Sunlight And Your Bones

You need Vitamin D to stimulates the absorption of calcium and magnesium into your bones. Calcium alone is not responsible for bone strength–but a delicate combination of calcium and other elements like phosphorous and magnesium which are regulated by Vit D–a vitamin that is naturally produced when the sun hits your skin. In these dark and dreary northern hemisphere countries, we may need a dietary source of Vitamin D as found in fortified milk products, or via supplements.

Calcium is essential for bone health. In this chart from WebMD, you can see the daily requirements in mg for age:

 

Age

Calcium (mg)

Birth to 6 months

210

6 months to 1 year

270

1-3 years

700

4-8 years

1,000

9-18 years

1,300

19-50 years

1,000

51-70 years

1,200

Over 70 years

1,200

 

As you can see, the older we are, the more calcium we need for the exception of the 9-18 age group when our bones are growing larger faster and the body is moving through puberty to adulthood.

Dietary calcium sources may not be enough. Green veggies, dairy products and fortified foods are a source of calcium. Supplements are another source of course. Too much calcium can lead to kidney stones. And if you have ever passed one, it’s certainly not fun.

Vitamin D requirements for bone health–which pushes the calcium into your bones– are in the realm of 600 to 1000 IU’s per day. Too much Vitamin D is toxic. Not enough can lead to a disease called Rickets where the bones are brittle and deformed.

Calcium sources: Here is a slide show of some amazing and delicious nutritious sources of calcium in your diet:

http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/living-with-osteoporosis-7/calcium-supplements?page=5

People with low levels of dietary calcium, Vitamin D, magnesium and phosphorus–but particularly calcium deficiencies– may end up with low levels of calcium in the bones which leads to a condition called osteoporosis (a decrease in density of the bone) which can lead to fragility fractures of the wrist, hip, spine or ankles. There are medications for osteoporosis which help increase bone density, some of which have their own side effects of bone fragility and brittleness (bisphophonates).

Patients with fractures often ask me what they can do from a dietary stand point to increase bone healing. Unfortunately, the calcium in your bones at the time of the fracture relates to dietary choices you made months and years ago. Eating more calcium today will not necessarily strengthen your bones tomorrow, and will have little to no effect on rate of fracture healing. However, a well balanced diet heavy in the leafy greens, lean meats and healthy fats, and low in carbohydrates and junk foods like sugar and processed crap, will help your overall health and well-being and promote healing while reducing the risk of future fragility fractures.

For more information on osteoporosis, please visit:

http://www.iofbonehealth.org/

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