by Darryl Roundy, DC
We’ve all heard the phrase “use it or lose it.” This is the case with your bones and how they relate to osteoporosis (meaning porous bone). Just as muscles begin to atrophy (decrease in strength and size) within 72 hours, bone density decreases when there is a lack of demand placed on it. NASA astronauts were found to have bone resorption (decrease in density) when placed in a zero gravity situation for more than a couple of days. Without gravity or regular exercise, the body is tricked into thinking it doesn’t need all of that strong bone to support it. To solve the problem, special calisthenics and a change in diet was implemented.
The same principle holds true here on earth. Moderate exercise and a good diet is the biggest key to preventing and reversing osteoporosis. The reason behind this is that bone is “ALIVE!” Some people think of bone as being a permanent, hard, calcium structure that just stops growing after puberty. Actually, bone is very alive your entire life and is home to two basic types of bone cells (osteoblasts and osteoclasts).
Bone is constantly being remodeled depending on the demands imposed upon it. If there is more pressure on a specific area of bone, the osteoblasts (bone producing cells) become very active and produce more bone at that area (this principle is known as “Wolff’s Law”). This is similar to getting a callus on the palms of your hands or feet. If you lift weights in the gym, or perform other physically demanding tasks, the skin on your hands becomes thicker to deal with the added stress. Conversely, if you do nothing but lay on your back eating grapes while being fanned with palm leaves, your hands will become soft and smooth due to a lack of demand placed on them. In addition, the osteoclasts (bone removing cells) become active and remove the “un-needed” bone, which in time would manifest as osteoporosis.
Apply these simple principles to the spine. When there is a subluxation (misalignment) of the vertebrae, or a curvature in the spine (scoliosis), the stress on the vertebrae is not balanced or evenly distributed. In response to the abnormal stress on the spine, the body will place extra bone in “unwanted” areas. I may have told some of you about bone spurs or arthritis on your X-rays; this is how it came about. Car accidents, traumatic births, high impact activities (football, jogging, hockey, etc.) and scoliosis set the stage for arthritis and degeneration of the spine. Prevention is the key, arthritis takes a few years to develop and show up on X-ray. Why not correct the abnormal positioning of the bones before arthritis appears?
Have you ever wondered why “grandma” and “grandpa” seemed to shrink over the years and develop a hump in their upper back? Well, chances are they didn’t have a very high activity level and as a result, their bones were being resorbed by their body. When enough bone has been resorbed, the vertebrae become very thin and will actually collapse! When they collapse, they become wedge-shaped. The more wedges you have, the larger the hump in the upper back becomes and the shorter you appear. Other common problems with osteoporosis are broken hips, wrists and ribs. Ribs and vertebrae can become so thin that a simple cough or a sneeze will actually fracture them. Those with hip fractures rarely regain normal mobility and will commonly end up in nursing homes. Studies show that one quarter of these patients will die within six months of the fracture.
Hormone replacement therapy and calcium / vitamin D supplements are not the panacea (cure-all). Health is never attained through a pill or an injection. Health comes from within. . . the power that made the body heals the body! For the body to heal itself, you must supply it with all of the necessary building blocks (food), have a moderate activity level and make sure your spine is subluxation free. If you want to change your picture of health and prevent or reverse osteoporosis and arthritis, you MUST: 1) be free of SUBLUXATION! 2) have adequate exercise and 3) have a proper diet 4) stop the consumption of alcohol (if applicable) 5) stop smoking (if applicable).
With most things in life, it boils down to the simple law of supply and demand. If you demand a strong healthy skeleton from your body, it will gladly supply you with the necessary bone. By constantly placing demands on your body through moderate weight lifting, supplying it with the proper diet and insuring your spine is free of subluxation, there essentially should be no concerns of osteoporosis and arthritis.
Essential for Healthy Bones
- EAT- Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, collard greens, kale, etc.), legumes, soy products (tofu, soy milk, etc.) and get some exposure to sunlight (necessary for vitamin D synthesis). Whenever possible, buy organic produce (higher in nutrients and better on the environment). Moderate weight lifting is mandatory!
- EAT too much protein, studies show this is linked to an increased excretion of calcium in the urine. Do not eat sugar or fatty foods. Do not eat or drink dairy products; they are terrible sources of calcium and nutrients. Do not smoke or consume alcohol!