Recently we looked at the danger of taking calcium supplements, particularly without advice and monitoring by a Naturopath or other health care professional. One of the most common reasons given for calcium supplementation is the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis. While low dietary calcium intake is definitely a contributor to osteoporosis, an increase in calcium intake above the amount in a balanced diet, saw little or no reduction in risk of osteoporosis and related fractures. (1)
The reality is that treatment and prevention of osteoporosis, like other metabolic disorders, requires addressing all contributing lifestyle not popping a calcium pill. In this article we take a look at some of the most common metabolic drivers for osteoporosis, and what you can do to prevent them.
Impaired Nutrient Absorption
We often find that although clients may have enough calcium in their diet, they have other digestive problems that lead to problems with calcium absorption. When this happens, dietary calcium travels straight through the digestive tract and without being absorbed.
There are a few factors that can lead to problems with calcium absorption.
Firstly, weak stomach acid. Calcium requires an acidic environment for absorption. This means when stomach acid levels are low calcium absorption is reduced.
Stomach acid levels are often reduced due to:
- use of common medications used for reflux.
- drinking too much water before, or with meals.
- low zinc levels.
To ensure optimal calcium absorption avoid drinking just before meals and enjoy calcium rich foods away from big meals. A salad of leafy green vegetables and a palm sized serve of protein is a great way enjoy a calcium rich meal without overeating leading to problems with absorption.
Secondly, digestive disorders such as Chron’s, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or SIBO.
Digestive disorders, particularly Crohns, and inflammatory bowel disease, are major contributors to deficiencies in almost all major nutrients. Calcium is no exception, and being absorbed in the small intestine people with Crohn’s are particularly prone to deficiencies during periods of active flare up.
Calcium deficiencies due to inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome are less common, as these disorders typically target the large intestine. They do however, often lead to small intestinal dysbiosis (SIBO) which does cause problems in the small intestine and pose a risk for calcium deficiency. (2)
Acid / Alkaline Balance (ph Balance)
Maintaining, or correcting, metabolic acid / alkaline balance is an important treatment strategy in natural medicine. Like a pool, or fish tank, maintaining the correct pH range in bodily fluids, particularly the blood, is vital for ongoing health and wellbeing.
pH balance is so important to your body, that you have three different inbuilt buffer systems to help make sure your body stays in the ideal range. This includes the protein buffer system, carbonic acid buffer system, and phosphate buffer system.
Phosphate, like many mineral salts, is stored in your bones. This means that use of the phosphate buffer system will leech minerals, including calcium, from your bones. While the immediate impact is generally low over a several years long-term dietary acid loading can lead to osteoporosis. (3) An alkalizing diet, good hydration levels, and supplementation with alkalizing minerals including potassium and magnesium can help to offset this.
We regularly talk about systemic inflammation and chronic metabolic disorders, osteoporosis is no exception. Research has shown that many of the inflammatory agents released by your body will in fact increase activity of the cells responsible for bone break down (4)[#Billido] and cut production of new collagen (5). Collagen is one of the requirements for bone rebuilding.
While an inflammatory response is a natural and important part of your body’s response to injury or infection, long-term exposure to inflammation is putting you at risk for osteoporosis. Some of the more common sources of long-term inflammatory response include:
- autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis,
- latent viral infection such as Ross River Fever or Glandular Fever,
- heavy metal toxicity.
It is important if you are dealing with long-term inflammation, not to suppress the inflammatory response but to remove the triggers. Dietary revision, detoxification, and supporting the immune system, are important steps.
Do You Need Help?
While popping a calcium supplement may mask the symptoms of osteoporosis it is not a long-term strategy and can increase your health risks in other areas. Our Naturopaths are experts in addressing the underlying metabolic drivers that cause osteoporosis and implementing strategies that are going to support good bone health and overall wellbeing.
If you have osteoporosis contact us today and enquire about our Comprehensive Lifestyle Review.
 Warensjö, Byberg, Melhus, Gedeborg, Mallmin, Wolk, and Michaëlsson. Dietary calcium intake and risk of fracture and osteoporosis: prospective longitudinal cohort study.BMJ,2011
 . Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: A Possible Risk Factor for Metabolic Bone Disease.Nutrition Reviews,2003
 Sebastian, Harris, Ottaway, Todd, and Morris. Improved Mineral Balance and Skeletal Metabolism in Postmenopausal Women Treated with Potassium Bicarbonate.New England Journal of Medicine,1994
 Kettler, D. B. Can manipulation of the ratios of essential fatty acids slow the rapid rate of postmenopausal bone loss? Alternative Medicine Review. 6(1):61-77, 2001.
 Shiozawa, S., et al. Osteoporosis in rheumatoid arthritis: a molecular biological aspect of connective tissue gene activation. Tohoku J Exp Med. 173(1):189-198, 1994.