As a runner and as a female, I have to say that I am always looking for the next bit of research and findings when it comes to strong bones. I’ve experienced two stress fractures in my metatarsals from running and my friends/family would always offer the same piece of advice to me: Drink your milk!
For the majority of my life, I’ve always had milk in my diet, so I really began to wonder why I suffered two stress fractures when I know many, many other runners who run more than I do and never had a single fracture. There has to be another factor at play than just drinking milk. And so the research began.
Many of us are familiar with the term osteoporosis.
For those of us who aren’t, it is a condition of abnormal porousness of the bone resulting from gradual bone loss, and can lead to increased fractures, hip pain, loss of height and spinal curvature.
Since osteoporosis is a disease of bone loss, and since 99% of the body’s calcium is found in bone, it certainly seems reasonable that if people consume as much calcium as possible, osteoporosis risk should be diminished.
The American Diary Association capitalizes on this way of thinking by constantly reminding the public that dairy products contain rich sources of calcium. But the truth is, there has been little success in preventing osteoporosis alone by consuming dairy.
One surprising piece of information that I found was that women who drink two glasses of milk a day have double the risk of hip fracture than those who drink a glass or less. Did I read that right?
And what might surprise you even more is that there are more fractures in countries that consume dairy products than those countries that don’t. Think of the United States.
We certainly don’t have a lack of dairy or calcium and yet our country still has high fracture and osteoporosis rates. Consuming calcium isn’t the sole answer to having strong bones.
For a brief moment, instead of talking about what makes bones stronger, let’s talk about what makes bones weaker. The major causes for weak bones are sedentary living (as exercise and walking help your bones), smoking, caffeine, lack of vitamin D, and lack of Vitamin K. Are you drinking a lot of caffeine? Are you smoking? Are you taking the time each day to exercise?
Another cause for weak bones is our diet.
What is important to know is that every food or drink that we consume is considered either acidic, neutral or alkalizing. In the United States, we live in a society that lives off highly acidic foods of white bread, white pasta, potatoes, white rice, dessert, and cookies.
When we eat foods that are highly acidic, our body’s ph levels will in turn be on the acidic side of the scale. On the flip side, if we eat foods that are highly alkalizing, then the ph level of our body will also be alkaline.
What is dangerous about the typical American diet is that it contains acid forming foods that causes our ph level to be acidic. What happens when we have a body that has an acidic pH level?
Our bodies start to draw calcium from the bones to try and neutralize itself. You see, our body does not want to remain in an acidic state – it will want to try and balance itself out and find ways to not be acidic.
If we have a diet that is high in acidic foods, the more our body is going to tap into the calcium storage in our bones to correct the imbalance (as calcium is the most alkaline mineral in our body) and this can lead to deprived bones.
What is ironic about all of this is that milk, cheese and dairy products are acidic-forming foods and are contributing to the acidic state of our body that draws the calcium out of our bones. Exactly the opposite of what we want to happen!
So, what is a recommended diet and lifestyle that will help our bones maintain their strength?
You want a diet that contains vegetables and dark leafy greens (good source of calcium!). You want protein. You want whole grains for the magnesium as it helps put calcium in the bones. You want nuts and seeds for their trace minerals. You want the good quality fats. You want whole, natural, unprocessed foods that will maintain your pH level and keep your body from entering an acidic state where it will begin to draw calcium from your bones. You also want a lifestyle with exercise that will prevent the bones from weakening.
Obviously, our bodies need calcium as it is an important mineral and drinking milk can be a way to get that calcium. What I am saying, however, is that drinking milk and consuming calcium is not the sole answer to having strong bones – there’s much more to the story than that.
If you are concerned about your bone health, consider talking with a holistic health physician or a nutritionist to determine the best lifestyle for you.