Could You Be Getting Arsenic Poisoning From Your Food?

In November 2012 Consumer Reports published an article of their findings of worrisome levels of arsenic found in rice products (to read their article, you can click on this link: Arsenic in Your Foods). Before this, they published another article (to read, click link: Arsenic in Your Juice) in January 2012 revealing arsenic in apple and grape juice. Most of you probably know that arsenic is a potent human carcinogen and can cause health problems in children later in life. This finding is very disturbing, but are we really surprised by it? We know that the excessive amounts of pesticides and herbicides that are used have to have some effect on our biological system. Arsenic is used as a neurological agent against bugs. It then ends up in our waterways and since rice is grown in water, it tends to accumulate in rice more than other grains.

It is my hope that the Consumer Reports findings as well as others like it will open up serious discussions about our approach to the food we eat and our long term health. For years alternative healthcare providers have preached to our patients about the need to eat clean food, increase their consumption of plants and do periodic detoxification to remove some of the toxins which accumulate in our system over time. And now an independent organization is sounding an alarm that certain foods we eat or drink may cause serious health problems.

I believe that we should have serious concerns about our food supply: Roundup-ready corn, soy and alfalfa; mercury in the fish; bad fats; hormones and antibiotics in beef and chicken; and 70% of the processed foods in the grocery store which have been estimated to contain GMO derivatives. Because of these things, our diets and the supplements we use to support our diet should be geared to repairing the damage done by the chemicals and heavy metals that we are unknowingly ingesting. Heavy metals inactivate enzymes in the body and increase free radical damage which can lead to an increase in cardiovascular disease, autoimmunity, and some forms of cancer. So it’s important to get rid of any excess heavy metals. Doing a regular detox can help you with this.

My next post will discuss tips for lessening your chances to get arsenic in your food.

When You Take Your Supplements Affects How You Absorb Them

Sometimes your healthcare provider gives you a nutritional supplement that they say you need and nothing happens.  A classic example is someone who has low levels of vitamin D that doesn’t improve after months of therapy.  One reason for this, according to a small but striking study at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, is that some vitamin D resistant people are taking vitamin D supplements on an empty stomach or with a small meal, usually breakfast or lunch.

Twenty five people participated in the study, 17 of them were instructed to take the same supplement they had been taking with their largest meal of the day, usually supper. After 2 to 3 months, taking the same vitamin D supplement with the “largest” meal of the day, researchers found that serum vitamin D levels had increased on average by 56.7%.  This magnitude of increase was seen across a wide range of vitamin D dosage.

Vitamin D is fat soluble and generally it is recommended that it be taken with a meal containing fats. However, based on this study, it may be best to take vitamin D with your largest meal of the day, which is likely to contain the most fat.

As people age and their digestive track becomes compromised, the ability to secrete digestive enzymes decreases, especially HCL. Also digesting food takes energy and if someone has been ill for a prolonged period of time their digestive capacity is further reduced. So keep in mind, if you have a weakened immune system you may have difficulty absorbing all nutrients even if they are taken at the largest meal.

Fat soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, K as well as Coenzyme Q10, must be emulsified by either bile or pancreatic enzymes. But what if your liver is under-performing due to toxic over-load, fatty liver or if the bile is not stored properly and released due to gall-bladder removal? That may also lead to reduced absorption.  You may need to take digestive enzymes with your supplements to help with your nutrient absorption.

Is Your Golf Swing Setting You Up for Injury?

Although approximately 30 million Americans play golf, it comes with the risk of injury to the chiropractic-health/chiropractic-neck-pain/” target=”_blank”>neck, mid and lower back, upper extremities, hips, and knees. During an average 18 hole game of golf, a golfer will take approximately 70-150 swings with an opportunity to injure themselves with each swing. In fact, a study of PGA players showed that approximately 77% of all professional golfers report having acute or chronic low back pain from golfing. Considering the amateur golfer typically has less than excellent golf-swing mechanics and rarely trains year-round in order to golf, it is reasonable to assume that the amateur golfer’s incidence of injury is as high as or higher than that for the professional golfer. The majority of golf injuries are usually caused by poor swing mechanics resulting from physical limitations, poor posture, and decreased flexibility. Therefore, it makes sense that golf injury prevention requires building a fundamentally sound golf swing, reducing golf swing faults, and performing golf-specific exercises and flexibility training.

When addressing the ball, the golfer should assume a stance of about 45 degrees of forward bending of the low back and have the neck in a neutral posture. Excessive bending at address can result in straining the muscles of the spine. In addition, poor posture while addressing the ball will restrict rotation of the spine and decrease club head speed. This restriction in spinal rotation causes golfers to swing too fast, have an accentuated backswing and over-swing. All of this can lead to injuring the back muscles or even the discs.

In order to prevent you from injuring yourself with your golf swing, let’s discuss what to do:


To grip the club properly, the thumb and forefinger of each hand should form a V. The V’s formed by the thumb and forefinger of each hand should be parallel. Typically, the forefinger of the lead hand is interlocked with the pinky finger of the trail hand. A proper grip is one in which the club is held firmly by 5 fingers: the middle, ring and little fingers of the left hand, and the middle and ring fingers of the right hand (for a right handed golfer).


To address the ball properly, let your arm hang. Your arms should hang under your shoulders and feel relaxed when you address the ball. Your hands should be closer to your body for leverage. You should be looking in at your hands, not out at them. Don’t feel as if you are reaching for the ball. A bad setup leads to a bad backswing which leads to trying to correct the problems on the downswing. At address, your lead shoulder should be higher than the other and your head should be behind the ball.


A controlled backswing, where the hands, arms, shoulders, hips, knees and feet all move in rhythm is necessary to create the kinetic energy and smooth movements necessary to initiate the golf swing. Unless you possess incredible flexibility in the shoulder and hip joints and unrestricted ability to move the spine, a short backswing will create greater kinetic energy than a big backswing. Power is not stored in the backswing. Power is built in the backswing and released in the downswing. Therefore, a big backswing isn’t necessary. Shortening the length of the backswing to a ½ or ¾ backswing will create more power. To generate optimum force from your golf swing, take a short backswing and then change directions as quickly as possible when you go from the backswing to the downswing.

For a right handed golfer:

During the initial movement of the backswing, the left shoulder moves across the torso until the shoulder joint reaches its end range of motion. This movement is followed by upper torso rotation. Individuals with poor shoulder and upper torso flexibility will attempt to compensate during their backswing by bending their left elbow thereby collapsing the arc of the backswing, or lifting their head or torso. Ultimately, at the top of the backswing, you want a straight left arm and a right arm which is bent at 90 degrees at the elbow.

When visualizing a backswing, think of the body as having 3 parts stacked on top of each other: the top portion: the shoulder which rotates the most; the middle portion: the hips; and the lower portion: the legs which remain stable.


During the downswing the left arm should be parallel to the plane line of the ball and the target. During the downswing, the body uncoils from the legs to the hips to the shoulders. Low back muscles only contribute about 5% of the total force involved in this movement. The oblique abdominal muscles are the primary rotators of the trunk and responsible for most of this movement. Ultimately, the backswing creates energy and the downswing releases it.

Pivot Foot

The right handed golfer must position his right pivot foot 90 degrees perpendicular to the plane line of the golf swing. The maintenance of a strong, stabilized pivot foot allows for the creation of the energy needed for a forceful golf swing. If your right pivot foot is not perpendicular to the target line of the golf swing then energy is lost and the golf shot will have a tendency of going offline to the right. Weakness of the gluteus muscles (buttocks muscles) which helps to stabilize the hip and knee joints and the quadriceps muscles (front thigh muscles) which are the primary weight supporting muscles during the backswing, will destabilize the right pivot foot causing offline golf shots.

Ball Impact

At impact, the right shoulder (for right handed golfers) moves under the chin and the hips rotate on a level plane. The position of the left hand directly influences the position of the clubface. At the moment of ball impact, the left hand should be flat and facing the target. Any movement of the left hand out of proper impact position will cause the clubface to not be square which will cause an offline shot.

In the end, a balanced follow-through and finish is the hallmark of a good golf swing. At the finish you should be facing the target.

How Can Chiropractic Care Help Asthma?

Spinal misalignments cause many health problems because vertebrae that are not aligned properly can irritate important nerves and restrict their effectiveness. The nerves coming out of the upper back innervate the lungs, and if these nerves aren’t functioning optimally they may make the lungs more sensitive to asthma triggers. In fact, there are a number of studies that show that chiropractic-health/what-is-chiropractic/” target=”_blank”>chiropractic correction of these spinal misalignments help improve the symptoms of asthma.

Dr. Ray Hayek conducted a trial at 16 treatment centers in Australia, involving 420 patients, in an effort to find out what effects spinal manipulation has on symptoms such as depression and anxiety, general health status, and the levels of immunity. He tested the concentrations of both an immunoglobulin (IgA) and an immunosuppressant (cortisol) to gauge his results. Dr. Hayek was trying to prove that different forms of manual therapy (including massage) improve symptoms and lower cortisol levels in asthma patients.

Dr. Hayek reported that only the patient group that underwent spinal manipulation displayed significant improvement in asthma symptoms. Conducting only interviews at the treatment centers or being monitored at home did not yield these improvements. In addition, patients actually undergoing spinal manipulation displayed dramatic increases of IgA and decreases of cortisol even after asthma treatment had ceased, suggesting that the treatments affected the patients’ long-term health. These patients were expected to ward off subsequent asthmatic attacks.

These changes not only suggest that the effects of spinal manipulation are more far-reaching than commonly believed, but that they may be more long-term as well. The gain in health achieved after spinal manipulations were performed is expected to reduce the incidence and severity of pathogenic invasion of the airways. There would be less of a risk under these circumstances of experiencing the symptoms of asthma.

Another study was conducted by the National University Hospital (Rigshospitalet) in Copenhagen, Denmark. The purpose of their randomized patient- and observer-blinded cross-over trial was to evaluate the efficacy of chiropractic treatment in the management of chronic asthma when combined with pharmaceutical maintenance therapy. Patients were randomized to receive either active chiropractic spinal manipulative treatment or sham chiropractic spinal manipulative treatment twice weekly for 4 weeks, and then crossed over to the alternative treatment for another 4 weeks. During the course of the study, objective lung function did not change. However, during the study, non-specific bronchial hyperreactivity (n-BR) improved by 36% and patient-rated asthma severity decreased by 34% compared with the baseline values.

In another study conducted in 1996 by the Michigan Chiropractic Council (MCC), a panel of doctors tested the effectiveness of chiropractic care on children with asthma. The study, which took place during May and June of 1996, examined the impact of chiropractic care on asthmatic patients from birth to age 17. “After 30 days of chiropractic health care, patients averaged only one attack, whereas prior to the study they were experiencing more than four attacks,” said MCC Dr. Bob Graham, who directed the study. “Medications, which can be costly, were decreased by nearly 70 percent. Finally, patient satisfaction was rated 8.5 on a scale of 10.”

According to Richard Pistolese, research assistant for the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, “Based upon information currently available, chiropractic care represents a safe non-pharmacological health care approach, that may be associated with a decrease in asthma-related impairment, reduced respiratory effort, and a decrease incidence of asthma attacks.” Pistolese goes further to say, “The correction of vertebral subluxation is a non-invasive procedure, which could reduce or eliminate the need for medication, and potentially ease the severity of the asthmatic condition.”

Based on these studies and results other patients have gotten with chiropractic care, if you or someone you love suffers from asthma, you may want to try chiropractic care.

Natural Ways to Reduce Stress

At least 80% of all visits to doctor’s offices are for symptoms that are in some way related to stress. In our world we are exposed to so many stimuli at such a high rate of speed: decisions need to be made, data needs to be processed, differences in opinions need to be dealt with, disappointments occur on a daily basis, deadlines need to be met, relationships need work, and delays are all around us. Regardless of all of this, we are expected to be at the top of our game. Most of us hover in and around warp speed just in our daily lives, but then factor in some of the factors I just mentioned and we have a recipe for overload.

Fortunately, there are many things we can do nutritionally to limit the negative effects of stress. Now, I could “go off” about the effects of refined foods and sugar laden drinks, but most of you know those effects. Instead I’d like to remind you of other natural solutions that help with stress, particularly short term stress.

A research team at Nancy University in France noted the calming effects of breast milk on babies and theorized that there was some “anti-anxiety” factor in breast milk. The university team was able to isolate specific bioactive peptides from milk that have anti-anxiety activity. Several double-blind placebo controlled human trials done on this all natural milk protein peptide demonstrate significant anti-anxiety activity. This particular peptide is called a decapeptide. A decapeptide is just a tiny fraction of the large milk protein molecule which means people with milk sensitivities can usually take this product safely. In a 15 day trial, a number of physical parameters were measured “pre and post” stress. They all improved compared to controls. In the milk peptide group, heart rate, blood pressure, and ACTH levels all normalized. In addition to significant reductions in stress biochemistry, the study also measured the perceived stress of the test subjects. After 15 days, subjects taking the milk peptide reported better sleeping and better perception of how their lives were progressing. This is important because both the physical markers associated with stress and the subjective measures were both positively affected.

There are also a number of herbal remedies to help diminish stress. Here are just a few you may want to check out:

Siberian Ginseng: Supports the health of the adrenal glands and bolsters the body’s immune system. It also improves athletic performance and mental alertness.
Kava-Kava: Calms the nerves and helps you “take the edge off”. It relaxes tight muscles and helps to relieve pain as well. It works without the loss of alertness that accompanies sedative medications and without the side effects associated with common anti-anxiety drugs.
Valerian Root: Soothes anxiety, relaxes tight muscles and relieves pain. It does have some sedative properties so you may want to take this is the evening and take something like Kava-Kava during the day.
Schisandra berry: Act as a general tonic and counters fatigue. It helps improve work capacity and mental efficiency, tones the nervous system and increases endurance.
Reishi: Helps calm anxiety, eases insomnia and tones the immune system
Gotu Kola: Rejuvenates the nervous system and improves mental functions such as memory. It improves the ability to cope with stress and fatigue and relieves anxiety.
Ashwaganda: Enhances the body’s ability to cope with stress and generally enhances mental acuity, reaction time and physical performance.
St. John’s Wort: Eases mild and moderate depression. It also eases premenstrual tension and anxiety and helps relieve nerve or muscle pain.
Passion Flower: Decreases anxiety and induces sleep. It’s a toning and strengthening herb for the nervous system and a helpful remedy against worrying, particularly when an overactive mind interferes with sleep.
Chamomile: Calms the nerves and gently aides sleep. It is also anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic.
Lavender: Just its smell can calm and relax you. It can also help ease headaches and relax tight muscles.
We all know that many drugs like benzodiazepines used for anxiety management have side effects like dependence issues, tolerance issues, and memory loss. So you may want to consider using natural substances that are not habit forming, take the edge off, and in many cases allow people to get a good night’s sleep to reset their system for the next day. You want to make sure you address any underlying causes for prolonged stress, but sometimes we just need to break the stress cycle.

Yoga For Your Health

Yoga is often used for stress relief, increasing strength and flexibility, and promoting health. It is utilized by approximately 6 million Americans as part of their healthcare / workout regime. So what is yoga? How does it work? And what does it help?

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “union”. It is a spiritual practice that uses the body, breath, and mind to energize and balance the whole person. Originally it began years ago as part of the Hindu healing science known as Ayurveda.

How does yoga work?

Scientists don’t know exactly how yoga produces its healthful effects. Some say it works like other mind-body therapies to reduce stress, and others believe that it promotes the release of endorphins (natural painkillers) from the brain.

Yoga includes three major techniques: breathing, exercise (asana), and meditation. These three techniques have been shown to improve health in many ways:

Breathing lessons – in yoga, breathwork is known as pranayama. Pranayama increases blood circulation, which brings more oxygen to the brain, and enlarges lung capacity, as lung tissue becomes more elastic and the surrounding muscle more flexible. Getting ample air into our lungs helps us to feel alert and focused.
Asanas – known to enhance strength, flexibility, and balance. Some asanas are designed to massage the internal organs, improve circulation, hormone function, digestion, and other body processes. The Plow, for example, is a basic posture used in Hatha yoga in which you lie on your back (arms at sides, palms down) and stretch your legs overhead until your toes touch the floor. This posture is believed to stimulate the thyroid and parathyroid glands, enhance the flexibility of the back, stretch the nerves and muscles of the back and legs, improve posture, relieve constipation, and reduce body fat.
Meditation – has been shown to reduce blood pressure, chronic pain, anxiety, cholesterol levels, and substance abuse.
What does a yoga session entail?

Hatha yoga sessions are usually group classes that last from about 45 minutes to an hour. Each session begins with a gentle warm-up exercise and proceeds on to the three yoga disciplines: breathing lessons, asanas, and meditation. The therapist will first focus on breathing technique and he or she may guide you through several breathing exercises. The therapist will then direct the class through a series of yoga postures. Each posture will be practiced from one to three times. As you hold postures, you may be instructed to perform certain breathing techniques. After three or four different postures, you’ll be allowed to rest. Once you’ve completed the exercises, there is usually a period of physical relaxation combined with meditation.

How many sessions will I need?

Classes may be taken once a week (or more, if desired) for as long as it is helpful to you. Your yoga therapist may also ask you to practice asanas at home to improve your flexibility.

What is yoga good for?

Yoga improves fitness, lowers blood pressure, promotes relaxation, and reduces stress and anxiety. People who practice yoga tend to have good coordination, posture, flexibility, range of motion, concentration, sleep habits, and digestion. Yoga is a complementary therapy that has been used with traditional therapies to treat a wide range of conditions, including cancer, diabetes, chiropractic-health/arthritis-relief/” target=”_blank”>arthritis, asthma, heart disease, migraine, and AIDS. Yoga alone is not an effective cure for any particular disease.

Is there anything I should look out for?

When done properly, yoga is not stressful or tiring, but some people may experience stiffness as their bodies adapt to different postures. Avoid yoga if you’ve had a recent back injury and be sure to check with your doctor before trying yoga if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or arthritis. Some postures are not recommended during pregnancy, but special classes are available for pregnant women. Some postures should not be practiced during menstruation-ask your instructor. Be sure to tell the instructor and contact your doctor if any exercises cause headaches, muscle cramps, dizziness, or severe pain in your back, legs, or joints.

Natural Remedies for Acid Reflux

There are ways to naturally reduce acid reflux. One way is to avoid the triggers of acid reflux.

Citrus fruits
Tea (herbal teas are OK)
Certain supplements or medications such as antidepressants and sedatives
Eating before going to bed – simply being vertical helps your stomach contents stay in your stomach
Eating large meals
Frequently eating greasy, fried, and fatty foods
Drinking lots of bubbly (carbonated) beverages such as soda
There are certain lifestyle modifications that you can make to help with acid reflux. First of all, if you have a little weight to lose, this would be a good time to do it. You can read some of my other posts on exercising and weight-loss to help with this. Being overweight pushes up on your stomach. Also, eat well to promote healthy bacteria in your gut. Eating foods that contain good bacteria including yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha tea, and miso.

Good eating habits also helps to alleviate acid reflux. Make sure you cut out bad fats, including hydrogenated oils and saturated fats. Instead eat good fats such as olive oil, flaxseed, coconut, and sesame oils. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. The fiber they contain act as an acid buffer, and they contain lots of vitamins and minerals that help the digestive tract. Quit eating refined sugars and carbohydrates. This excess sugar and lack of fiber promotes the bad bacteria that is often found in the lower intestine to grow up into the small intestine causing abdominal problems. You can always supplement with probiotics to help with the intestinal bacteria.

Chewing a piece of sugar-free gum 30 minutes after eating can help wash away acid.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic can often help heal your gastric reflux. To begin with, chiropractic care can help treat hiatal hernias, a common cause of gastric reflux. A hiatal hernia is when your stomach gets lodged up into the diaphragm. This pinches the stomach and causes its contents to regurgitate into the esophagus. Often chiropractors can adjust for a hiatal hernia and help to alleviate the symptoms of reflux. Secondly, as I stated in a previous post, the nerves that come out of the upper spine innervate the stomach and esophagus. If those nerves are irritated by a problem with the spine, the organs they irritate may not function optimally. So eliminating nerve irritation can help promote the healing of the stomach and esophagus and make sure they function normally.

Home Remedies for Acid Reflux

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is a wonderful remedy for acid reflux.

Add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to 1/2 glass of water.
Sip this glass of water while eating your dinner.
Ginger Root

Ginger Root is known to absorb stomach acid and have the secondary effect of calming the nerves. For an effective natural remedy from the symptoms of acid reflux, try the following:

Purchase ginger root capsules from a natural health food or nutritional store.
Regularly take one capsule immediately after dinner.
Fennel Seeds

Fennel seed is an aromatic but powerful herb that helps in digestive conditions and has many other benefits. Fennel seeds contain a compound known as Anethole, which is known to suppress spasms of the stomach or gastrointestinal tract spasms. Therefore, it is considered to be an effective remedy for Acid Reflux.

Take half a tea spoon of Fennel Seeds and chew them slowly after your meals.
Anise and Lavender Tea

You can make this tea to reduce the amount of acid you have in your stomach. Note that some variants of this remedy suggest adding peppermint, but this is NOT recommended since peppermint is known to relax the LES (described earlier), which is exactly what you don’t want to do.

Mix together equal amounts of aniseed and lavender.
Boil 2 1/2 cups of distilled water.
Pour the boiling water over a teaspoon of the herbal mixture.
Let this tea sit for 3 to 5 minutes.
Strain the tea and add a little bit of honey as a natural sweetener.
Drink up to 8 oz of this tea in the morning and 8 oz in the evening to get relief from acid reflux or heartburn.
Other Remedies:


Experts say licorice has stomach-healing properties that can get to the root of the problem rather than just calming symptoms. But be careful – eating too much could have serious side effects. One alternative is to take licorice extract. The extract is better than plain licorice because there is a substance in licorice (glycyrrhizinic acid) that may increase blood pressure. This substance is removed in the extract. The extract is called deglycyrrhizinated licorice or DGL. DGL actually increases the number of mucus secreting cells in the upper part of the stomach and esophagus that protect the lining from stomach acid. Chewable DGL seems to work better than the pills. Take 700-800mg 2-3 times per day between meals.

Baking Soda

Mixing a half teaspoon into a glass of water can help neutralize stomach acid. But it shouldn’t be used for chronic heartburn because it’s high in salt.

Slippery Elm

Research suggests that adding a couple of tablespoons of this herb to a glass of water can help coat and protect the stomach.


This plant can reduce inflammation in the stomach. Some experts suggest drinking aloe juice, but use caution, because it can also be a laxative.

How to Strengthen Your Back

Your spine is supported by many groups of muscles. You have large muscles such as your abdominal, iliopsoas, and quadratus lumborum muscles that are primarily designed for performing movement. It is important for they to be strong for you to perform your normal activities without hurting your spine. If these muscles are not strong enough to perform the activity that you are doing, extra stress is put on your spine and can cause serious injury to your spinal ligaments or discs. An example of this is someone who tries to move a piece of furniture that is heavier than what they are used to lifting and hurts their back. At the same time, we have patients in our office who work as professional movers lifting furniture every day without back injury. The difference is the professional movers’ muscles are used to the work and can handle it. So, it is important to keep your abdominal muscles and back muscles strong in order to prevent back injury as you perform your everyday activities such as lifting your kids out of car seats, yardwork, household chores, or sporting activities. Exercise regimes that strengthen these muscles are easily found everywhere from your local gym to home workout programs to downloadable exercises that you can find on the internet.

The other group of muscles that you need to be concerned about are the small muscles that connect the individual vertebrae in your spine together. These tiny muscles are what stabilize your spine. When they get weak your body recruits the larger muscles to do their job. That is why your back muscles can get tight or stiff, the larger muscles are doing the job of the smaller ones. Therefore, in order to loosen up your back, it is important to strengthen your tiny stabilizing muscles. They are often weak when people have back pain. The best way to strengthen these muscles is through the use of the large exercise or physioballs. This gives you an unstable surface to exercise on and makes those stabilizing muscles work. Other things such as foam discs and rocker or wobble boards also gives you unstable surfaces that will cause you to work those stabilizing muscles. You can talk to your chiropractor or other healthcare professional to get some exercises to help with your particular condition.

Dietary Supplements to Help Bone Health and Retard Osteoporosis

Even though osteoporosis is a largely preventable disease through diet and exercise, osteoporosis and its complications are now considered by the World Health Organization to be the second-leading health care problem, behind only cardiovascular disease. Osteoporosis is a condition that breaks down the skeleton, making bones more fragile and more likely to spontaneously fracture, especially in the spine and hip. Bone loss can result from a variety of reasons including insufficient dietary intake of essential nutrients, pollutants, toxins, smoking, menopause, lack of physical activity and heredity.

Attempting to retard bone loss through clinical nutrition, calcium supplementation and food fortification has been shown in well-controlled clinical trials to be very effective. Indeed, calcium has been the leading dietary supplement in bone nutrition for decades. However, scientific advancements in our understanding of bone physiology, structure and nutrient interaction has resulted in the discovery of a number of other nutrients that may play as big a role as calcium in maintaining a healthy skeletal system well into old age.

The Calcium Dilemma

Among the greatest changes in the thinking of the nutritional community over the past decade has been the re-evaluation of the importance and place of calcium in our diet and supplements. Recent studies have started to analyze the differences in the metabolism of calcium under different circumstances within the body such as menopause, a time during which calcium is not well absorbed. These studies have led to a different view of dietary and supplemental recommendations for calcium.

The cost-effectiveness of calcium supplementation depends not only on the cost of the supplement but on how well it is absorbed. It doesn’t matter how cheap a supplement is if most of it ends up in your toilet as opposed to your blood stream. This also applies to milk and other milk derivatives such as yogurt and cheese. Recent findings from human studies have demonstrated that milk calcium (tri-calcium phosphate) is no better absorbed than many other forms of synthetic calcium used in dietary supplements, including calcium carbonate, gluconolactate, citomalate, chloride, lactate, acetate and citrate. These studies have found that the most readily absorbable form of calcium is bis-glycinocalcium taken on an empty stomach, followed by calcium citromalate taken with a meal.

The Phosphorous Problem

Eighty-five percent of all phosphorous found in the human body is in the skeleton. Although it is an essential nutrient, there is concern that excessive amounts may be detrimental to your bones. Dietary phosphorous intake has risen over the past 20 years because of its increased use in food additives and cola beverages. In the U.S., phosphorous intake is between 1,000–1,500mg/day, well above the currently recommended level for adults of 700mg/day. However, a series of studies from Creighton University in Nebraska has found that it is actually the ratio of calcium to phosphorus intake that is important. These studies found that if calcium intake increases without a corresponding increase in phosphorous, the risk of phosphorous insufficiency rises and vice versa. These studies found that your calcium:phosphorous ratios should not be higher than 1:2. Therefore, patients with osteoporosis should have phosphorous in some of their calcium supplements.

The Magnesium Mystery

Two-thirds of all magnesium in the human body is located in the skeleton. Without an adequate dietary intake of magnesium, calcium metabolism is negatively impacted. Too little magnesium in your diet can lead to the breakdown of bone. One study showed that an intake of 300-400 mg/day of magnesium in post-menopausal women resulted in a significant increase in bone density after one year.

The Fluoride Question

The issue of dietary fortification, supplementation or artificially fluoridated water is a contentious one. There is a serious question as to whether sodium fluoride supplementation actually benefits bone health. There is some data that suggests that fluoride is a stimulator of bone formation. However, a large study by the Mayo Clinic showed that fluoride treatment didn’t impact the incidence of fracture rates. Therefore, the issue of fluoride supplementation to help bone health still remains a question.

The Zinc Factor

Zinc is an important factor in the mineralization of bone. During periods of zinc deficiency, bone density is greatly reduced, and excessive excretion of zinc is related to osteoporosis. The times for possible supplementation with zinc are during adolescence or for those involved in excessive exercise, during a period of dietary restriction, or following periods of prolonged illness where zinc levels may be under stress due to increased rates of growth and/or bone turnover. The current recommended daily allowance for zinc is 12mg/day, but research suggests optimal bone health is better achieved at a level of 30mg/day.

The Vitamin D Dynamic

Vitamin D helps to keep blood calcium and phosphorous concentrations within the normal range to maintain essential cellular functions and to promote mineralization of bone. As such, D3 deficiency has been shown to play an important role in osteoporosis. Vitamin D3 is synthesized in the skin through exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D3’s biologically active form is 1-alpha, 25-dihydroxy vitamin D, and it is possible for vitamin D3 levels to be low but the active form to be within normal limits. Because of recent advances in gene technology and the identification of the vitamin D receptor gene (VDR) that may indicate greater susceptibility to osteoporotic disease, vitamin D is back under scientific scrutiny.

Studies of supplementary vitamin D for prevention of osteoporotic fractures concluded that the effectiveness of vitamin D alone is uncertain, but it does work well in conjunction with calcium. There is some discrepancy in how much vitamin D should be taken. Traditionally levels between 400-600IU/day are recommended. A note of caution: excessive intake of vitamin D can result in low blood calcium and calcification of arterial walls and the kidney. However, the dose of vitamin D that causes significant hypocalcaemia is highly variable between individuals but is rarely less than 1,000mcg/day.

The K Vitamins (K1 and K2)

The K vitamins are a group of napthoquinones that seem to retard bone loss in elderly populations. Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone) differ regarding food sources (green vegetables and fermented products, respectively), bioavailability and intermediate metabolism. Studies suggest that K2 may have a greater effect in maintaining bone density than K1. However, the majority of dietary intake of K1 is lost by excretion so we need a continuous dietary supply of both forms to maintain appropriate levels in our body.

The Matter of Soy

Ipriflavone is a synthetic form of naturally occurring isoflavones found in soy. Ipriflavone shows promise for its ability to prevent deterioration of bone density. It also appears to have a positive effect on patients who have undergone ovariectomy and steroid use.

Although calcium is still the most important nutrient for bone health, if you have osteoporosis or are predisposed to it, supplementation with these other nutrients is worth trying to help build and maintain bone density.