For strong bones
By the age of 20, the average human acquires about 98 percent of skeletal mass. This process slows as we age. Between 35 and 40, we begin to lose bone mass and after 50, bone mass starts progressively declining. Though this is a natural ageing process, it may occur a little faster in some individuals, causing their bones to become thinner and brittle, a condition called osteoporosis. Bones then become vulnerable to fractures — a leading cause of disability in the elderly and totally preventable.
We all know that we need sufficient calcium to strengthen our bones and Vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium.
A diet low in calcium contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures. The recommended dose is 1000 mg of calcium daily for adults and 1200 mg/day for women after menopause and men after they are 70. Milk, cheese and other dairy products are excellent natural sources of calcium. The above requirement can be met by consuming three servings of dairy products a day. Other good sources include leafy green vegetables, cabbage, drumstick leaves, lady finger, almonds, soy products, broccoli and seafood. Although spinach appears to contain a lot of calcium, it also has oxalic acid which reduces calcium absorption and it is therefore not a good source of calcium.
For adults who are 19 to 70 years old, 600 international units (IUs) a day of Vitamin D are necessary. Older adults require 800 IUs a day. Sunlight contributes to the body’s production of Vitamin D. Sufficient exposure to early morning sunlight is helpful — around 15 minutes in the sun, two to three times a week. Other sources of Vitamin D are oily fish, such as salmon, trout, whitefish and tuna. Additionally, mushrooms, eggs and fortified foods such as milk, cereals and liver are sources.
However, only these two components will not suffice! Research points to the key role of protein, Vitamin B12, magnesium, Vitamin C and other nutrients.
HEALTHY, BALANCED DIET
The first and foremost step is getting all the nutrients we need for proper bone growth. A healthy balanced diet will help build strong bones from an early age and maintain bone health too.
Opt for foods with whole grains. These are far richer in nutrients. Avoid highly processed foods. Processing strips many foods of their natural nutrients.
Include nuts in your diet. They contain protein and nutrients that help build strong bones. Peanuts and almonds contain potassium which protects against calcium loss through urine; walnuts and flaxseed are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Sesame seeds and dried fruit such as raisins, prunes, figs and apricots are helpful.
Consuming soy beans, lentils, beans and chickpeas may be helpful for women around menopause as these are rich in isoflavones and phytoestrogens.
Research suggests that fruits and vegetables are just as important as dairy products for bone health.
Stick to a low-salt diet — salt is known to deprive the body of its calcium content.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT BONE HEALTH
A family history of osteoporosis.
Age: Bones become thinner and weaker.
Sex: Women have less bone tissue than men.
Build: If you are extremely thin or have a small body frame.
Insufficient physical activity: Do muscle-strengthening activities, weight-bearing exercises, and appropriate yoga asanas.
Tobacco: Research suggests tobacco use contributes to weak bones.
Alcohol: More than one drink a day for women or two drinks daily for men increases risk.
Hormone levels: Excessive thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. So can lower oestrogen levels in women during menopause. Early menopause is a risk factor. In men, low testosterone levels can cause loss of bone mass.
Medical conditions: Anorexia, bulimia, stomach surgery (gastrectomy), weight-loss surgery, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and Cushing’s disease can affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, diuretics, blood pressure medicines, and so on may be risk factors.
For good bone health, Ayurveda advises consumption of sufficient oil and ghee and a regular body massage daily/at least twice a week with plain sesame oil/ Ksheera bala taila/Ashvagandha bala lakshaadi taila.
Arjuna, Shigru and Hadjod (Himalaya Pure Herbs) are established herbs that can be taken as supplements for those at risk or for vulnerable groups.
Ksheerabala taila 101/Dhanvantaram taila 101 (any reputed pharmacy): 10-12 drops, twice daily with a cup of hot milk, preferably on an empty stomach, will be helpful in those who are over 40.
For individuals requiring calcium supplements, Reosto tablets (Himalaya) or Bonton capsules (Vasu) 2-0-2 for about three to six months will be beneficial. n
Dr Srikanth is a postgraduate in Ayurveda and has been a consulting physician for the past 19 years. He is currently National Manager, Scientific Services, at The Himalaya Drug Company.