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Feed Your Bones

By: Dr. Deborah Gordon, June 27, 2023

A shopping list for bone health

Throughout our lives, our bones are working hard to be the best bones possible for the ease, comfort and strength of the entire body.  Bone repair and rebuilding is an energy-demanding task that changes in intensity over our lives and for the most part carries on without our conscious attention!  (Repairing a broken bone might demand a bit of extra care.)

Bone building goes into high gear before we’re even born, continues in high gear until the end of puberty, and then settles down to “maintenance mode” for our adult years. Our “golden years” are not so golden for our bones: with the loss of our sex hormones (suddenly for women and gradually for men), our bones lose the primary “master switch” for staying healthy. 

Keeping strong bones late in life does require attention if you want your bones to do their best job, to stay strong and reliable throughout your lifespan. 

In a related article, Derek Barber will explore activity and movement concepts, and how to best integrate them into your fitness routine. I have probably spoken with some of you about steps beyond exercise, and I’ve learned some new ones.  Here’s my current list of what to do besides exercise! to keep healthy bones for life.

Start with Food

  1. Protein, complete protein. Most easily found in animal-sourced dairy, eggs, and meat, but also in some soy products, only “complete” proteins (all the essential amino acids) help us maintain muscle and bone strength.
  2. Much more protein than you might think.  What would you weigh in pounds if you were “lean”?  THAT’S YOUR GOAL for number of grams of protein. (You can use an app like Cronometer or even an internet search engine to calculate grams of protein in your food.) Bump it up on days you exercise vigorously.

  3. Consider adding a protein supplement. It’s hard to get the optimum amount of protein, but WHEY and SOY protein powders are usually your best bets for complete protein in a powder.

  4. Next consider a digestive enzyme. It’s usually harder to digest protein after a certain age, picking up DigestZymes at our store or other digestive enzymes might be helpful.

  5. Fermented foods.  In addition to providing a helpful source of probiotics, a few tablespoons daily of fermented foods provide vitamin K2, which helps direct calcium into bones. See the kimchi recipe further down!

  6. Dairy products.  If they’re in your nutrition plan, AND you are taking enough vitamin D, dairy products can provide most or all of the calcium you need.

  7. Vegetables and some fruits.  Potassium from natural sources helps keep calcium in your body.

Add some supplements

  1. Optimize your vitamin D.  Check with your own physician, I generally recommend between 50-70 ng/mL. 

  2. Which must include some extra vitaminK2.  I recommend from 100-500 mcg of vitamin K2 as MK7.  Additionally, K2 as MK4 (similar dose) can be helpful.

  3. Creatine should just be in the water!  Creatine monohydrate, renowned by body-builders, can be used by everyone to help build muscle at a dose of 5 grams daily. It is even thought that creatine helps build muscle for those at bed rest.

  4. Omega-3 rich fish oil.  Both EPA and DHA can help you maintain bone. Recommend using a high quality fish oil: if it seems spendy, it’s better to take a GREAT oil less often than a cheaper (possibly inflammatory) one daily. 

  5. Taurine is essential to bone health. If your homocysteine level is low enough (5-9), you’ll make your own. If you have stubbornly high homocysteine, taurine can be taken as an amino acid supplement OR found in heart meat, for the adventurous cooks among us!”