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Bones & the Skeleton
Bones & Bone Development
The skeleton forms the bony framework of the body. This hard structure offers:
- Protection for the underlying more delicate structures.
- A wide range of movements.
- A reservoir for calcium and phosphorus.
- Boundaries between different parts of the body.
- A blood-producing factory in red bone marrow.
- An energy store of specialised fat cells (lipids) in bone marrow.
Children and babies do not have mineralised bone. Their structural support is provided by cartilage which consists largely of collagen. The skeleton develops over the next 20 years and becomes the hardest tissue of the body. It consists of cartilage, bone tissue, bone marrow and tissue that surrounds the hard bone. Many different types of cells form this complex tissue that is entirely replaced over 10 years. Some build fresh new cells while others deal with nutrient and waste exchange. Important cells can build collagen and new bone while others maintain the correct shape of each bone. It is estimated that 5-10 percent of bone tissue is replaced each year! Mineral salts provide hardness to bone but its pliability and tensile strength is due to collagen. Bone is not completely solid but contains many spaces which lighten it and provide passages for blood, nerves and lymphatic vessels. Positive bone stress from movement and muscular activity is an important factor in the remodelling and repair of bone. This mechanical stress promotes the formation of bone tissue and increases its mass. This is why invalids and the elderly lose bone so quickly when they are inactive.
Hormones control the rate at which bone is built and destroyed. Balance between the two processes is important and overall hormonal control is maintained by the pituitary gland. The pituitary produces human growth hormone (HGH) which is involved in many regulatory mechanisms and not just that of our bones. A healthy level of HGH is adversely affected by obesity, lack of REM sleep, low exercise levels and emotional deprivation. Also necessary for good bone health and structure are the minerals calcium and phosphorus - these are important for both the bones and blood and their levels are well balanced by hormones produced in the parathyroid glands. These little glands are situated around the thyroid gland in the neck and may be damaged by surgery and radiotherapy treatments for the thyroid. Insulin also combines with other hormones to help bone maturity.
There are many different types of fractures. Each type will require a different approach to treatment. Bone may take many months to repair and cartilage takes even longer. Trauma, osteoporosis, parathyroid disease and some cancer will all cause fractures. Our emphasis would be on foods and herbal teas that build bone and blood. For serious injury, stop all food immediately and switch to Superfood Plus, juices and herb teas in order to allow the healing process to begin quickly.
Minerals required for healthy bone and teeth include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc and boron. Vitamins D, C, A, K and B12 are also necessary.
This vitamin requires sunlight acting on the skin to be naturally produced. When activated by other hormones it acts as a hormone itself, increasing the uptake of calcium from the gut and inhibiting calcium loss in the urine. Vitamin D levels may be low in people who always cover their skin to protect against sunburn, or in those who live in the far northern or southern latitudes where the sunlight is not as strong and daylight hours are fewer. For some people, it may be necessary to take a vitamin D supplement: ask your doctor to check your serum vitamin D levels and discuss your supplement needs with him or her.
Calcium is the most well-known and most important mineral for bone health. As well as building bones, it also has the following important roles:
- It is essential for healthy blood.
- Eases insomnia and calms the nervous system.
- Helps to regulate the heartbeat and blood pressure.
- Has a role in muscle contraction. Calcium blocking agents can help with the spasm of migraine.
- Assists in the transmission of nerve impulses.
- Assists in blood clotting.
- Promotes the passage of nutrients from the gut.
- Helps the body use iron.
- Activates many enzymes.
- Is necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12.
Calcium is present in significant amounts in non heat treated milk (un-pasteurised) and all green leafy vegetables and broccoli. Carrot juice contains excellent amounts and other good sources include Nettle Herbal Tea, sesame seeds, almonds, figs, seaweeds and some beans. Superfood Plus also contains calcium, along with many other essential minerals and vitamins in a highly absorbable form. This is important because absorption of calcium in the body can be poor and erratic, although usually more effective during times of need. Strengthening weak digestion to encourage optimal absorption is an essential part of natural healing.
Calcium builds up in the tissues and joints when sodium is not freely available in the blood. Dr Jensen and many other authorities believe that a diet low in natural sodium promotes calcium build-up and contributes to other disorders. Therefore it is helpful to ensure balanced sodium levels in the body. However, avoid table salt (which is actually ultra-heated rock salt) and salt in processed foods. Natural sea salt is a healthy choice, as is kelp, which is naturally rich in sodium and other minerals. White sugar seriously affects the calcium-phosphorous balance as do all cola and carbonated drinks.
This mineral is present in all foods except refined sugars and fats. Besides its role in building bone in partnership with calcium, phosphorus is required for:
- The assimilation of fat, protein and carbohydrates as well as several B vitamins.
- Many chemical reactions in the body.
- All muscle contraction including the heart.
- Phospholipids such as lecithin are formed from phosphorus and are needed for healthy nerves and efficient mental activity as well as transport of fats and fatty acids.
Protein-rich foods are usually high in phosphorus. Phosphorus is more easily assimilated from food than calcium. Absorption is affected by excessive amounts of iron, aluminium and magnesium, antacids and white sugar. Phosphorus-rich foods include red meat, wheat germ, legumes, and eggs.
Although it is an essential mineral, an excess of phosphorus is another concern that is creating poor bones and teeth in some areas and in some population groups. Phosphorus in the form of phosphates is present in particularly high amounts in red meats and soft drinks, hence those who consume a lot of these foods may be at risk. You can quickly dissolve a tooth in a standard cola drink and test for yourself how it can affect bone. Phosphorus deficiency is very rare; at highest risk are those who take large amounts of antacids containing aluminium.
Other important nutrients include vitamin C, which maintains collagen production thus supporting the bone matrix, vitamin K which helps to bind calcium into bone, and vitamins A and B12 which help the co-ordination between bone remodelling processes.
Of the common over-the-counter supplements that are easily available, bone meal contains all the minerals in the proportions found in bone, and is often enriched with vitamin D, but may not contain other minerals necessary for bone growth and overall bone health. It is cheap and can be reasonably easily absorbed in some people. For others it is poorly absorbed and will cause unpleasant constipation. Also, along with oyster shell calcium, there is higher risk of contamination with heavy metals when compared with vegetarian sources of calcium. Vegetarian versions include calcium gluconate, calcium lactate, calcium citrate and calcium sourced from seaweed, all of which are easier to absorb. Look for bone support supplements that combine calcium with the other other necessary nutrients – magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K are especially important. Whatever the form, when you buy a supplement make sure the label states the elemental quantity of minerals present in the supplement so you know what you are buying (e.g. "Calcium citrate 500mg" means the combined calcium and citrate totals 500mg; "Calcium (as citrate) 500mg" means there is actually 500mg of elemental calcium).
To test how a calcium or combined bone support supplement will be absorbed, try to dissolve a tablet in a glass of 25 percent vinegar and 75 percent water that you stir every few minutes. If it does not dissolve in half an hour then it won't dissolve well in the stomach.
In general, we consider that it is better for an individual to get their calcium and other bone nutrients from mineral-rich plant foods that your body is designed to assimilate. We advocate green foods with every meal, organic carrot juice, almonds, nettle tea and Superfood Plus. However, people who fall into certain high-risk groups – such as women from menopause onwards, people with thyroid problems and the elderly – can still benefit from taking supplements if they will not change their eating habits. Some races are also more susceptible to lower vitamin D levels (and hence lower calcium levels) when they move to a hemisphere which has significantly lower levels of sun. This may be a particularly important factor to consider with Asian, African and Caribbean people living in northern hemispheres as well as women wearing full face and body religious coverings – such groups may be advised to get their vitamin D levels tested by their doctor and/or take supplements.
Whether taking supplements or not, it can also be beneficial to support your digestion if weak with IntestStable Capsules and eliminate antacid use.
The well-being of our muscles, bones, tissues and joints doesn't simply depend on how much we "wear and tear" tissues. Movement in daily walking, running, lifting, bending, sitting or lying is natural – we should be active. Athletes, who put a lot of stress on these structural tissues, take precautions to minimise damage to them. In fact, more damage is done by low levels of activity and stagnation of tissues. Most important to protect these tissues is our internal health and the food we use to create and support this moving structure. Sugar, sweet drinks, processed foods, tea and coffee are examples of foods that will strip nutrients from the body, including magnesium, calcium and vitamin C that are particularly vital for the formation and repair of bone, muscle, cartilage and joint fluid. Magnesium, calcium and vitamin C can be found in dark greens, seaweeds and whole grains and should be consumed daily. Also note that iron is vital to structural well-being. Night twitching or "restless legs" is a common sign of a lack of iron or magnesium and could be an indication that you are low in these minerals. Hedgerow nettles can be collected and used as a good source of minerals, including calcium and iron – or use wild crafted Nettle Herbal Tea. Vitamins A, E, B vitamins and zinc are also important for the synthesis and maintenance of good structure. Ensure that you eat foods that are rich in zinc and the above vitamins, such as red peppers, whole grains, pumpkin seeds and carrots. Superfood Plus contains all of these as well as essential fatty acids that are necessary for good lubrication of the joints.
Menopausal woman need to ensure oestrogen and progesterone levels are maintained in order to guard against osteoporosis.
For serious injury, stop all food for a few days and switch to Superfood Plus, juices and herb teas in order to allow the healing process to begin quickly.
For joint aches and inflammation there is a great need to release toxins which are all too frequently causing the uncomfortable symptoms. Foods that help release these will be vital e.g. celery and celery seed; cook with these, juice the celery or eat it raw. Swap caffeine-containing drinks for herbal teas such as Parsley & Cornsilk Herbal Tea, which is gently detoxifying and supportive for the kidneys. Superfood Plus is also detoxifying, especially the chlorella content.
As well as all the nutrients discussed, exercise is vital for bone-building and strengthening. If injured, start gently as described below.
- Much benefit can be derived from practitioners who are able to manipulate and massage muscles, bones and joints into correct positions. These include osteopaths, chiropractors, masseurs and many other kinds of body workers. Extremely useful for the well-being of external function, these methods also affect all organs and systems and their neurological pathways that radiate along the entire length of the spine. In fact, the well-being of the spine alone is crucial, and much is rightly made of this in yoga and pilates which provide an ideal way to service and tune one's framework and internal organs at the same time.
- A home-made poultice using Turmeric Powder is a handy kitchen option for treating injuries such as bruises, fracture, swellings and sprains. Mix enough powder with a little hot water to make a thick paste and apply it to the affected area. Keep it well covered and sealed because it does stain clothes and skin. St. John's Wort Oil is another wonderful remedy for bruises, sprains and joint and muscle pain. It will dull and numb the pain of pinched and damaged nerves. Arnica flowers are used as a homeopathic remedy for bruises and as an anti-inflammatory; creams made with arnica are easily available in health food shops and pharmacies.
- Cold packs (or bags of frozen peas) are advisable when swelling and pain is acute. Once symptoms have subsided, continue treatment using hot and cold packs.
- When an injury feels as though it is starting to mend, start gentle exercise to strengthen the muscles. Begin with armchair exercises or gentle movement in the bath. Graduate to swimming, walking and body work in the gym. Professional advice is best sought as to when and how this is carried out and chiropractic and osteopath clinics frequently specialise in recuperative strategies.
Our herbal formulae are strong flavoured and effective. Our herbs enjoy a long history of use. A large proportion of them are grown in English soils, harvested using bio-chemistry analysis and many of them are processed fresh, which heightens their remedial properties. The majority are grown organically and are sustainable and wild-crafted. All manufacturing is carried out using licensed good manufacturing practice.