Start Thinking About Your Bone Mass Now

Written by
Kimberly Lush

It’s no secret that I love dairy. As far as I’m concerned, some of the best foods are dairy products! 

But this food group seems to be consistently on the outs, without any medical need to.

If you have a genuine lactose intolerance or if lactose triggers your IBS symptoms, then this post isn’t for you! But if you avoid dairy because you think it is bad for your hormones, your skin, or your PCOS, then listen up! 

You may think of bone problems as an issue for future-you. You’ll worry about it after menopause, right? Well, in reality, what you eat now affects future-you. What you eat (or don’t eat) now can increase your risk of fractures and osteoporosis in the future. 

Your bones protect vital organs, support movement, stores calcium and other minerals, and helps in the production of blood cells. They’re important!! And we need to protect them! 

But here’s the thing. A lot of people think that their bones stop growing during adolescence, and then they stay stable forever. However, they’re dynamic and constantly changing. 

You see, your body has a certain concentration of calcium in your bloodstream. This is there to help your muscles contract and your blood clot. When your dietary intake of calcium is insufficient, your body turns to stores to maintain this level of calcium in the blood! 

Your bones are your largest store of calcium. Your body has the ability to break down some bone to maintain your blood calcium concentration. If this happens consistently, over time, your bones can become weaker. This is called osteopenia. If this continues, it can develop into osteoporosis. 

Bone mass is deposited after your growth spurts, and it peaks around 25-30 years of age. Then it plateaus until menopause, where age-related bone loss occurs. This is due to declining levels of oestrogen, which would normally protect your bones! Men still produce testosterone which provides them with some protection for their bones, so we see lower rates of osteoporosis in the male population! 

Here's the bigger issue – most adolescent females do not meet their dairy requirements (and therefore calcium requirements) due to misconceptions around dairy. This is a critical opportunity to strengthen bone health that is so often missed! This population won’t see the effects of this dietary pattern until they’ve reached an older age, where it might be too late to make changes.


So, is age the only thing that can cause bone loss?

Unfortunately, no. 

In PCOS, androgens can compete with oestrogen, which can reduce oestrogen levels and increase bone losses. 

Poorly managed coeliac disease can result in the reduced ability to absorb calcium and vitamin D due to damage to the small intestine where calcium is absorbed. 

Hyperthyroidism has also been associated with reductions in bone mineral density. 


What to do?

1. Aim for 1000mg of calcium per day, or 1300mg per day if you have reached menopause. 

2. Get enough of the other nutrients that build and form your bone matrix (vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus, protein) 

3. If you have a lactose intolerance, you can still get the benefits of calcium-rich dairy products by opting for lactose-free options. 

4. If you are vegan, or choose to not consume dairy, choose calcium fortified products (look for at least 100mg/100mL on milk products). 

5. Other sources of calcium include fortified yoghurts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, tahini, green vegetables, chickpeas, nuts, fortified tofu, and edamame. If you aren’t vegan, fish with bones like sardines and canned salmon also provide calcium. 

6. Weight bearing exercise like walking, jogging, and weights help to build bone in your body! So, keep active where possible!

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