Dairy May Not be the Solution to Strong Bones
When I tell my clients that they won’t be having in dairy on the detox or I advise generally to limit dairy intake, the reaction I get is always one: But then where do we get calcium from? And won’t our bones get weak? What about our kids?
The truth is: Cows don’t make milk for humans. They never have (and never will). A mother cow produces milk for her baby in exactly the same way that a human mother produces milk for her baby. But for some reason, humans continue to drink the milk of another animal long after being weaned off of their mothers.
We are the ONLY species who does this, mistakenly believing that we need it for bone health.
Dairy, although rich in calcium, may not be the best way to maintain bone health. We need to understand that there are many components that are in play in building and maintaining strong bones.
Here are some reasons why dairy may not be your best answer:
- There are more fractures in regions that consume milk products (US, Great Britain, Canada, Northern Europe), than in those that don’t (traditional Africa, China).
- The extensive Nurses Study at Harvard, which followed 78,000 nurses for more than 12 years, found that those who drink two or more glasses of milk per day have twice the risk of hip fracture than those who drink a glass a week or less.
- Dairy causes blood pH to become acidic. When the body needs to balance blood pH, it will draw calcium from the bones,reducing bone density.
- Calcium in dairy may not be the most bio-available – meaning that the body may not be able to utilize the entire ingested amount (and stores the rest as toxins).
- Many people are lactose intolerant, meaning they lack the enzymes to digest the sugar found in dairy. This makes dairy not a viable source of calcium for these people.
So what are the nutrients for Healthy Bones?
Calcium is not the only thing you need for strong bones. In fact, if you supplement calcium without taking all the other nutrients into account, you may be making your bones more brittle and increase the chances of having a fracture.
Understanding the structure and function of bones will help us figure out why calcium alone is not the answer.
- Bones are composed of calcium phosphate salts (65%) for hardness, and a collagen matrix (35%) for flexibility.
- When all the calcium from a bone is removed, leaving only the collagen matrix, the bone will bend, not break, when subjected to stress.
- When the collagen matrix is removed and the calcium salts remain, the bone will break when stress is applied.
For strong bones that can withstand stress, we need many nutrients besides calcium: magnesium, phosphorus, boron, copper, manganese, zinc, plus the vitamins C, D, K, B6, and folic acid.
- We also need sufficient amounts of protein for the collagen matrix, and healthful fats for Vitamin D absorption and protection against bone-destroying free radicals.
- To get sufficient Vitamin D, we need 30 minutes or more of sunlight, or at least daylight, every day, without sunscreen. An SPF of 8 blocks 95% of the production of Vitamin D on the skin and anything higher blocks it all.
Dietary Approach to Strong Bones
Follow these simple recommendations, and you can be sure that you are giving your bones the best chances to stay healthy and strong:
- Eat plenty of vegetables, especially leafy greens (which are rich in calcium). Five to seven portions daily and include parsley, roots, and cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage. These are rich in magnesium, which is essential in bone formation and calcium utilization.
- Cook with stocks made with vegetables and seaweed, or with fish, chicken or beef bones and a tablespoon of vinegar to liberate the minerals.
- Eat a moderate amount of sunflower and pumpkin seeds for the minerals and natural fats.
- Include a modest amount of whole grains (brown rice, quinoa) for the fiber and complex carbohydrates.
- Eat beans and naturally raised animal foods for protein.
- Use butter, extra virgin olive, flaxseed, coconut oil and unrefined sesame oils for essential fatty acids.
- Avoid foods that create acidic blood pH – such as dairy, meat, sugar, white flour and caffeine. When the body needs to balance blood pH, it will draw calcium from the bones – this can reduce bone density.
- Avoid soda – the phosphorous from soda competes with calcium for absorption.
Dana Dinnawi is an Integrative Nutrition health coach specializing in empowering women to improve their health and family life. She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she studied more than one hundred dietary theories and a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. She can be reached through her website and Facebook page.