| Take Charge of Your Bone Health
by Dr. Laura Kelly and Helen Bryman Kelly
Untreated, bone loss due to aging averages about 10 percent per decade of a person’s life. This gradual loss is essentially equivalent in men and women, except for the approximately 10-year period of increased bone loss in women after menopause. This hormone loss does cause bone density decline, ordinarily between 5 and 10 percent—but this does not have to become osteopenia or osteoporosis. Rather the culprit in the worldwide epidemic of severe bone density loss resulting in osteopenia and osteoporosis—and associated fracture—is nutrient deficiency aided and abetted by lack of exercise, stress, consumption of processed food, smoking, alcohol excess, a gut in poor health, and inflammation—all of which can trigger bone density loss. Certain compounds in plant-based foods also play a role because they trap minerals and can inhibit mineral absorption.
Thus we think of osteopenia and osteoporosis as deficiency rather than as disease in the traditional sense, and we’d like to explain why. While bone is growing, collagen, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and trace amounts of other minerals like silicon assemble to make new bone. But new bone is not built, or not properly built, without the full nutrient complement present. For example calcium, one of the principal ingredients in bone, cannot make the journey from digestive system to bone without assistance from vitamin D3, vitamin K2, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, zinc, boron, protein, and trace minerals plus enzymes and others. If absorption is weak, calcium can be excreted. If nutrients are missing and calcium is absorbed but not transported to bone, excess in circulation can settle where you don’t want it—in joints and blood vessels. A deficiency in calcium at the site of bone could be due to a deficiency in elements necessary for absorption, lack of enzymes to transport or metabolize calcium, presence of chemicals that kidnap the calcium, or lack of the other elements that allow calcium to play its part in forming bone.
It is a complicated story about genes, lifestyle, environment, and gut function—all set against a backdrop of hormones, enzymes, and food—yet one thing shines through: Nothing in your body operates in isolation. By learning which foods contain what you need and how to prepare them—and then making those foods a key part of your diet—you can gradually reduce the nutrient deficiencies that are almost always the root cause of osteoporosis.
In the first part of The Healthy Bones Nutrition Plan and Cookbook: How to Prepare and Combine Whole Foods to Prevent and Treat Osteoporosis Naturally (Chelsea Green Publishing), we set out information about bone metabolism—how bones grow and what happens when they lose density. We explain how and why each of the bone health nutrients, separately and collectively, can help you maintain bone density, prevent bone density loss, and treat it starting at any age. To understand why bones lose density—and why food can counteract bone density loss—it is useful to know these metabolic mechanics. But bone metabolism, the many chemical processes that keep bone alive, is multifaceted and quite complex. So we also re-explain key points at several places later in the book as well. Over time you’ll find that your understanding of the interplay of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients required for bone health settles into a coherent big picture of nutrition and healthy bones.
Despite the millions consumers spend on calcium pills and the number of prescriptions for bone loss drugs they fill, worldwide there is an osteoporotic fracture every three seconds. Clearly, calcium pills and pharmaceuticals aren’t enough to keep bones healthy—but the science is right: diet can. Eating the right foods in the right nutrient combinations can help you build bone reserves before menopause, control bone loss after it, and arrest bone loss if not restore it at any time of life. We know this firsthand because some of the recipes in this book were Helen Kelly’s starting point for arresting severe osteoporotic bone loss at age 70.
A Medicine Through Food™ Guide
Drugs that claim to prevent or redress bone loss can actually cause bones to crumble and break. Calcium supplements, fortified processed food, and pasteurized dairy don’t work because the calcium in them doesn’t reach our bones. It’s a grim picture, but The Healthy Bones Nutrition Plan and Cookbook can help. Coauthors Dr. Laura Kelly and Helen Bryman Kelly, daughter and mother, have a firm grasp on the disciplines concerned with bone health, including nutrient absorption and bone metabolism. They offer readers a natural, effective, and safe approach to conserving bone mass and building healthy bones by creating a personalized nutrition plan that includes eating the right foods in the right combinations.
The authors’ quest for a natural, effective, safe way to prevent and treat bone loss began after 20 years of frustration, during which Helen tried supplements and several popular dietary approaches to arrest bone loss, only to see her bones continue to deteriorate year by year. Drawing on her knowledge of metabolic science and a rigorous examination of current research, Laura created a unique diet-based approach to bone health that allowed Helen’s body to absorb the nutrients that are naturally present in whole foods. Helen has been following her personal nutrition plan for four years and has stopped her bone loss completely—without taking any pharmaceuticals.
Part One of the book begins with a primer on bone metabolism, including the roles of individual vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that can help build strong bones. Building on this knowledge and more, the authors provide a framework and worksheets so readers can use the recipes and work with their doctors to create their personal nutrition plan for skeletal health.
The book includes more than 100 bone-health recipes ranging from sauces and small plates to soups, salads, and main dishes, drinks and desserts. The authors also explain how to make staple ingredients such as ghee and bone health vinegar and how to grow shiitake mushrooms—an important source of vitamin D. Readers can count on their personal nutrition plans and the Kellys’ recipes to provide food that helps calcium reach, and potentially strengthen, their bones.
Dr. Laura Kelly is a licensed Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Her private practice focuses on primary care and chronic disease. Helen Bryman Kelly is an award-winning research writer who specializes in medicine and management.
This excerpt is adapted from Dr. Laura Kelly and Helen Bryman Kelly’s book The Healthy Bones Nutrition Plan and Cookbook: How to Prepare and Combine Whole Foods to Prevent and Treat Osteoporosis Naturally (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015) and is printed with permission from the publisher (www.chelseagreen.com).