Some studies suggest that calcium supplements may increase your risk of heart attack. Additionally, calcium works more efficiently when it is obtained from food sources and accompanied by vitamins A, D3 and K2. Fortunately, nature provides many healthy ways to keep your bones strong, so let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Get Calcium From Your Diet
Although dairy is often touted as the best source of calcium, that is not really true. Pasteurized dairy is stripped of a vital enzyme called phosphatase that is needed in order to absorb the calcium that is present in dairy. So if you aren’t eating raw dairy, absorption is inhibited. Dairy has other problems as well like lactose which can feed Candida and spike insulin, and naturally occurring opiates that can cause a wide variety of neurological and gastrointestinal issues for susceptible people.
Some Paleo folks permit some degree of raw dairy in their diet if they do not respond negatively, and that is acceptable. However, you should not be attempting to meet all your calcium needs through this food group, regardless.
Dark leafy greens like kale and bok choy have significant amounts of calcium. So do spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, collard greens, salmon, sardines, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, figs, sesame seeds and almonds.
Also, algae-based calcium supplements may be safer than conventional forms.
2. Vitamins A and D3
Like healthy trees during heavy winds, strong bones have some “give”. Weak bones are like dry, dead trees. They don’t have any flexibility, and a gust can easily snap them in two.
Osteoclasts and osteoblasts are bone cells that essentially break down bone and then build it back up. This complex turn of events is essential to keeping bones strong and resilient.
Vitamins A and D3 are hormones that regulate the functions of osteoclasts and osteoblasts. A deficiency in vitamin A leads to lowered bone mineral density, and a low level of vitamin D leads to rickets or osteomalacia (softening of the bones). Vitamin D also boosts the absorption of calcium in the intestine.
You should be getting plenty of exposure to sunshine for your vitamin D and it can also be found in some seafood like salmon, herring, mackerel, oysters, and cod liver oil, as well as eggs and mushrooms to a lesser extent. It’s also important to keep in mind that your body cannot produce vitamin D from the sunshine without adequate levels of cholesterol.
Organic grass-fed butter is a supreme source of true vitamin A and so is beef liver. Salmon, eggs, and herring have lower amounts. Sweet potatoes, spinach and carrots contain significant amounts of carotenoids that must be converted to true vitamin A.
3. Vitamin K2
Proteins called osteocalcin add calcium and phosphorus salts to bones and teeth. These proteins can be produced only when vitamins A and D are present. Osteocalcin can’t do its job unless it has been activated by vitamin K2.
Matrix Gla protein (MGP) is also regulated by vitamins A and D. MGP’s job is to mineralize bone while keeping calcium from hardening the arteries. Like osteocalcin, MGP can’t function unless it is initiated by K2.
Good sources of vitamin K2 include egg yolks, chicken liver and breasts, ground beef, and butter and hard cheese from grass-fed cows.
4. Reduce the Amount of Anti-Nutrients in Your Diet
Grains and legumes contain toxins that pull minerals like calcium and magnesium from your bones. Foods like wheat, beans, and peanuts work against your body’s bone-building efforts. Of course, if you are already following the Paleo diet as I hope you are, then these foods will already be eliminated from your diet. If not, then it is time do so.
5. Eat More Minerals
Calcium is only one of many minerals that are needed to build strong bones. For example, silica and magnesium are also very important. Cucumbers, strawberries, green beans, leeks and celery are good sources of silica and broccoli, halibut, salmon, avocados, pumpkin seeds, spinach, collard greens, kale, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, are some good sources of magnesium. Rock salt and Himalayan Salt are also good sources of minerals.
6. Balance pH
How much calcium you excrete is just as important as how much calcium you consume. When your body is too acidic, you will excrete high levels of calcium through your urine and your body will draw alkalinity from your bones which are your richest source of alkaline base. If this is occurring frequently, it will eventually lead to loss of bone density.
Avoiding foods like grains, legumes, sugar, artificial sweeteners, carbonated beverages, alcohol, coffee, deep fried, refined table salt, and eating meals that consist of animal protein balanced with liberal amounts of alkaline vegetables will keep your pH in balance.
7. Maintain Adequate Levels of Progesterone
Progesterone is crucial for stimulating your bone building cells called osteoblasts and estrogen helps prevent too much activation of osteoclasts (cells that decompose bone). Much of our population is estrogen dominant and deficient in progesterone, due to the high levels of estrogenic chemicals in our environment, which prevents the formation of new bone.
Reduce your exposure to estrogenic chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, cleaning solvents, personal care products, etc., by living environmentally friendly and eating organic, hormone-free animal protein. Avoid foods that disrupt hormone balance like sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and grains. Don’t let cholesterol levels get too low, as cholesterol is the precursor to progesterone and manage your stress, which we will talk about in more depth directly below.
8. Manage Your Stress
When we are under stress we have a very high demand for cortisol. The higher your level of stress, the more cortisol you will need. The precursors that are needed to make cortisol are the same precursors that are needed to make progesterone. When the demands for cortisol become too high, then a phenomenon called cortisol steal occurs, and all the precursors get used up dealing with the stress, and then progesterone levels and other hormones like DHEA begin to decline.
Incorporate a variety of stress-management techniques into your life on a daily basis like meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, a daily walk, and spending time in nature.
9. Avoid Anti-Depressants, Anti-psychotics and Anti-Anxiety Medication
Several studies have found that SSRIs like Prozac, Zoloft, etc., and benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, Ativan, etc., and antipsychotics like Seroquel and Abilify all significantly increase one’s risk for osteoporosis.
10. Exercise Regularly
If you want to have strong and healthy bones, physical activity is a must. Those who exercise regularly have significantly higher bone mineral density than those who are sedentary. However, don’t get carried away and exercise too much. Keep it mild to moderate, as too much exercise is a form of stress that will contribute to cortisol steal and work against you.
Studies show that taking calcium supplements can cause calcification of the arteries that lead to a heart attack. Getting your nutrients from food is a better way to support your body’s natural mechanisms that maintain healthy bone mineral density. Eat calcium rich foods along with its partner nutrients: vitamins A, D3, and K2. Stay active, balance your pH, increase progesterone, reduce stress, and you can build strong bones.
Dr. Joseph Mercola. Calcium supplements May Increase Your Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/08/15/is-your-calcium-supplement-a-heart-attack-or-stroke-waiting-to-happen.aspx
Gant, Charles, M.D., Webinar, Endocrine (Adrenal) Stress #2. July 15, 2010.
Professor Loren Cordain. The Paleo Diet. Wiley, 2001
Reinberg, Steven. “Calcium Supplements May Be Bad for Your Heart.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 24 May 2012. Web. 26 May 2012.
Green Med Info. Calcium Supplements with or without vitamin D increase the risk of cardiovascular events.
Seeman, E. “Evidence That Calcium Supplements Reduce Fracture Risk Is Lacking.” Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 5.Supplement 1 (2010): S3-S11. Print.
Masterjohn, Chris. “On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor: A Sixty-Two-Year-Old Mystery Finally Solved.” Weston A Price Foundation. 13 Feb. 2008. Web. 26 May 2012.
Callr’us, M., and Et Al. “Self-reported Recreational Exercise Combining Regularity and Impact Is Necessary to Maximize Bone Mineral Density in Young Adult Women.” Osteoporosis International (2012). Print.
Chilibeck, PD, and Et Al. “Exercise and Bone Mineral Density.” Sports Medicine (NZ) (1995): 103-22. Print.
Bolton JM, Targownik LE, Leung S, et al. Risk of low bone mineral density associated with psychotropic medications and mental disorders in postmenopausal women. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2011 Feb;31(1):56-60. PMID: 21192144