Bone density is often a concern I field questions about in my clinic. It often starts with, “I take calcium from my doctor and get plenty of dairy yet my bone scans come back that I’m at risk for osteoporosis. Should I take MORE calcium?”
If everyone is doing it and it’s not working, should you continue to do MORE of what everyone is doing? Ditch the calcium-builds-bone-density manta. It was invented by the dairy lobby to get you to drink more milk. It’s not working. Instead, look to your hormones and other aspects of lifestyle and we’ll discuss why dairy doesn’t do a body good.
If there’s one hormone that can set you up for success or failure, it’s insulin. What does insulin have to do with bone density? Let’s discuss a bit.
Bone strength is built and maintained be a process called osteogenesis. There are 2 main cells in the bones that regulate the strength. Don’t confuse bone density with bone strength. You don’t confuse dense people with smart people, right?
In bones, you have 2 types of cells. Cells that build bones and cells that take away bones. Your skeleton is constantly remodeling and looks more like a thick loofa sponge than a steel rod. Your bones are porous and this is necessary so blood vessels can weave inside and provide nutrients to the bone.
The drugs that are used to treat bone density issues interfere with the cells that take bone away. What this leaves is a bone with cells that keep building, but very limited bone remodeling. The bone gets ‘thicker and thicker’ but this doesn’t mean it’s stronger. If the bone thickens and doesn’t allow for those tiny channels to allow blood supply through the bone, you’re essentially killing the bone off long term. Do you think the only people that brake their hip are the ones that don’t take osteoporosis drugs?
[bctt tweet=”Don’t confuse bone density with bone strength. You don’t confuse dense people with smart people.”]
What does this have to do with insulin? First of all, insulin doesn’t just regulate sugar. Insulin stores all sorts of nutrients like calcium, magnesium, etc. You know, those things you take to build bone density. If someone is insulin resistant, the cells don’t store the nutrients and you end up passing them to porcelain Johnny.
The bigger issue is that insulin regulates another hormone called growth hormone. Growth hormone is released from the pituitary gland in response to the hypothalamus. Your hypothalamus is deciphering if what you’re experiencing in life is threatening or relaxing. In other words, your brain is constantly organizing and coordinating life into protection or growth mode. But you can’t be in growth and protection at the same time.
It’s pretty obvious that Growth Hormone would be on the side of growth. Think about that factor for a second. How many people are operating in stress mode (protection) every day? I can tell you at least 80% of the population since 80% of healthcare dollars go to treating chronic conditions. ALL chronic conditions are a result of being imbalanced between growth and protection.
When we are in protection mode, this shifts the body into a state of catabolism (tissue break down). How would breaking down your body be beneficial to save your life in the immediate? You need to get fuel from somewhere. Your body will rip itself apart to get to necessary nutrients to survive danger. You’re going to need things like sugar for energy and minerals like calcium and magnesium for your muscles to fire. If your muscles need calcium and magnesium, then the most abundant source in your body is your bones. Your rob Peter to pay Paul.
Insult #1 against your bone density and strength is that you constantly live in a stressed out state. Stress isn’t just emotional. There is physical stress like sitting all day. There is chemical stress like what you eat, breath, and put on your skin. There is social and spiritual stress. And when I say stress, I mean deficiency and toxicity. If you are deficient and/or toxic, you are stressed. If you are deficient and toxic in something, you are in protection mode.
Back to Growth Hormone.
When growth hormone is released, this acts on the liver to then release another hormone called ‘Insulin-Like Growth Factors’ (IgFs). It’s these IgFs that then circulate to the bones to stimulate the process of osteogenesis.
What does this have to do with insulin? The first place people become insulin resistant is in the liver. Even skinny people can be insulin resistant. Insulin helps with the hormone messaging systems and if the liver isn’t listening to growth hormone, then IgFs aren’t being produced. If IgFs aren’t being produced, neither is your bone density, no matter how much calcium you take.
The problem with copious amounts of calcium in a body that is insulin resistant is that it’s not just wasted. Besides being wasted, the extra calcium can end up being metastatic calcifications in places like your tendons and arteries. The more tendons and arteries are calcified, the more rigid they become. When body parts, not to mention any vegetation in nature become rigid, they lose their ability to adapt to life. The less you can adapt, the less quality and quantity of life you experience.
Dairy Doesn’t Do a Body Good.
If someone’s not taking calcium, they get freaked out and feel they should get calcium from somewhere else. I don’t care if you drink milk, cheese, or yogurt. Just don’t confuse it with a health food. The problem with dairy is that is has a high insulin response. It may be low glycemic, meaning it doesn’t raise your blood sugar much, but it does spike an insulin response in your body.
An article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that:
Despite low glycemic indexes of 15–30, all of the milk products produced high insulinemic indexes of 90–98, which were not significantly different from the insulinemic index of the reference bread.
In other words, we know that wheat products spike your blood sugar more than M&Ms and Snickers combined. As a result, insulin gets spiked to deal with that increase. Traditionally, dairy was looked at to be good for diabetics because it didn’t spike blood sugar. But the reality is that it produces the same insulin response as does wheat.
The problem with a chronic insulin spike is that insulin is a powerful stimulator of the sympathetic nervous system, shifting you back into protection mode again, away from producing growth hormone, not allowing the liver to listen to growth hormone, and giving you no shot at increasing bone density…especially if you think you’re going to cure it all with taking more calcium.
I can hear it now. “Where am I going to get my calcium if I don’t supplement or don’t do dairy? My poor bones?”
A. You’re not listening. Calcium is the least of your concerns to build bone density. Stop feeding into the bone density-calcium scam. Americans consume the most calcium in supplement form and consume the more milk yet have the worst bone density outcomes on the planet. You have enough calcium, look elsewhere.
B. If you want calcium, eat what cows should eat. Healthy cows eat greens. That’s where they get their calcium. They aren’t these mystical, magically producing calcium animals.
If you still have questions, want strategies, and need guidance for your specific situation, you know how to contact me.