If you plan to live to a ripe old age, you’ll want your bones to be good for the long haul.
Unfortunately, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about half our population over the age of fifty is “cruisin’ for a bruisin’”—a bone fracture due to either osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become thin, weak and prone to fracture, or “low bone density,” a condition in which bones have become thin, weak and prone to fracture to a somewhat lesser degree.
There are some risk factors for osteoporosis that you can’t do anything about—age, gender (a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis is four times greater than a man’s), genetics, being thin and small boned, and either Asian or blond and fair-skinned—but you can still maintain healthy bones for a life with the right care.
Last week we talked about bone health supplementation and getting the “complete team” of nutrients needed with Beyond Health’s Bone Mineral Formula along with a good multi and individualized doses of vitamins C and D.
But even more fundamental to success in building and keeping strong bones is your diet, especially when it comes to acid-alkaline balance. Eating lots of vegetables is associated with having a more alkaline diet and better bone health. Dr. Susan E. Brown, author of Better Bones, Better Body: Beyond Estrogen and Calcium, (see her motivating and informative website on bone health) and her colleague Dr. Russell M. Jaffe (who has his own inspiring and informative website) have written extensively about how the average diet today, high in acid-forming animal protein, refined sugar, colas and other sodas, grains and processed foods, while being low in alkaline-forming fruits and vegetables, has put most of us in a “chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis” that is slowly eroding our bones.
Here’s how it happens . . .
Most of our body chemistry was designed to work in a slightly alkaline environment. Our blood must be kept within a very narrow “pH” range, or we’ll die! pH is the way you measure the continuum from acid to alkaline. A pH of 7 is in the middle of neutral; the numbers above 7 are increasingly alkaline, while the numbers below 7 are increasingly acid. The pH of blood must be kept slightly alkaline at 7.35-7.45.
Our bones are storage sites for alkalinizing minerals: calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and zinc. When you eat too much acidic food, your blood may start becoming too acidic. Although the body has different ways of dealing with excess acids, one way is to pull alkalinizing minerals out of your bones into your blood to raise its pH.
While taking supplements is one way to help replenish your bone mineral reserves, an overly acidic diet can undermine these efforts.
Dr. Brown and Dr. Jaffe have proposed a high-mineral “Alkaline Way Diet” that is optimal for bone health. To begin, they recommend finding your cellular pH, which can be best measured by your first morning urine.
Here’s how to do it:
- Buy a $10 roll of pH paper.
- When you wake up in the morning after at least 6 hours of bed rest, head for the bathroom to urinate before you eat or drink anything. (If you get up briefly during the night to urinate or for other reasons, it’s OK.)
- Pass a small piece of pH paper through your urine stream
- Wait a few seconds, and then check the color of the pH paper against the chart provided.
- If it’s between 6.5 and 7.5, you are in a healthy range.
- If it’s below 6.5, you are like most people—too acid (acidosis).
- Being above 7.5 (alkalosis) isn’t good either, but being above 7.5 on a consistent basis is rare.
- Repeat this test every morning for a week to get a sense for your average morning pH. Occasional readings outside the healthy range are OK.
Then use these dietary guidelines:
- Make vegetables, fruits, lentils/pulses, nuts, seeds and spices the bulk of your diet,
- To get out of acidosis, use this chart to eat 80% from the alkaline side, 20% from the acid side.
- Once your pH is 6.5-7.5, maintain it by eating 60% alkaline/40% acid.
- Limit animal flesh to 4 ounces a day, and total protein intake to 50-60 grams a day.
- Include Essential Fatty Acids, but total fat intake should be no more than 15-20% of total calories.
- Drink 64 ounces of water daily (spring water high in minerals is ideal).
- Fresh vegetable juices and vegetable broths are excellent sources of alkalinizing minerals. Those with persistent low-grade acidosis might drink 2-3 eight-ounce glasses a day. (Beyond Health’s Berry Meal Blast also makes a great alkalinizing blended drink!)
Other factors apart from food are acidifying or alkalinizing. The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, for example, are acidifying, as are most toxins (especially heavy metals) and many medications. Allergic reactions and chronic and acute infections are stressors that release acidifying chemicals into your body.
On the other hand, rest, relaxation, meditation, and a good night’s sleep are all alkalinizing. Breathe deeply to expel acidic carbon dioxide and inhale alkalizing oxygen. Drink at least 2 quarts of pure water a day to dilute and excrete acids. Soak in a tub of warm water with half a cup to a cup each of baking soda (sodium) and Epsom salts (magnesium) to take in these alkalinizing minerals through your pores.
If you’re still having problems reaching the 6.5-7.5 range, it may be because you’re not absorbing magnesium well. To facilitate better magnesium absorption, Dr. Jaffe suggests taking magnesium with choline citrate. Start out with 1 capsule of Beyond Health’s Magnesium Formula a day along with ½ teaspoon choline citrate. If that’s not enough, double the dose. Keep ramping up until your pH is in the 6.5 to 7.5 range, or until you are limited by loose bowels. If you take more than two doses a day, divide them up into morning and evening doses.
Stronger bones won’t be the only benefit you’ll get from reaching the desirable pH range. Every cell in your body will work that much better (more like it was intended to work), so don’t be surprised if you have more energy, sleep better, get rid of chronic infections, lose weight, feel more upbeat and optimistic, and/or experience other happy “side effects.”
Next time we’ll talk about more ways to care for your bones, so they’re good for a lifetime!
- Osteoporosis Fast Facts. National Osteoporosis Foundation. Accessed June 7, 2022.
- Brondani JE. Fruit and vegetable intake and bones: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PloSOne. May 2019, 31;14(5):e021722.
- Brown SE and Jaffe RM. Acid-alkaline balance and its effect on bone health. International Journal ofIntegrative Medicine. November/December 2000;2(6). Accessed online June 7, 2022
- Frassetto L. Acid balance, dietary acid load, and bone effects—a controversial subject. Nutrients, April 2018;10(4):517.
- Rethinking Bone Health: a Physiology Before Pharmacology Approach to Healthy Bones. Sponsored by PERQUE Integrative Health. Dr. Russell M. Jaffe interviewed by Karolyn Gazella, Natural Health Medicine. April 2, 2019.