Everybody has heard about what happens to a tooth if you leave it in a glass of fizzy drink over night, but what about its effect on the rest of your skeleton? More on exactly how later, but it certainly puts you at risk of developing an often silent and common skeletal disorder known as osteoporosis. The name literally means ‘porous bone’ and it’s a condition that is characterised by a reduction in the density or amount of bone present. Your bones are not becoming ‘soft’, just thinner. Often you will feel absolutely no discomfort, however your risk of fracture, especially of the hip, is greatly increased. It’s a bit like if you start to remove the stumps from underneath a pole home; eventually the floor is going to cave in even though there is nothing wrong with the foundations that are left behind.
So, is osteoporosis only found in those who are more vintaged? Contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t. Just like arthritis, osteoporosis is more influenced by lifestyle factors as opposed to age. The biggest risk factors for osteoporosis are a lack of regular exercise, abnormal hormonal levels, nutritional deficiencies, and a diet high in acidic and inflammatory foods.
1. Exercise – Your bones are alive and are continually remodelling themselves. Every time you take a step, your skeleton absorbs the impact and a small electric current is created within the bones. This electrical energy, known as the piezoelectric effect, stimulates bone growth which is why weight bearing exercise like walking is an important part of maintaining healthy bone mass. If walking isn’t an option, try removing some gravity and start water aerobics.
2. Hormones – low levels of estrogen or testosterone will greatly affect your body’s ability to rebuild bone. Detected with a blood test, the cause is often complex however menopause, gonad surgery, anorexia and extreme physical exertion are just some of the risk factors.
3. Nutrients - magnesium, calcium, vitamin K and vitamin D are essential for maintaining healthy bone mass and can be sourced from whole foods such as kale, parsley, spinach and brussel sprouts. One of the best sources of Vitamin D is natural sunlight, so the motto should be to avoid sunburn not sunshine! If you feel you may need additional supplementation, please discuss this with a health professional first as not all supplements are created equal.
4. Diet – refined sugars, white flour, processed foods, unhealthy fats, soft drinks and alcohol will all increase inflammation within your digestive system, which reduces your ability to process and extract essential nutrients. Fizzy drinks not only contain extreme amounts of sugar but also high levels of phosphates, which bind to calcium and strip it from the body.
Prevention takes far less effort then trying to put out a fire once it has started, and our health is no different. Taking proactive steps early to keep our frame in tip-top condition is essential because we only get one and the better we move, the better we feel.