The Problem with Your Calcium Supplement

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Want strong bones? Then your efforts need to go beyond just taking a daily calcium supplement.

For decades it’s been drilled in our heads that we need calcium to get strong bones. Remember those mid 2000’s “Got Milk” ads? I do. I also remember my Grandma pounding calcium tablets, calcium chews, and even little chunks of chocolate (which contained just a speck of calcium) that promised to turn your bones into rods of steel. 

But is it really as simple as “drink milk = strong bones?” Not really. Yes, calcium is needed by the body. In fact, 98% of is stored in your bones and teeth. But the dilemma is a little more complex than just slamming a glass of milk in the morning.

Your Bones in A Nutshell

The cells of your bones are called osteocytes. There’s also osteoblasts and osteoclasts. 

They have different roles but here’s what you need to know: bone remodeling is a relationship between all three. And in order to upgrade your skeleton into superhero form, your nutrition needs to be at its very best. 

Here’s a better understanding. 

It’s a Process

You know what you need to absorb calcium? Magnesium. And we know that Americans are sorely lacking in magnesium, as more than 75% of us suffer a deficiency. 

You also need Vitamin D. And since you live in Michigan, your body produces diddly squat between in the Winter and early Spring. Hence the need for supplementation. 

Well, not so fast sparky. There’s more to it.

So we need magnesium and Vitamin D for bone health. Got it.

The body can’t absorb vitamin D if you don’t eat enough fat (D is a fat soluble vitamin). If you’re on some weird starvation diet, eat a lot of crap, or you’re stuck in the 90’s and still have the fat phobia that spread throughout that decade, those Vitamin D capsules aren’t going to do you much good.

The body’s quite a complex thing, isn’t it? I’ll take it one step further: if you have too much phosphorus, that will inhibit calcium absorption too. This spells trouble for those who live off of carbonated beverages (since they contain a lot of phosphorus).

To recap,

Bones need calcium

Calcium can’t be absorbed without enough magnesium or Vitamin D

Phosphorus can stop the body from absorbing calcium

 Does all this mean you should just say “eff it” and not worry about your bones? No – it’s just a lot of things need to be in order to develop a healthy, pain free body. You can’t just pop 500 mg of calcium and expect miracles to happen. 

Maybe It’s More Than Just a Calcium Supplement

You want to hear something interesting? The countries that have the highest dairy intake – Canada, Sweden, the United States – also have the highest levels of osteoporosis. 

Scientists are starting to throw the towel in on the whole calcium issue. The theory now is that bone health is less about calcium intake and that we’d be better off keeping inflammation down and getting obesity under control.  

How do you battle inflammation….and what’s needed to keep your bones strong? Let’s look into that. 

Fight inflammation. A diet high in refined grains – i.e. the whole junk food thing- is going to cause inflammatory problems. This can alter the ph of your blood and cause your bones to literally dump calcium into your bloodstream (to fix the ph). So eat less crap and use an oil high in omega-3s. Fish oil can do wonders. 

Eat your veggies. We know that a high protein might cause your bones to leak calcium. What we don’t know if that’s the protein alone, or if the fact that we, as a population, suffer from chronic low veggie intake. Vegetables act like a buffer and may help deal with any type of acid load that a high protein diet places on your body. 

Chew slow. Digestion starts in the mouth when you turn your food into mush with good chewing. Impaired digestion can prevent calcium from being absorbed; that extra calcium floating around could possibly lead to kidney stones…..and no one wants that. 

Mechanical loading. You still need to get off your tushy and give your bones a reason to rebuild themselves. Calcium alone won’t do that. Being active helps but the best form of mechanical loading is exercise – resistance training and things like sprinting and jumping are like a video game power up to your skeleton.  

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