Are Your Bones Brittle?

Are Your Bones Too Brittle?

As babies, our bones are soft and certain bones are not even completely matured at birth. An infant’s skull is made up of six separate cranial bones (the frontal bone, the occipital bone, two parietal bones, and two temporal bones). These bones are held together by strong, fibrous, elastic tissues called cranial sutures. The spaces between the bones where the sutures are (sometimes known as “soft spots”) are called fontanels. The cranial bones remain separate for about 12-18 months. They then grow together (fuse) as part of normal growth. They stay fused throughout adulthood.

In fact our bones go through growth stages through our childhood into adulthood but never really stop growing or, should we say, “regrow”. It is possible to grow new bone every 10 years however, for women, after our 30’s we lose estrogen and therefore lose bone. As women go through menopause, without the right nutrition and exercise, our bones become brittle and we acquire Osteopenia or Osteoporosis.

Osteopenia is said to be the precursor of Osteoporosis. Osteopenia is the beginning of bone disease and means weak bone. Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. Researchers estimate that about 1 out of 5 American women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis. About half of all women over the age of 50 will have a fracture of the hip, wrist, or vertebra (bones of the spine). Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to form enough new bone, when too much old bone is reabsorbed by the body, or both. Bones are actually living tissues with many layers consisting of collagen, protein and minerals and these layers are tightly packed. In fact, our bones are so strong, that some bones can withstand hundreds of pounds of pressure without snapping. That being said, there is always room for a freak accident where a break happens and it just doesn’t seem right. If you do not get enough calcium, or if your body does not absorb enough calcium from the diet, bone production and bone tissues may suffer.  So what are the causes of Osteopenia and Osteoporosis?

The causes of Osteopenia and Osteoporosis vary but can be from dairy free diets, low calorie diets, certain medications like birth control and antidepressants and too much exercise. People who exercise too much and have a low BMI, Body Mass Index, typically have Osteopenia or Osteoarthritis. Over exercising for women can slow or halt your estrogen levels in your body, stop your menstrual cycle and stop bone from reforming or rebuilding itself. Other things that rob the body of calcium and contribute to Osteoporosis are stress, poor diets, and excessive amounts of alcohol, caffeine and salt. Even if you take calcium supplements, these foods can deplete your calcium supply and cause bone to deteriorate. Changing your diet, the right supplements, exercising and limiting these types of food can reverse Osteopenia.

When choosing supplements, make sure you chose one with the right amounts of calcium, Vitamin D and magnesium. You will notice that a lot of calcium pills have blends of calcium, D and sometimes magnesium. It is recommended that you get 1000 milligrams of calcium, at least 400 IU of Vitamin D and about 400 IU of magnesium. Vitamin D will help with the absorption of calcium, and magnesium will help with the constipation some get from calcium supplements. Many people are Vitamin D deficient, especially people who live up north and experience cold weather and lack of sun for the majority of the year. You can have your doctor do some blood work and find out how deficient your body is and they may recommend more than 400 IU of vitamin D. Fifteen to twenty minutes of sun a day is a good way to get some vitamin D into your body, of course you must consider that too much sun can be detrimental.

You can get calcium from taking calcium carbonate supplements, which are the cheapest way to get your calcium but make sure you take it with food or a glass of OJ which will stimulate the acid in your stomach which is needed for this type of supplement. Calcium carbonate can cause some bloating and constipation that is why I like the magnesium addition to this combo. Calcium citrate is another form of calcium you can take, which happens to be more expensive than the carbonate but is easier on the stomach. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure your supplements do not interfere with your medications.

The best way of course to get your calcium is through your diet. The foods that are calcium rich are mild, cheese, yogurt, bok choy, broccoli, almonds, black beans, soy milk, orange juice and tofu.  Foods that are rich in vitamin D are salmon, milk, tuna, tofu and egg. Yes an egg, which has been chastised for the amount of cholesterol that it contains, has recently been discovered that it has less cholesterol than was previously thought. In fact, an egg is one of the most well rounded foods out there. If you are still concerned about your cholesterol and not comfortable, have one egg yolk and the rest egg whites.

We know that diet affects our calcium levels but did you know that certain exercises can cause you to lose bone and certain exercises will help build bone. Exercises like too much bike riding, elliptical or swimming in the pool can cause you to lose bone while a combination of weight training and aerobic exercises each week can help your bone rebuild by triggering more minerals. Some exercises that are good for your bone renewal are kick boxing, running stairs, and as little as 15-20 minutes of strength training 3 or 4 days a week, will help increase your bone density by 2 percent a year no matter what age you are. Circuit training which combines aerobic and strength training is the best way to get your workout in and to help renew your bone health. Always make sure that you consult your doctor whenever starting a new exercise program.

– Jeannine Nystrom

Jeannine Nystrom specializes in rehab exercise therapy, is a licensed massage therapist, certified stretching therapist, certified personal trainer and esthetician. As someone who had multiple injuries when she was younger that limited her living a healthy normal life, she was thrilled to find someone who was able to teach her how to self help  with stretching and massage, getting back into shape and living a balanced life.

She owns a studio and day spa in Juno Beach, Florida and teaches all of these practices to her clients so they too can have a total holistic body and live a more balanced life.

Visit Jeannine’s website at

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