The Confusion about Calcium
or Why Calcium Supplements
Aren't Helping (And May Be Hurting) Your Body
If there's one thing us '90's women take for granted, it is that we don't get enough calcium. You can't read a woman's magazine or go to the gynecologist without hearing about the importance of calcium supplements: how they'll prevent us modern women from the dowager's hump so commonplace among our grandmothers.
We women are taking that advice to heart. Last year calcium supplements were the second best selling nutritional in America.
Last year, at the same time, the august (my word) New England Journal of Medicine wrote, "the usefulness of calcium supplementation for the entire populace appears to be questionable." In my experience, calcium supplementation can be downright dangerous for a whole lot of women. Women just like me.
My Sad Calcium Chronicle
In 1989 I made a routine trip to my dentist. He took routine X-rays. He discovered I had lost all but 3 centimeters of bone in my jaw around my four back molars since the last X-rays six months previous. Two days later I was in a hospital operating room having my molars grafted back onto my jaw with bone from a bone bank, an operation more painful than child birth, by the way.
How did this happen? I drank milk. I inhaled yogurt. I lifted weights three times a week. Why did I get so osteoporotic that my jaw evaporated?
Two years later I had a routine mammogram. (Always on my birthday, so I won't forget.) My gynecologist called in a panic when he got the results. The mammogram found two \ calcium deposits on my right breast; they could be cancerous.
The next day I found myself at the Komen Breast Center at Baylor Hospital for a lovely day of magnification films. It turned out those two calcium deposits were actually a veritable beach of calcium. The calcium deposit looked like a massive sand dune. For some reason all the calcium I was eating was ending up in my right breast and not in my bones or jaw. Why?
As it turns out, I had a calcium utilization problem. My body could not process the trace element properly; my breasts got bigger while I developed severe osteoporosis. And, judging by the Tissue Mineral Analyses I see, this is a common problem in American women. Their bodies become toxic with calcium (mostly due to calcium supplementation) as their bones shrink.
Osteoporosis is a terrible problem in America. Adult women face a 17.5% lifetime risk of a hip fracture, which will cost the U.S. $45 billion over the next 10 years as we baby boomers go through menopause.
By the way, this is typically an American problem. In Singapore, more men than women suffer from osteoporosis.
How Your Body Builds Bone
Let me explain how your body builds bone. Bone is a composite of two materials: tendon-like organic collagen and hard, inorganic calcium phosphate. Together they make a structure that's strong and tough.
If you are a healthy adult, you lose 500 milligrams (or half a gram) of calcium from your bones every day. It wouldn't take long for your bones to become powder at that rate .... if you didn't add 500 milligrams of calcium back into your bone structure every day. It's a constant tearing down and building back up.
Where does the calcium from your bones go? It goes into your blood plasma, which must have a specific concentration of calcium at all times. Your body maintains this precise level of calcium even at the expense of the structural integrity of your bones. For the record, this level is 10 milligrams per 100 milliliters of plasma, in case you just needed to know.
The Meltdown philosophy believes you can change your body from inside out without chemical intervention. I posit you can prevent osteoporosis by changing your eating habits.
10 Four Star tips
Here's what I did wrong and how you can do it right:
1. Stop drinking sodas or eating baked goods and highly processed foods.
All three contain high levels of phosphorus. Too much phosphorus prevents the proper assimilation of new calcium into bone tissue.
2. Cut your sugar consumption radically. This includes the artificial sweetener aspartame as well as all liquor, including wine.
When you eat too much sugar, your body becomes insulin resistant. This means your pancreas constantly secretes insulin, even at inappropriate times. Too much insulin interferes with calcium absorption.
3. Lower your fat intake.
Excess fat reduces the body's ability to use calcium.
4. Reduce your estrogen levels and/or increase your progesterone levels.
Your body needs a specific balance between estrogen and progesterone to build bone. Estrogen reduces the rate of bone loss by reducing the activities of the osteoclasts, the cells that resorb or return calcium phosphate back into the blood plasma.
But slowing bone loss is just part of the problem. You also need help from cells called osteoblasts, which manufacture new bone tissue. They have special progesterone receptors that trigger them into action. If you don't have enough natural progesterone, you can't build enough new bone to prevent osteoporosis. By the way, synthetic progesterone will not work here.
These two hormones work like a bank account. Estrogen keeps as much money as possible in the bank by stanching the out flow. But progesterone replaces the money you've spent and even adds some.
Unfortunately, here in America we women have too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. I maintain this is one of the primary reasons for the increase of osteoporosis among us. J.D. Prior, a researcher, wrote in a magazine called Endocrine Reviews, "Osteoporosis may be, in part, a progesterone-deficiency disease."
The best way to right your progesterone levels is to eat foods high in zinc and low in copper. I discuss this in great depth in my Web page under the PMS section, so I won't waste time and repeat it here.
5. We women aren't acidic enough!
No joke. The British Medical Journal reported that gastric hydrochloric acid helps the absorption of dietary calcium. I now take 10 grains (about 750 milligrams) of HCL with every meal.
6. Don't drink chlorinated water.
Chlorine is a calcium antagonist. Drink bottled water if you can afford it. Or, pour tap water into a pitcher and place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. The chlorine will dissipate in that time.
7. Use laxatives, diuretics, antacids and cortisone treatments as little as possible.
Yup, they keep your body from absorbing calcium properly.
Here's what I did right:
8. Lift weights.
Resistance training is crucial to building strong bones. I developed osteoporosis in my jaw because I didn't pump iron there (even though I have been accused of being a big mouth!) You don't have to put the pin in the middle of the weight stacks. Just lift enough weight so the last three reps of a 12 rep cycle are almost too heavy to press.
A 1990 study is eye-opening. H. Klitgaard at the August Krogh Institute in Copenhagen studied master level swimmers and runners. The average age of these male athletes was 69; they had been training in their sport for at least a dozen years.
The researchers were hardly surprised these guys were exceptionally fit. But they were shocked to discover that these lean and vigorous athletes had no more muscle mass or strength than their male buddies who spent the last 12 years with a beer can in front of the TV (the control group.)
Then the physicians examined weight lifters. These guys were 67, no spring chickens either. They, too, had been pumping iron for a decade. Here was the shocker: The weight lifters were not only stronger than their running and swimming counterparts. Oh no. They were stronger than the average 28 year old man!
And get this: Muscle biopsies from each weight lifter's thigh found they had the same muscle fiber mix of men old enough to be their sons. Muscles are composed of two kinds of fibers. Slow twitch fibers are used for strenuous exercise -- like running or swimming. Fast twitch fibers are designed for extraordinary bursts of power.
Young people have an even amount of fast and slow twitch fibers regardless of their exercise patterns. Fast twitch fibers disappear as we age. But in this study, the fast twitch fibers of the swimming and marathon runners had withered away! But the weight lifters still had hefty fast twitch fibers in their muscle architecture.
The results here are discussing men, who are not plagued with the estrogen deficient bones of menopause. Can you imagine what weight lifting will do for women? Ladies, head to the gym. (Here's an added bonus: the scenery is gorgeous in the weight lifting room.)
9. Don't smoke.
Cigarettes inhibit bone manufacture.
Osteoporosis is not a given. You can control your life. Just eat right!
P.S. How do you know if you are toxic with calcium? A TMA tissue test will tell you for sure. It will also tell you what to eat and what not to eat to solve your biochemical imbalances. Given the high cost of osteoporosis, can you afford to wait?