bones of hand

The Effects of Bone Leaching: 5 Steps to Avoid Brittle Bones, Fractures, and Falls

It is estimated that 55% of men and 78% of women over age 20 in the U.S. do not get enough calcium in their diet. 1

The current recommendation for calcium intake is:

  • 1,000 mg per day for women and men, 19-50
  • 1,000 mg per day for men, 25-65
  • 1,500 mg per day for pregnant or lactating women
  • Postmenopausal women less than age 65, NOT on estrogen replacement therapy: 1,500 mg of calcium per day.
  • 1,500 milligrams per day for men over 65 2

Without adequate calcium, American adults are at risk for bone leaching whereby the body takes calcium from the bones for important bodily functions. Losing mass creates porosity and weakness, increasing the risk for brittle bones, unsupportive structure, and fractures.

Step 1: Take inventory of how much calcium you ingest daily.

The first step to maintain or improve calcium intake is to carefully select and consume high quality, calcium-rich foods. How much calcium do you ingest daily?

The most nutritious calcium rich foods are greens and beans. Greens are full of highly absorbable calcium. High calcium green vegetables and leafy greens include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, collard greens, turnip greens, and mustard green. Spinach contains a large amount of calcium but tends to hold onto it very firmly, making it less bio-available for the body to absorb.

Greens vegetables

Baked beans, chickpeas, tofu, and other beans provide ample amounts of calcium. Beans also contain magnesium, a mineral which the body uses along with calcium to build strong bones.

Step 2: Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of Vitamin D & K

The second step is to make sure vitamin levels are adequate for calcium absorption so your bone density remains strong throughout your life.

Calcium is a mineral that must be absorbed and integrated. The two vitamins responsible for these steps are Vitamins D & K. Both are required for calcium to do its job effectively.

Vitamin D ensures that calcium is absorbed easily and controls the body’s use of calcium. Without it, the body cannot adequately manage calcium intake.

This vitamin is not found in food; rather, it is provided by the sun. Vitamin D is easily absorbed by the skin with about 15 min of sunlight per day. Many doctors recommend Vitamin D supplementation to patients who live in areas with minimal sunlight, work indoors, are dark skinned, take medications that accelerate Vitamin D absorption, are obese, or have conditions that impairs Vitamin D absorption from the gut like celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. Speak to your doctor about what is appropriate for you.

The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D for adults through age 70 is 600 IU, increasing to 800 IU above age 70.3

On the other hand, vitamin K activates the protein, osteocalcin, which integrates calcium into bone. It works with the calcium to build strong bones.

Vitamin K is found in greens: kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, romaine, and green leaf lettuce. It is also readily available in vegetables like sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, or in animal products like fish, liver, meat, and eggs.

The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin K for adult men 19 years and older is 120 mcg. Women 19 years and older should try to reach 90 mcg.4

Step 3: Engage in a regular exercise program.

The third step in calcium absorption is circulation.

Regular movement through active living and exercise promotes increased oxygen, improved blood flow and circulates calcium where it needs to go – the bones. You may be getting adequate amounts of calcium which is an excellent first step, but to improve its effectiveness you may need to step up your exercise and get the blood flowing.

Step 4: Talk to your doctor.

Talk to your health care practitioner about bone density, calcium absorption, and any underlying issues that may inhibit your body from absorbing calcium. Learning to work around these problems early may help prevent/stop bone leaching now and in the future.

In sum, calcium is the mineral responsible for strong healthy bones. Together with Vitamins D & K, calcium builds and maintains the bones necessary for a strong, healthy body and a long healthy life.

  1. Take inventory of how much calcium you ingest daily.
  2. Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of Vitamin D & K
  3. Move often throughout the day and engage in a regular exercise program.
  4. Talk to your health care practitioner about bone density, calcium absorption, and any underlying issues that may inhibit your body from absorbing calcium.

About the Writer

Kelley Rakow, Health and Lifestyle Coach

Sources:
  1. https://consensus.nih.gov/1994/1994optimalcalcium097html.htm
  2. National Institute of Health
  3. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/vitamins-and-minerals
  4. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminK-Consumer/

 

Information presented by W(h)ealth should not be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Consult a doctor and/or medical professional before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition.