by Phillip Day
On average, one in three women and one in 12 men over 50 in the western cultures suffer from osteoporosis or its precursor, osteopenia (low bone mineral density). The word osteoporosis actually means ‘porous bone’. The disease is all but unknown in those consuming plant-based agrarian diets (which should have alarm bells ringing immediately). The disease is most common in post-menopausal females, where as many as one in four may suffer the condition.
Osteoporosis is described by low bone density and a deterioration of bone tissue, leading to extreme fragility and hip fractures. Spine and bones become demineralised and the bones take on a honeycombed look. Osteoporosis in its early stages is also characterised by severe backache. Decrease in height will be experienced over a period of time.
Vitamin D deficiency
Osteoporosis should first and foremost be treated as a vitamin D and nutritional deficiency issue. Proper bone health cannot be achieved without an optimum vitamin D-3 level, a nutritious diet, and proper exercise.
The patient’s vitamin D serum level should be checked as a matter of first resort for those suffering from, or at risk of osteoporosis. A 25-hydroxy D test should be requested from the patient’s GP, or the quicker and less troublesome route is to order a 25-hydroxy D test kit from www.vitamindtest.org.uk. This is the UK’s Birmingham City Hospital Pathology Laboratory’s mail order test kit which can be sent to customers even if they live abroad. This is a fast and cheap method of learning a person’s D serum concentration figure, which is all-important. The idea is to optimize a patient’s D serum concentration to 180 — 200 nmol/L to maximise immune function by supplementing vitamin D-3 (cholecalciferol). Adult patients can commence supplementation of 10,000–15,000 IU/day of D-3 while they get the test sorted out and obtain the results.
Once the initial 25 (OH)D result is known, supplementation and sun exposure can be adjusted accordingly. Once the goal of 150–200 nmol/L is reached through supplementation, a daily supplementation of 5,000 – 10,000 IU/day according to bodyweight will maintain levels. It is advised to test for D-3 twice a year to ensure levels are maintained ‘in the zone’.
The traditional approach is to change the patient’s diet to include dairy products, which often makes things worse. HRT is sometimes prescribed with disastrous results, especially in the realm of causing cancer and other problems. Americans consume huge quantities of dairy, with approximately 1$ in every $7 spent on food purchasing some form of dairy product, yet they have one of the highest incidences of osteoporosis in the world. Clearly something else is going on. Drs. Murray and Pizzorno, authors of the Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine, remark:
“Osteoporosis involves both the mineral (inorganic) and non-mineral (organic matrix, composed primarily of protein) components of the bone. This is the first clue that there is more to osteoporosis than a lack of dietary calcium. In fact, lack of dietary calcium in the adult results in a separate condition known as osteomalacia, or softening of the bone. The two conditions are different, in that in osteomalacia, there is only a deficiency of calcium in the bone. In contrast, in osteoporosis, there is a lack of both calcium and other minerals, as well as a decrease in the non-mineral, organic matrix of the bone. Little attention has been given to the important role this organic matrix plays in maintaining bone structure.” 1
So what causes osteoporosis?
The importance of acid/alkali
Dr Ted Morter Jr. has spent a lifetime analysing the effects different foods have on our internal environment. Morter states that the body responds perfectly to every stimulus that is applied to it, and each of these body responses is geared towards one aim and one aim only — survival. Sometimes this response is termed ‘disease’ if it goes against our ideal of what ‘health’ should be. Morter confirms the fact that the human body likes to dwell in a slight alkali (around pH 7.4).
When we acidify our internal environment with certain types of food, the body is forced to neutralise or ‘buffer’ this acid using a number of ingenious systems, mostly comprising alkalising minerals, such as sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. Urine pH is a good indicator of what is happening inside the body and varies according to how much excess protein is consumed and must be buffered. Note that blood pH must ALWAYS be between 7.35 and 7.45 or else life ends abruptly within a matter of hours.2
The protein levels most of us eat today are many times greater than the body actually needs (between 20–40 g a day are the estimated requirements), and the excess we consume is quite literally killing us. The animal food industries do their best to sow into the public psyche the myth that we are all in peril of protein and calcium deficiencies. The opposite is true. Excess protein is doing us in and coarse calcium from milk cannot be readily absorbed by the body in the way that fine calcium from veggies can. Some of us are slogging down up to 10 times the body’s protein requirements or more in our efforts to consume a herd of wildebeest and drink a swimming pool full of milk with our grain ‘cereals’ laced with refined sugar every morning. How our system eventually exhausts itself and collapses with all the acid generated is a book all on its own. But for our purposes here, the key to osteoporosis is in understanding the effects of acid and excess protein consumption and how the body tries to deal with them. When the digestive system is hit with a storm of acid derived from excessive protein food metabolism, this acid is potentially lethal and our hard-working bodies need to sort the problem in a hurry.
Firstly the brain mobilises mineral buffers to raise the acidic pH of our internal environment towards neutral in an effort to counteract the acid.3 After scoffing down burgers, chicken nuggets, eggs, pasta, cheese, seafood, grains – all accompanied by the inevitable acid-producing coffee, tea, sodas and alcohol — the mineral buffers use alkalising minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron along with water to combine with the acid generated by these food ashes to raise their pH, before escorting them out of the body via the kidneys. Notice the body loses these alkalising minerals when they are eliminated along with the acid.
If we are eating mineral-deficient, processed foods and are not consuming plenty of fresh water, the body may run short of these alkalising minerals and so starts to strip them from our bones. The result of these withdrawals is ‘porous bone’, or osteoporosis. This disease can be correctly termed ‘a survival response’ to 21st century dietary habits.
Osteoporosis in the elderly
Diets of the elderly are especially guilty of causing osteoporosis since old folks often rely on labour-light, processed ‘ready meals’ instead of an alkalising diet rich in fruits, vegetables, haricots, etc. The favourites of the elderly — milk, meat, bread and cereal grains, sugars, breads, coffee, etc. — are all prime generators of acid, thus putting the body — and the skeleton — under tremendous pressure to come up with the minerals and water required to buffer the acid. All that milk consumed by Americans, touched on earlier, can actually precipitate osteoporosis, since milk is a prime acid-generator, especially if it has been pasteurised and skimmed, rendering it a junk food.
When you eat meat you boost estrogen levels in your body. When you drink milk, you are consuming bovine estrogen. When you become overweight, your fat cells act as endocrine cells, which is why fat men develop breasts. Ladies experiencing menopausal symptoms, which may include hot flushes, sweats, mood changes, cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, etc. are also at risk from osteoporosis, but for a different reason than above. They are experiencing estrogen dominance over a progesterone deficiency, which, over a protracted period of time, may also cause a depletion of bone mass in the female, giving rise to osteoporosis (see Menopausal Problems).
Bone is living tissue that is always replacing itself. Osteoblasts, the cells that build and replace bone mass in humans, have progesterone receptors. No progesterone, no osteoblasts. No osteoblasts, no new bone material created. Osteoclasts on the other hand, are multinucleate cells that dissolve old bone material in preparation for the osteoblasts, which move in to replace old calcified bone with fresh material. Osteoclasts have estrogen receptors. So, if there is an estrogen dominance, osteoclasts are hard at work breaking down calcified bone material, leaving bones scored and pitted in preparation for the bone-building osteoblasts, which fail to act because of the lack of progesterone docked at their receptors.
Put the two features together and you get bone murder. Estrogen dominance results in calcified (old) bone material being broken down. Couple that with a simultaneous progesterone deficiency and you do not have this calcified bone being replaced. The net result is, of course, a progressive bone loss in the female – osteoporosis – porous bone.
40–60% of females in the western world today experience PMS symptoms, ranging from the noticeable to the severe. Many millions of women are guinea-pigs for the estrogen industry’s onward march towards its dividend payouts. But imagine also a female’s diet being acidified with excessive meat and dairy consumption, causing the body to bloat with water and mobilise calcium and other minerals out of the bones to restore the blood’s pH balance. Then imagine the free-radical activity resulting from the incomplete metabolism of refined sugars she has put into her body, resulting in the destruction of healthy cells as free-radicals attempt to stabilise themselves by robbing oxygen electrons out of healthy tissue cells. Now you begin to get an idea of what disasters lie in wait for women who follow the penchant for western diets and western healthcare, which result in western diseases. Chief among these are cancer, thrombosis and osteoporosis – all tied to the irresponsible expansion of the menopause-as-estrogen-deficiency mindset.
Lack of exercise
A further part of the problem is that we exercise less as we get older, and some of us stop altogether. We know what happens to astronauts when they go into space for protracted periods of time. They end up with soft bones. Isaac Newton’s famous Third Law states that ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’. i.e. to build strong bones you need to exert load-bearing stress onto the skeleton to cause it to strengthen. In a cushy world today where we go out of our way not to go out of our way, there are no short cuts to building a skeleton fit for purpose.
So, once again, we are on familiar ground when it comes to getting osteoporosis sorted. It’s diet, diet, diet, diet, lifestyle changes, exercise, and some supplements to help everything mend. Resist the temptation to tip calcium supplements into the body – these can be counterproductive and even dangerous in the absence of adequate D-3. Vitamin K-2, required for optimum absorption of bone matrix material, is plentiful in a plant-based diet but can also be supplemented.
Diet: Commence The Food For Thought Lifestyle Program
and study what to avoid. Get rid of animal protein for the duration of the healing period. Ensure as close to a 100% plant-based, 100% raw diet as the patient can get. Juicing vegetables is a great way to help achieve this effortlessly and absorb optimum, useable nutrients the body can use to repair itself. Also ensure the patient consumes at least 1 cupful of fermented vegetables a day to help optimise bowel flora.
Restore nutrient balance: commence the basic supplement program
Optimise vitamin D serum levels to 150–200 nmol/L (see A Guide to Nutritional Supplements before taking)4
Vitamin C complex, 10 g per day (see A Guide to Nutritional Supplements before taking)5
Magnesium (oxide), 1g per day, spread throughout the day. If supplementing with magnesium citrate, take 2 g a day, spread throughout the day 6
Take a natural progesterone cream, and rub it on the body as directed. This supplement provides the body with the materials required to manufacture natural progesterone in the presence of an adequate diet
TIP: Moderate but consistent aerobic and weight-training exercise, as directed, to improve bone density
TIP: Sunlight to assist in vitamin D and calcium metabolism
1 Murray, M & J Pizzorno, op. cit. p.706–7
2 Natural (physiological) acid produced through normal cell respiration is easily expelled in the breath via the lungs. Our blood pH is normally 7.35 when it is carting this acid, in the form of carbon dioxide, to the lungs for elimination. Blood is pH 7.45 after it has been ‘cleaned up’, the CO2 removed, and then oxygen is taken on to deliver to your heart and the rest of your body.
3 The pH (potential of hydrogen) scale runs between 0 for pure acid and 14 for pure alkali. 7 is neutral
4 LeBoff MS, Kohlmeier L, Hurwitz S, Franklin J, Wright J, Glowacki J “Occult vitamin D deficiency in postmenopausal US women with acute hip fracture”, JAMA. 1999 Apr 28;281(16):1505–11; Sioka C, Kyritsis AP, Fotopoulos A“Multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis,and vitamin D”, J Neurol Sci. 2009 Dec 15;287(1–2):1–6. Epub 2009 Oct 2
5 Kipp DE, Grey CE, McElvain ME, Kimmel DB, Robinson RG, Lukert BP “Long-term low ascorbic acid intake reduces bone mass in guinea pigs”, J Nutr. 1996 Aug;126(8):2044–9; Kipp DE, McElvain M, Kimmel DB, Akhter MP, Robinson RG, Lukert BP “Scurvy results in decreased collagen synthesis and bone density in the guinea pig animal model”, Bone. 1996 Mar;18(3):281–8. Erratum in: Bone 1996 Oct;19(4):419
6 Sojka JE, Weaver CM “Magnesium supplementation and osteoporosis”, Nutr Rev. 1995 Mar;53(3):71–4; Dimai HP, Porta S, Wirnsberger G, Lindschinger M, Pamperl I, Dobnig H, Wilders-Truschnig M, Lau KH “Daily oral magnesium supplementation suppresses bone turnover in young adult males”, J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Aug;83(8):2742–8