Preventing Osteoporosis
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Michael
Posted on: January 15, 1999

A friend has been told by her doctor after a "bone density test" that she is at 90% (I guess that refers to her calcium level) which could lead to osteoporosis. She was given a nasal spray by her doctor which is said to help the body absorb calcium.

Are there more natural ways of adding calcium to the system? Also, is there a natural product that has been proven to help the body absorb calcium?

I have heard that alfalfa and garbanzo beans are two sources but I have no idea how much would have to be ingested to get the benefits.

Natural ways of increasing calcium and decreasing bone loss include exercise and diet. One half hour daily of weight bearing exercise such as dancing, walking, jogging and tennis encourages the laying down of calcium in the bones.

Calcium intake should be 1000 to 1500 milligrams per day. Natural sources are dairy products, broccoli, tofu and other soy products, eggs, bony fish and fish oils, fresh raw fruit and green vegetables. Magnesium intake of 750 milligrams daily is required for calcium absorption. Natural sources are green vegetables, nuts, seeds, milk products, eggs and seafood. Vitamin D, available from milk products, eggs, fatty fish and fish oil and synthesized by daily exposure to the sun, is also required for calcium absorption.

Boron, available from fresh fruit and vegetables protects the bones from calcium loss by reducing its excretion.

Avoid a high salt intake, which increases loss of calcium, and meat, which inhibits calcium metabolism. Bran and whole wheat contain phytates, which bind with calcium to decrease calcium absorption. Rhubarb and spinach reduce calcium absorption. Alcohol, smoking, caffeine and soft drinks deplete calcium. Vegetarian women experience less bone loss.

Although dairy products provide calcium and magnesium, an excess of these products has been linked to osteoporosis.

Drugs such as cortisone, thyroxin, antacids, tamoxifen and diuretics increase the risk of bone loss.

Digestive problems can cause less calcium to be absorbed from the diet. Digestive herbs include dandelion root, calendula, rosemary and yarrow.

A decrease in estrogen, which begins in women in their thirties, encourages calcium loss from the bones. Estrogen is stored in fat deposits, so calcium loss becomes a problem more often in thin women. Estogenic herbs, which discourage calcium loss from bones, are calendula, ginseng, false unicorn root, sage, hops, blue cohosh, wild yam and licorice.

Herbs that are good sources of calcium include parsley, dandelion leaves, nettles, kelp and horsetail.

A little booklet by the Natural Food Institute, "Powerhouse Plants," (no date; published by the NFI, Box 185 WMB, Dudley, MA 01570, U.S.A.) provides data on many food plants including herbs. Among the top 20 calcium sources: dried parsley (1468 milligrams per 100 grams), sesame seeds (975 mg/100g), chia seeds (529 mg/100g), boiled lamb’s quarters (258 mg/100g), sesame butter (tahini) (420 mg/100g), carob flour (352 mg/100g), and sunflower seed flour (114 mg/100g). Dried parsley had more calcium than even dolomite powder, a calcium mineral supplement. Fresh parsley has 203 mg/100g.

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