that not only contain calcium but other valuable bone-health promoting nutrients like Potassium, Magnesium, Vitamin C and Soy that can play a valuable role in a diet aimed at preventing osteoporosis.
Calcium plays a major role in decreasing the risk of osteoporosis. It is a proven fact that calcium deficiency increases the risk of osteoporosis. Calcium supplementation however has been shown to help prevent this problem by increasing bone density. Some studies have shown that supplementing with calcium increases bone density in perimenopausal women (women that are experiencing menopause) and slows bone degeneration in postmenopausal women (women who have already experienced menopause) by an average of 30-50%.Supplementing calcium can therefore significantly reduce hip fractures, a common problem often seen in people with osteoporosis.
While many people are of the opinion that eating dairy products will prevent osteoporosis, the truth is that this is not necessarily true. A glass of cow’s milk contains about 300 milligrams of calcium therefore, cow’s milk has traditionally been marketed as a high-calcium, osteoporosis-preventing food. This type of promotion is often done by the dairy industry to make huge financial profits. The truth is that calcium is not the only nutrient involved with osteoporosis risk and there are other healthier sources of calcium that should be considered. There are also other nutrients involved in the determination of a person’s risk of osteoporosis.
Scientists are studying the relationship between protein intake and osteoporosis. It appears that under some circumstances and in certain age-related groups, excess protein intake can increase a person’s risk of bone mineral loss. Numerous studies have demonstrated the tendency of a high-protein diet to increase excretion of acids in the urine along with excretion of calcium.
One study showed that an increase in daily protein intake from 47 to 142 grams was found to double the excretion of calcium in the urine. Here is how it works. One glass of cow’s milk contains about 8 grams of protein. Three glasses of cow’s milk which would provide very close to a day’s worth of calcium, would also provide 24 grams of protein. By itself, this amount would not be enough to cause much calcium to be removed from bone. However, in combination with other protein sources, for example, an 8-ounce chicken breast, which would contain about 56 grams of protein, and a quarter-pound hamburger (which would add another 28 grams), the day’s total would be about 108 grams – much closer to the amount in the research study that doubled calcium excretion in the urine and increased the risk of osteoporosis.
Most foods contain at least some protein. Good sources of protein for vegetarians include nuts and seeds, pulses, soya products (tofu, soya milk and textured soya protein such as soya mince) and cereals, such as wheat, oats, and rice. Protein from these sources are not only healthier but much safer to eat. Plant proteins are sometimes referred to as low quality proteins but this does not mean that vegetarians or vegans go short on essential amino acids. Combining plant proteins, such as a grain with a pulse, leads to a high quality protein which is just as good, and in some cases better, than protein from animal foods. Soya is a high quality protein on its own which can be regarded as equal to meat protein.
Another example of a nutrient that plays a role in osteoporosis is magnesium. This mineral appears to be nearly as important as calcium in preventing problems associated with this disease. It appears that women with osteoporosis have low bone magnesium content and other signs of magnesium deficiency.
Insufficient magnesium has also been shown to decrease blood concentrations of the most active form of vitamin D (called D3). This vitamin stimulates the absorption of calcium, increases bone mineral density, and reduces the risk of hip fracture. Magnesium is also required to regulate the body’s levels of two important hormones that maintain the proper concentration of calcium in the blood.
Cow’s milk, which is a very good source of calcium, is not a very good source of magnesium. One cup of cow’s milk only provides about 33 milligrams or about 10% of the daily requirement for a middle-aged woman. In addition, cow’s milk is high in saturated fats and cholesterol.
Potassium is a mineral of great importance to the human body. In fact the adult requirement for potassium is nearly four times the amount for calcium. Potassium is important to bone health because it is able to neutralize bone-depleting metabolic acids. This metabolic acid “eats away” at bone much like acid rain eats away at limestone. Metabolic acidosis, however, is largely neutralized, by potassium compounds, and to a lesser degree magnesium compounds These compounds are obtained from fruits and vegetables.
By neutralizing metabolic acids, potassium conserves calcium within the body and reduces urinary calcium loss. Fruits, vegetables and seeds contain high amounts of potassium compounds. Fruits and vegetables provide mineral salts with alkalizing compounds useful for neutralizing the acid. In addition to promoting an alkaline environment, a diet high in fruits, vegetables and legumes provides nutrients which promote bone health. Increasing vegetable and fruit intake is the preferred way to increase potassium intake and carries multiple benefits for blood pressure normalization, stroke risk reduction and weight control in addition to being bone-protective.
A diet that is high in potassium from fruits and vegetables, followed throughout one’s life can help to preserve bone mass thereby preventing bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis.
Other bone-health promoting nutrients include vitamin D, boron, vitamin K, vitamin C, ipriflavone, silicon, and vitamins B6, B12, and folate. Cow’s milk is less than ideal as a good food source of these nutrients, and in the case of some (like vitamin C) it is nearly devoid of the nutrient altogether.
We can get enough of all nutrients, including calcium, without consuming cow’s milk, or cow’s milk yogurt, or cow’s milk cheese. The truth is that most women in the world who do not develop osteoporosis also do not consume dairy products. Their diet includes foods that are concentrated in calcium and other of the bone-health promoting nutrients mentioned above. It is not very difficult for someone to get enough calcium without consuming dairy products seeing that it is a mineral found in a wide variety of foods besides dairy products. Virtually all dark green leafy vegetables contain calcium.
Nearly all nuts and seeds, especially sesame seeds, contain calcium. Most beans, including navy, pinto, kidney, and black are also calcium-containing foods. Additionally, tofu can also be an important source of calcium, particularly when the tofu has been calcium-precipitated (meaning that calcium was used to help convert the soy milk into tofu) in order to provide a significant amount of calcium.
• Sleep on a firm bed to give support to the spine.
• Calcium and minerals are found abundantly in natural foods such as green leafy vegetables, carrot juice, and broccoli. The green leafy vegetables are generally the best sources. Along with them ranks sesame seeds. They are the best ratio of high calcium and low phosphorous of any food.
• Millet is rich in calcium and magnesium. Almonds are high in calcium. The grains, amaranth and quinoa, are rich in minerals.
• Eat plenty of vegetables, raw and steamed. Other foods high in calcium include brown rice, kale, turnip greens, pinto beans, spirulina, collard greens, and sesame seeds.
• Vitamin D is necessary (400-1,000 IU daily) for calcium absorption and repair. You need a basic 400 IU daily. Sunlight will help you get part of what you need. But excess doses of vitamin D, taken repeatedly, caused bone deterioration.
• Vinegar and meat acids also diminish bone mass. This is because other dietetic acids are later changed to alkaline forms after they leave the stomach, but not vinegar or meat acid (purines, uric acid, etc.)
• It is well-known among medical professionals that sugar, coffee, caffeine, a high-meat diet, and smoking produce osteoporosis and similar bone problems.
• One study of middle-aged men and women with symptomatic osteoporosis were almost exclusively heavy smokers.
• A high-sugar diet causes calcium to be excreted in the urine. Excess sodium does this also.
Chocolate contains oxalic acid and prevents the absorption of calcium.
• Women who drink coffee and soft drinks are more likely to have osteoporosis.
• White-flour products contain chlorine, which is harmful to the bones.
• Do not use foods with preservatives, because of their phosphorous content. Drugs, such as diuretics, inhibit calcium assimilation.
• Do not eat meat or vinegar if you want strong, healthy, joints. A diet high in animal protein tends to causes the body to excrete increased amounts of protein. Beef, for example, contains 25 times as much phosphorous as calcium! A high-meat diet will invariably lead to calcium deficiencies.
• Exercise strengthens the bones. It causes the body to strengthen the insides of the bones, by increasing the webbing connections within them. Exercise definitely increases bone density. The body must have regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking. When this occurs, more minerals are laid down in the bones, to strengthen them—especially where you need it the most: the bones of the legs, hips, and spine. Conversely, a lack of exercise accelerates the loss of bone mass. It is believed that lack of activity in old age is a factor in the increased levels of bone loss in those years. Daily exercise outdoors provides vitamin D and stimulates osteoblastic cells. Exercise increases muscle tone, strengthens muscles, prevents disuse atrophy and further demineralization of the bones.