- Exercise: I changed my gym workout, now choosing the treadmill over an elliptical trainer. This causes more impact to my bones, which should challenge them to grow stronger. I’ve continued using weight machines to work my lower body, but now choose free weights for upper body work, and do those exercises standing up so my spine can carry the extra weight. On days I don’t get to the gym I go for a brisk walk. Keep moving.
- Supplements: I added strontium citrate (680 mg per day), Vitamin K2 (100 mcg per day of the MK7 or menaquinone form), silica, and 3 mg per day of boron. I was already taking B complex, a balanced mineral supplement, fish oil, magnesium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C.
- Diet: I gave up most dairy products. Yup, to improve my bones I stopped drinking milk. I found out through testing that I’m sensitive to milk (not that I noticed any symptoms) which means it would have tended to cause inflammation, and that is bad for bone health. Also, dairy products metabolize to form acidic residue, which increases bone loss. I get my calcium from leafy greens, nuts, and salmon, with about 600 mg per day from a supplement. (The 1500 mg per day supplement my doctor recommended is way too much!) I put more emphasis on making and drinking mineral-rich bone broths. I already ate a lot of vegetables, and that hasn’t changed. I had already given up gluten, and any foods that contain it. Since lower body weight is one of the major risk factors for osteoporosis, I gave myself permission to abandon my life-long pursuit of weighing a little less. That must have been effective, as I have gained about 3 kg, and mostly feel fine with that :).
- Reading: I devoured some excellent books that helped form my understanding. My favourites are Your Bones by Lara Pizzorno, The Whole Body Approach to Osteoporosis by R. Keith McCormick, The Myth of Osteoporosis by Gillian Sanson, and Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox by Kate Rheaume-Bleue.
- Support: I joined an online community of people who share what they’re learning about osteoporosis. I also continue to meet with a local Health Pursuits Reading/Study Group where lots of wise people have spurred me on with their insights into natural approaches.
- Drugs: I have not taken any. I don’t plan to take any. Since I haven’t needed to return to my nice well-meaning doctor who told me I had no choice but to take Actonel, she doesn’t know. I have a choice, and I’m exercising it by venturing into realms that are beyond her training.
- Followup bone density test: Although I was told I would get an automatic recall, that hasn’t happened. I considered initiating the appointment myself, but then wondered: What would I do differently if I got a worse test result? I’m already doing everything I know how to improve my bones. Since I’m very numbers-oriented, I know I’d obsess over the new scores, way beyond their accuracy or their ability to predict fractures. So I’ve let it go, and I’ve stopped having bad dreams in which I’m about to get my retest scores. One day, if the test centre calls, I’ll go for a repeat test. But I am more than a test score.
That’s my conclusion after reading about this essential element. The collagen matrix of our bones – the framework to which calcium and other minerals attach – is largely made up of silicon. Its strength and flexibility depend on silicon. Silicon is also the catalyst for the production of collagen, which is then used throughout the body.
A recent study of 35,000 middle aged and older women concluded that supplementing with calcium alone provided no protection from bone fractures. Of course if you’ve read all of my blog posts this is no surprise to you. Plainly, it’s unrealistic and outright erroneous to think bones need just one component to thrive. And silicon is another vital contributor.
Here’s the puzzle: one quarter of the earth’s crust is made of silicon, so how can our bones possibly be deficient? It seems that while silica (a form of silicon) is widespread in the soil, the plants that take it up don’t form a large enough part of the standard diet. This is because it concentrates in the outside husks of grains, and the husks are removed from most of our foods. If all the grains you eat are unrefined, you may get enough silicon, but a lot of white flour and white rice slip into the diets of most people in my culture; those foods are devoid of silicon. And in my case I don’t consume any wheat because of my gluten intolerance, so my diet surely falls short.
Dr. Gifford Jones describes a study that showed significant improvement to bone mineral density in subjects who took a silicon supplement called BioSil. Their results were convincing enough for me, so I’m taking BioSil. You’ll have to wait until September to find out what my bones think of it, but for now, here is my tip: If you’re inclined to take this supplement DON’T buy the drops! They have an absolutely ghastly flavour. (My husband, who likes strong flavours including natto and durian, got curious about BioSil after watching my facial contortions. So he had to taste it for himself, and agreed it’s outstandingly bad.) Mercifully, BioSil also comes in capsules, so if I ever finish my first bottle I’ll switch to that format. Of course there are also other brands of similar products; I just bought the first one I read about.
There’s more good news about silicon: it improves our nails, hair, and skin. After just three months on it I notice that my nails are stronger. I can’t say my wrinkles have gone away, but here’s hoping. And another piece of good news – although we’ll have to wait longer to see how this works out – silicon supplementation lowers the risk of dementia.