Tag Archives: immune

Probiotic confusion? Read on…

Probitotics have become pretty mainstream now. New food products emerge on grocery store shelves every week with at least some kind of probiotic ingredients and we’re not just talking yogurt anymore. They seem to be one of those things we know “we’re supposed to like.” But why?
First, bear in mind that in addition to the word “probiotics” they can be called by many different names, which you’ll probably see in health literature or product labels. These other terms include:
  • Microflora
  • Beneficial bacteria
  • Intestinal flora
These good bacteria – by any of these names — colonize inside the digestive tract. They stick to the walls of the colon and take up residence. In other words, they live down there. However, they don’t stick around forever, and need to be replenished, either from food or supplement sources.
The Benefits of Probiotics Go Beyond Digestion
While probiotics are definitely important for healthy digestion (which many would say is the source of good health in general) they do a lot more than that, including:
  • Keep nasty fungus and yeast cells at bay.
  • Help keep bowel movements soft, well-formed, and easy to pass, preventing constipation.
  • Help us absorb nutrients like calcium properly, which in turn, helps the body build healthy bones.
  • Produce lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose in milk, ice cream, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Prevent cholesterol from leaving the intestines and entering the bloodstream.
  • Help eliminate embarrassing gas and bloating.
  • Support the immune system and the way the body responds to inflammation.
So while the idea of whether you not you use probiotics might seem like a light one, it may be wise to not take it lightly.
Lactobacillus acidophilus & Bifidobacteria longum
Look at most food or supplement labels, and usually two probiotics stand out. There’s a good reason for this. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria longum are well-researched and provide significant health benefits. If these two names sound at all familiar, it’s because they are the species most often found in yogurt.
Interestingly, even though associated with dairy, Bifidobacteria longum assists in the breakdown of lactose and relieves some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance, including gas and bloating. Lactose intolerance is fairly common, especially in non-European individuals, and accounts for at least 50 million Americans.
While our microflora can naturally replenish, if we are stressed, on vacation, sick, overworked, or just feeling overwhelmed, it can take a long time. Without giving probiotic numbers a boost now and then, some digestive concerns – or possibly others – could reassert themselves in their absence.
So whether you prefer the food-based form, or have a favorite supplement in mind (or use both – there’s nothing wrong with that!) the important thing is to get that beneficial bacteria on board. It makes for a much easier journey.
Immune focus
70% of your immune system is in your digestive tract, which means healthy digestion actually promotes your natural defense system! For the ultimate in immune protection, Pearls Immune contains superior probiotics, plus the biologically-active power of Activ-Ferrin™ lactoferrin.
Pearls Immune:
  • Contains highly-concentrated Activ-Ferrin to naturally strengthen your immune health.
  • Lactoferrin is a powerhouse antioxidant, so it can help knock out the free radicals that can cause damage to your body’s cells and stress out your immune system.
  • Delivers probiotics to balance your immune system by restoring digestive health.
This proprietary blend includes Lactobacillus acidophilus and plantarum, plus Bifidobacterium lactis and longum. These strains are the “heavy hitters” of digestive support and immune response.

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Gene’s, the immune system and inflammation; all linked to Parkinson’s disease

A newley discovered genetic link implicates the immune system as a trigger for the development of late-onset Parkinson’s disease. Researchers from Johns Hopkins have confirmed that a gene in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region of the human genome was strongly linked with Parkinson’s disease; this region contains a large number of genes related to immune system function. Their results were published in the August issue of the journal Nature Genetics and supports the long held idea that inflammation and autoimmune disease lies at the heart of this problem and helps dispell the old concepts that environmental factors were the exclusive cause.
The research may help explain why, in some patients, the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen appear to be protective against Parkinson’s disease. The new findings and connection between Parkinson’s disease and inflammation, especially in the context of the variable genetic make-ups of individuals, should lead to better, more selective treatment.
From the holistic perspective, this study re-inforces the need to focus on dietary factors that are linked to a reduced level of inflammation in the body and possibly the use of specific supplements with known anti-inflammatory properties.
Click here for access to the full scientific paper.

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Confirmation of viral link with ME/CFS

So many years on and we still do not have the cause of ME (myalgic encephalitis), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) but as the research continues we may be getting a step closer. Recent findings have found a “strong link” with a retrovirus called XMRV.
Studies on 2009 found evidence of the xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV) in about two-thirds of the people with CFS and less than 4% of people without the disease. However, these findings alone do not prove that the virus causes CFS, because they do not show whether the infection occurred before or after CFS developed. The research paper is cautious in its conclusions, saying that XMRV “may” be a contributing factor to CFS, but the opposite may also be true: CFS may make people more susceptible to infection with this virus. The research lead by Dr Vincent Lombardi and entitled “Detection of an Infectious Retrovirus, XMRV, in Blood Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” published in the journal Science can be viewed here.
The research found that blood from 67% of people with CFS contained XMRV DNA compared with 3.7% of controls, overall samples from people with CFS were 54 times as likely to contain viral sequences as samples from healthy controls. This lead the researchers to conclude that XMRV may be a contributing factor in the development of CFS. They suggest that infection with the XMRV virus could be responsible for some of the abnormal immune response and neurological problems seen in CFS.
In a recent developement, a follow on study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNSA) showed that evidence of XMRV virus (and related viruses called “MLV”) was present in 86.5% of CFS patients vs. less than 7% of healthy controls. This is a dramatic difference and corroborates the previous findings. For details of the study click here.
To view more discussions relating to these new findings visit Dr Jacob Teitelbaum web site, click here. He has been following these developements with interest and has a wealth of resources on the subject. Click here.
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Recurrent mouth ulcers and vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 treatment, which is simple, inexpensive, and low-risk, seems to be effective for patients suffering from recurrent mouth ulcers,(aka: aphthous stomatitis or RAS for short), regardless of the serum vitamin B12 level.

According to lead researcher Dr. Ilia Volkov, “the frequency of RAS is as much as 25 percent in the general population, however, until now, there has been no optimal therapeutic approach.”

Dr.Volkov is a primary care physician in the Clalit Health Services and lecturer in Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Family Medicine in its Faculty of Health Sciences.

The researchers tested the effect of vitamin B12 on 58 randomly selected RAS patients who received either a dose of 1,000 mcg of B12 by mouth at bedtime or a placebo, and were tested monthly for six months. Approximately three quarters (74 percent) of the patients of the treated group and only a third (32 percent) of the control group achieved remission at the end of the study.

Recurrent aphthous stomatitis is a common phenomenon in Primary Medicine. Frequency of the phenomenon can be as high as 25% of the general population and the recurrence of the problem can be up to 50%. Different approaches for treatment are described: treatment with various natural vitamins, local ointments , disinfectant agents for local treatment , local antibiotic ointments , NSAID, local cortisone-steroids , and even medication on the basis of immune-depressants of the immune system and systematic steroids .

According to the research, “The average outbreak duration and the average number of ulcers per month decreased in both groups during the first four months of the trial. However, the duration of outbreaks, the number of ulcers, and the level of pain were reduced significantly at five and six months of treatment with vitamin B12, regardless of initial vitamin B12 levels in the blood. During the last month of treatment a significant number of participants in the intervention group reached ‘no aphthous ulcers status’ (74.1% vs 32.0%; P < .01).”

The treated patients expressed greater comfort, reported less pain, fewer ulcers, and shorter outbreaks during the six months while among the control group the average pain level decreased during the first half of the period but increased during the second half.

I can get you a copy of the original paper, for personal use, if you email me at Hadley Wood.

For those wishing to try the B12 supplement please see this link for a 1000 mcg supplement.

Interestingly, vitamin B12 is currently undergoing clinical trials in then US. The study is following the classic double blind placebo controlled approach using the 1000 mcg dose of B12 reported in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine article outlined above.

Anyone who has used B12 for mouth ulcers please leave a note below regarding your experiences…

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Feeding your Brain

Food, Mood, the Brain and Beyond
“We used to think our future was in the stars. Now we know it’s in our genes”
James Watson Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of DNA

There is growing evidence that eating the correct diet may help prevent many disorders of the mind such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, dementia and autism but just how powerful is our diet compared to our genetic constitution? Viewed another way, maybe we should be considering the combined power of our genetic make up and diet since genes for certain disorders may only express themselves in special situations. For example, I think many psychiatrists agree that certain people have addictive personalities. In the presence of excess alcohol the gene expresses itself and the person becomes an alcoholic. What is interesting is the fact that most reformed alcoholics often turn to another addiction such as smoking or eating to fill the gap in their lives. Those who win through and turn their backs on destructive addictions may find themselves following strict religious or work-based pursuits. Just as humans can become addicted to alcohol so to can they become addicted to drugs. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests our genetics are at the root of these evils.

Studies of brains from alcohol addicts show that they have fewer dopamine receptors than non-alcoholics; maybe this was genetically determined. Genes have also been implicated in smokers. In one study of 283 smokers over one third had an unusual gene that was not present in non-smokers. The gene, named D-2, was also found to be responsible for the low number of dopamine receptors discovered in the brains of alcoholics. Now we can start to see a strong genetic link developing between the two addictive personalities. With one gene defect we can see two very different addictive behaviours and potential life style and health outcomes. Our addicts may be viewed as “medicating” themselves since both alcohol and smoking will elevate the dopamine levels (by blocking its re-uptake) and stimulate the pleasure centres deep within the brain. So to will certain foods such as carbohydrates since the release of another happy hormone, serotonin occurs.

When it comes to a discussion on diet and health the human brain must feel a bit left out. We are all aware that certain foods and vitamins feed our skin, a low animal fat diet is good for the heart, drinking plenty of water helps our kidneys and our bones benefit from extra calcium whilst the joints often feel better for a oiling up with a daily dose of cod liver oil. What about our brains – they have very special needs but how many of us give this amazing structure a second thought?

Compared to the lightweight brain our closest ancestors, the monkeys, which weigh about 105 grams the average human brain weighs in at a colossal 1350 grams. From a developmental point of view it is the first tissue to develop, at about 16 days after conception. Eating well is vital if you are trying to conceive since you may not be aware that you are pregnant by the time your babies brain has started to develop!

Even though the adult brain forms only 2% of our body weight it receives over 15% of the blood pumped from the heart and consumes well over 20% of the total body oxygen and glucose used each day. Such a high blood supply and fuel consumption shows how essential fresh supplies of brain food are for healthy brain function. However, don’t forget that the feeding of a healthy brain starts before birth!

It has been said that the seeds of good adult health are sown before conception, during pregnancy and during infancy. The seeds of health being the specific nutrients contained in our daily diet. It has been recently been discovered that certain oils (belonging to the fat family known as “omega-3’s”) are essential for the normal development of the brain and nervous system during pregnancy. This reliance on the omega-3 fats continues for the first couple of years of life. One specific member of this fat family known as docosahexaenoic acid or DHA for short, has the ability to stimulate the growth of the retina (the light sensitive inner part of the eye) and the brain itself. DHA can, therefore, be considered to be a specific brain nutrient. Apart from the brain DHA plays an important function in the correct functioning of the immune system.

The developing baby is reliant on it’s mother for an adequate DHA supply. Dietary intake accounts for the majority of DHA used by the baby and obtained through the placenta and later on in the breast milk. Many formula milk are very low in DHA. In fact the fat content of most formula feeds are based in commercially processed oils which contain high levels of potentially damaging fats known as “trans fatty acids”. It has been estimated that breast milk contains over 30% more DHA than formula feeds; breast is always best!

Just take a trip around any supermarket and you will be confronted with an enormous and ever-growing variety of low-fat or fat-free food products. These foods are being aimed at our obsession with low fat diets promoted by the media. With our ever growing knowledge about the importance of essential fatty acids it is questionable if this new style of eating is the healthy option it is made out to be. However, this is not an invitation to throw caution to the wind and pig out fatty foods. I would still advise moderation in animal (saturated) fats while increasing oily fish, and foods high in monounsaturated fats – the good fats!

The shift in modern eating habits is causing serious concerns regarding the growing followers of the low-fat culture. This diet trend is causing a drop in the essential fatty acid intake in the general population. Most worrying is the potential adverse effects this may have on mothers to be and their babies developing nervous system.

Recently, an item of news announced the fact that the brains of pregnant women shrank over the cause of their pregnancy. The study was carried out at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School. The scientists were investigating the causes of pregnancy related blood pressure problems when they stumbled across the unexpected finding showing that the brains of the women they were studying were shrinking. The investigating team discovered that the mothers were deficient in essential fatty acids that were needed by the developing babies brain and nervous system. Such was the demand that the stores contained in the mothers brain were mobilised into the general circulation for delivery to the developing baby. The adult brain is a rich reserve pool of these special fats. Happily, however, the brains returned to normal after 6 – 10 months but the fact remains that the reserve pool was tapped into demonstrating the absolute necessity for these fatty acids.

It is common knowledge that folic acid is essential for the healthy formation of the nervous system. Most pregnant mothers are now given tablets of 400 mcg folic acid to prevent spina bifida, but what about oil supplements?

Deficiencies of the omega 3 family can lead to learning difficulties because of their importance in the development of the nervous system but because learning and behavioural problems are only normally noticed some years after birth and are not life threatening, unlike spina bifida, it has not prompted much attention. There is a popular misconception that fats act as nothing more than storage systems for energy or as packing material. Only recently has it become acknowledged that fats have a very significant role in the metabolism and development of the body. There is a clear need for a greater understanding of the role of fatty acid metabolism in the maintenance of cell membrane health. There is evidence accumulating that any dietary programme aimed at helping an autistic child should involve a balance of both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids rather than gross overloading of one form . Evening Primrose Oil consists largely of Gamma Linolenic Acid, an Omega 6 acid. There are other, richer sources of Gamma Linolenic Acid, such as Borage (Star Flower) Oil but it is claimed that this is less well tolerated than the oil from Evening Primrose. Fish oils such as Cod liver oil have the added advantage of including supplementary Vitamin A, which is likely to be, is short supply in people with autism.

Flax seed oil is a rich source of Omega 3 acids. A daily dose of flaxseed oil will re-balance the situation. Taken at a dose of 1 – 2 grams a day it will provide all the necessary fatty acids needed for health. Flaxseed oil is a richer supply of omega 3’s than fish oil, almost twice as concentrated in fact. From the high content of linolenic acid contained in flax oil the body can make all the DHA it needs.

The adult brain is not a static structure. Our ideas about the brain have changed since the early days of neurology and its plasticity (the ability to change and adapt to different situations) has now been appreciated.

The chemical environment of the brain is all important. Even minor nutritional deficiencies can major implications on healthy brain function. It has been noted that symptoms of dementia can occur long before the levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid are shown to be low in blood tests. The findings of vitamin B12 deficiency is not uncommon in Alzheimer’s disease further supporting the importance for a good nutritional balance. Unfortunately by the time symptoms start to be noticed supplementation may come too late. A long term minor deficiency has been suggested to cause slow and irreversible changes in the nervous tissue that is unresponsive to corrective supplementation.

As with many nutritional substances there is a good deal of interaction between the food chemicals that enter the brain. Vitamin C, for example, plays an essential part in the healthy actions of another important brain food, the amino acid known as phenylalanine. Phenylalanine works to produce nerve transmitting substances (called neurotransmitters) which regulate the electrical activity of the brain.

Neurotransmitters are responsible for an elevated and positive mood, alertness and mental well being, a lack causes many brain disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

As well as vitamin C the mineral zinc has a part to play in mental health. It has been noticed that many people suffering from irritability, nervousness and anxiety have higher than normal levels of copper circulating in their bodies. Copper and zinc have an interesting relationship in that a deficiency of zinc causes an excess of copper to accumulate. Supplementing your diet with zinc can help re-balance the situation but care must be taken to avoid taking too much zinc which will cause a copper deficiency! It is best to take professional advice before taking large doses of zinc but a 15mg daily dose is considered quite safe for general uses.

Zinc has been studied in great detail and a team at the University of Michigan has shown a significant relationship between high academic grades and high zinc levels. Zinc deficiency is prevalent in our society mainly because of poor soil quality, food processing and bad cooking techniques.
Just like a fire an epileptic fit starts with a single spark, but the spark in this case is an abnormal brain impulse. The neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyrate acid or GABA for short plays a key role in controlling brain impulses. GABA is the most prevalent transmitter substance in the brain and has many functions, the most important of which is a calming effect over the nervous system.

The brain of epileptics, hyperactive children, insomniacs, cerebral palsy sufferers, hypertensives, anxiety sufferers and those with learning problems, anti-social behaviour and mental retardation all benefit from elevating the GABA levels. GABA has no serious side effects even in doses of up to 40 grams (the normal dose ranges from 250 mcg – 1,000 mcg daily).

It is interesting to note that zinc again makes an appearance in the natural treatment of epilepsy. Zinc is needed for the production of GABA, along with another amino acid called glutamic acid. Numerous experiments have shown that a zinc deficient diet aggravates epilepsy and causes more frequent fits and seizures.

So far it can be seen that we need adequate zinc, glutamic acid and vitamin C for the correct balanced production of neurotransmitters but the list does not stop there. Vitamin B6 acts as a special co-factor and helps convert the glutamic acid into GABA. If this vitamin is low in the diet, despite of adequate amounts of zinc, vitamin C and glutamic acid, the reactions will not occur and GABA levels will fall.

The major structural fats found in the brain are called phospholipids. One particular phospholipid known as phosphatidylserine appears to be important in the control of mood and mood related problems. Normally this substance is produced naturally in the brain but in individuals who have deficiencies of vitamin B12, folic acid and other essential fatty acids the production of phosphatidylserine is dramatically reduced. Low levels are often found in the brains of elderly subjects but it’s concentration in younger people may be directly related to depressive mood states.

The primary use of phosphatidylserine in nutritional medicine is in the treatment of depression and impaired mental function in the elderly. Very good results have been obtained in a number of studies. Supplementing the diet with phosphatidylserine appears to improve neurotransmitter release (especially acetylcholine), memory and age related changes.

How phosphatidylserine aids in the treatment of depression is unknown. It does not affect serotonin levels like classic antidepressants nor does it interfere with other neurotransmitters. Phosphatidylserine does, however, improve the quality of brain cell membranes and helps control the levels of cortisol, a hormone released from the adrenal glands which has been found to be elevated in depressed subjects.

All in all, there is much evidence to suggest that the brain needs specific nutrients and it responds very well to corrective supplements. Feeding your brain well will make sure that it functions optimally and guarantees that long term deficiency symptoms do not occur. Such symptoms are so slow in developing that they are often written off as being age related changes for which nothing can be done. This is just not satisfactory when prevention is so easily achieved by a knowledge of what to feed your brain with.

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Can you cure a cold sore?

What is it about a cold sore; it tends to pop up just when you don’t need it the most, typically when you are low, stressed or both. Well that’s the reason. If you are low, stressed or recovering from an illness you are at your most vulnerable to their attack. Your immune guard is off duty. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that is carried in some 80% of the adult population. The virus enters the body through the skin or mucous membranes of the mouth or genitals. There are 2 types of HSV, aptly named type 1 and type 2! HSV-1 is the classic cold sore suffered by so many. HSV-2 is more restricted to the genital area, however cross infection can occur. Estimates have 1 in 5 people suffering from recurrent bouts of cold sores many of which could be prevented by taking stock of diet and boosting the immune system. Taking the amino acid called L-Lysine at a single dose of 500mg per day for prevention or twice a day if you feel one on the brew. Lysine interferes with the reproductive cycle of HSV and slows its progression. For many it’s a simple answer that works. There is also great value in looking to your diet. Certain foods can promote the growth of HSV, those foods high in another amino acid called arginine. Following a low arginin diet offers real benefit in many cases eg. nuts, chocolate (sorry!), seeds oats, lentils and brown rice. In addition keep your coffee intake down since caffeine increases the amount of arginine your body uses. Finally, consider using the homeopathic preparation called ZymaDerm-2. This contains homeopathic concentrations of iodine, melissa, geranium and peppermint. Applied locally ZymaDerm-2 can improve healing and kill off the local HSV flare up.

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A Bony Issues

Did you know that you get a new skeleton every eight years? (for more information on bone turnover and what influences it click here) Just like your skin, bone is a living tissue and is constantly being renewed and replaced. Our commonly held view is that bone is a hard brittle material that does not change needs to be revisited in light of ongoing research into bone health and the new ways it can be improved and influenced. The fact is that bone is an incredibly changeable tissue explains how it is able to adapt to different stresses placed upon it (click here for some background on this aspect of bone biology). Indeed its very shape and thickness can alter in response to different stimuli. For example, a professional tennis player will place so much stress through his right arm bones that in time the bone cells become more active and remodel the architecture of the forearm bones making them thicker and stronger. The skeletons ability to change and adapt is a key factor in maintaining bone health and an equally important aspect in certain diseases. This has been dramatically illustrated in certain extreme environment. Studies performed by NASA clearly show that space flight had severe complications on the skeleton. Due to the weightless nature of the body in space, gravity cannot act on the skeleton, with an end result of a rapid thinning and weakening of bone. Special bone loading exercises and equipment have to be used to help those living and working in zero gravity maintain their bone and muscle health as this image shows keeping bone health in top form on the International Space Station is not without its complications and fuss! Otherwise ultrafit Astronauts develop osteoporosis, the thin bone disease commonly associated with older or menopausal women! Interestingly this is no news to the Russians who have been working with manned space stations for years. The Russian Cosmonauts (click on the manual download option if you follow this link) routinely take vitamin K supplements. This nutrient is known to boost bone health by stimulating the growth of the bone proteins needed to support the calcium and other minerals found in the skeleton. For those interested in the nutritional demands and requirement in zero gravity click here for an abstract on the subject, if you click on the option “PDF 334 KB” on the right side of the new screen that pops up you can get a fascinating download on this subject.
Vitamin K has only relatively recently become a hot topic in the osteoporosis world outside Russia. Despite it’s potential interaction with blood thinning drugs such as warfarin (those on blood thinners should avoid vitamin K) vitamin K is a very safe and well tolerated nutrient. Studies indicate that taking certain forms of vitamin K are associated with a 77% reduced risk of hip fracture and an 60% reduction in vertebral fractures. The mechanism behind this dramatic finding appears to involve the bone protein osteocalcin. Without a good framework to act as a guide minerals simply cannot bind on to strengthen the bones.
Feeding the bones
Bones demand feeding in a special way for a lifetime of optimal health. Certain dietary factors are known to have a bad effect on bone health and may actually increase your risk of developing thin bones in later life. Processed foods, excessive sugar, alcohol, fizzy drinks, cigarettes, coffee all can have a detrimental effect on the bones. Many pre-made ready meals come loaded with added salt. Salt has the effect of making food tasty but the extra salt (sodium) not only plays havoc with your blood pressure and fluid balance but it can also increase the calcium loss significantly. Estimates have this loss in the region of 52grams of calcium if your sodium intake jumps from 1000mg per day to 4000mg. Eating a healthy and balanced diet is such a common phrase we tend to forget how important it is to tissues we don’t normally think about; be honest, when was the last time you thought about the health of your hip bone?
When it comes to foods there is a great deal of controversy. Many authorities list milk and dairy products as key sources of calcium needed for healthy bones while some raise the worry that dairy derived calcium may actually have a detrimental effect on the skeleton. The Vegan society has some interesting information on this rather controversial subject, click here. Protein is another potential point of confusion. We need adequate protein for bone to make the basic scaffolding onto which minerals are deposited. High protein intakes, however, are associated with an increased los of calcium from the body, click here for come additional background information. Beans and pulses may offer a solution in this situation. A 100g portion of beans (dry weight) has a neutral effect on calcium balance while a similar amount of animal derived protein may cause a loss of calcium from the body. Increasing your intake of beans and pulses will boost your protein intake and have no adverse effect on calcium balance. To reassure you though, a moderate intakes of animal products, as part of a balanced diet, will not cause a drastic enough loss when off set against the additional calcium intake of that meal. Most balanced diets offset losses with the gains.
While we are on the subject of absorbing calcium it would be a good idea to mention the importance of vitamin D, or specifically vitamin D3. Acting in a hormone-like way, this key vitamin not only boosts the immune systems ability to keep us fit and well, it plays a pivotal part in the absorption of calcium from the gut. Many of us simply don’t get enough vitamin D3 from sunlight exposure and there is a negligible amount on offer from the diet. Contrary to the commonly accepted idea, milk offers no vitamin D. This confusion may have originally come from America where milk is fortified with added vitamin D, but this is not the case in the UK. Taking extra vitamin D3 would appear to be the answer for all of us, especially over the dark winter months.
To appreciate how important it is to keep bones well fed it is worth understanding how the nutritional needs change with age. During infancy our bodies are very efficient at absorbing calcium, especially from breast milk. A baby can absorb 66% of the available calcium from breast milk compared to less than a 40% absorbency rate from infant formula milk. During childhood (between one and ten years of age) the efficiency of calcium absorbency reduces to about 35%, but by adolescence it rises again to 40% to match the growth spurts associated with this phase of life. Crash diets and eating fads can seriously reduce the nutrient intake over this crucial phase of skeletal development. By the time adulthood is reached much of the final skeletal form is set. The peak bone mass is achieved by 35 years of age. Calcium absorption reduces slightly to about 30%. Adulthood also brings with it other natural diversions as far as calcium goes. It has been suggested that during the first three months of pregnancy, maternal bone density reduces as well as during lactation. During the menopause a complex interaction between hormones, calcium and other trace elements occur. Increasing calcium alone appears to be pointless. There are in fact 22 nutrients associated with the maintenance of optimal bone health. All must be in the correct balance for the benefit to be seen.
When it comes to exercise it is the load bearing, bone stressing forms that boost strength. Keep those fit astronauts in mind. Take away gravity and you take away the stimulus for bone health. If you don’t feel that your joints are up to a pounding work out there are other options. Consider balance exercises that strengthen your legs and challenge your balance, such as Tai Chi, can decrease your risk of falls. There are also posture exercises that can improve your posture and reduce rounded or “sloping” shoulders can help you decrease the risk of fractures, especially in the spine. Finally there are a range of functional exercises designed to improve how well you move can help you in everyday activities and decrease your risk of falls and fractures. For example, if you have trouble getting up from a chair or climbing stairs, you should do these activities as exercises, simply try standing up and sitting down several times until you are tired – it’s a start! There is a growing interest in both Yoga and Pilates. Both these methods can also improve strength, balance and flexibility; however people with low bone density or osteoporosis should avoid certain positions to prevent fractures.
All in all, there is a lot you can do to protect and build your bone health.
• Eat well and choose from a variety of foods.
• Move towards a more vegetarian style of eating and rely less on meats for protein.
• Stop smoking and curb any regular excessive alcohol intake.
• Start an exercise plan aimed at loading bones or improving posture and balance.
• Take extra vitamin D3 along with a good all-round bone nutrient such as OsteoPrime or Osteo Factors.
• If you think your bones may be at risk get a heel scan or bone density scan to be on the safe side.

Further Reading: Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis by Dr Alan Gaby MD.

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