How to Naturally Maintain Good Bone Health

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The body needs strong bones the same way a building needs a solid framing structure. Yet, unlike the framing structure of a building, our bones are not made of steel and concrete. Rather, they are very much alive and constantly renewing themselves. In one's lifetime, the body continuously breaks down old bone tissue and replaces it with new bone tissue. During childhood and teenage years, new bone is produced a lot faster than old bone is removed, so children's bones become larger, heavier and denser as their bodies are growing. After age 30, however, some people may start experiencing bone loss because their bodies simply cannot produce enough new bone tissue to make up for the old bone tissue that has been removed. This is normally due to malnutrition, unhealthy lifestyles or hormonal imbalance. After years of bone loss, the bones can end up being weak, porous and very fragile, which is a serious condition called "osteoporosis." This bone disease has affected millions of people worldwide, mainly because it can gradually progress without any pain or obvious symptoms. No matter how old you are, it's never too late or too early to start taking care of your bone health. Here are a few lifestyle strategies you can follow in order to prevent bone loss and promote strong bones.

Human Skeleton
Human Skeleton | Source

Consume Foods Rich in Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium is the most essential nutrient for improving bone density. About 99% of calcium is stored in your bones and teeth. Everyday the body uses calcium to support important organs and bodily functions, including blood pressure, the heart, muscles and the nervous system. If your diet is low in calcium, the body will take calcium away from the bones, which causes bone loss and increases the risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D is another necessary nutrient for your bone health, as it promotes the absorption of calcium in the gastrointestinal tract. Without an adequate amount of Vitamin D, your body won't be able to properly absorb calcium from the food you eat.

How Much Calcium Do You Need Per Day?

Amount of Calcium Per Day
1 - 3
500 mg
4 - 8
800 mg
9 - 18
1300 mg
19 - 50
1000 mg
51 and older
1200 mg
Source: National Academy of Sciences

Calcium Rich Diet

Food Group
Food Name
Dairy Products
Milk, Yogurt, Cheese
Fortified Non-Dairy Products
Cereal, Soy Milk, Rice Milk, Tofu, Granola
Fruits and Vegetables
Broccoli, Celery, Fennel, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, Collard Greens, Brussels Sprouts, Spinach, Cabbage, Romaine Lettuce, Kale, Green Beans, Banana, Grape, Orange, Mango
Pinto Beans, Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Black-Eyed Peas
Nuts and Seeds
Sesame Seeds, Chia Seeds, Almonds, Flaxseed
Fish and Shellfish
Salmon, Sardines, Oysters

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need Per Day?

Amount of Vitamin D Per Day
Birth to 50
200 IU
51 - 70
400 IU
71 and Older
600 IU
***IU = International Units/Day*** Source: National Academy of Sciences

Foods Rich in Vitamin D

Food Group
Food Name
Dairy Products
Milk, Cheese, Yogurt
Fortified Non-Dairy Products
Cereal, Tofu, Rice Milk, Soy Milk
Fish and Shellfish
Herring, Halibut, Mackerel, Sardines, Salmon, Tuna, Oysters, Shrimp
Other Foods
Eggs, Mushrooms, Caviar, Liver
Walking is a Good Weight-Bearing Exercise.
Walking is a Good Weight-Bearing Exercise. | Source

Exercise and Bone Health

Regular exercise can promote healthy bones in three ways. First, it strengthens bone tissue. Second, it improves your muscle strength and coordination, which accordingly helps prevent falls and bone fractures. And third, it enlarges your muscle mass which can "cushion" the bones in case of a fall. To maintain good bone health, choose a workout program that includes both weight-bearing exercise and strength training. Weight-bearing exercise refers to any type of physical activities that allows your legs to carry your weight and forces your body to work against gravity. Some of the best weight-bearing exercises are walking, jogging, running, dancing, yoga, stair climbing and racket sports. In addition, strength-training exercise is also important for your bone health, as it builds muscle that helps support your bones. You may choose to lift weights, use resistance bands or jump on one of those weight machines at your gym. All these methods can make your muscle mass bigger and stronger.

Caution: If you have osteoporosis, always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Avoid strenuous sports or workouts that may put you at risk of falls, such as skiing or mountain climbing. Instead, engage in gentle exercise routines, such as tai chi, walking or easy stretching. If you would like to do yoga, make sure you let your instructor know about your condition. Yoga is normally beneficial for individuals who want to maintain healthy bones, but certain yoga poses can be too much for osteoporosis patients whose bones may be too fragile for extreme bending or twisting.

Smoking is bad for your bone health
Smoking is bad for your bone health | Source

Other Things You Can Do to Prevent Bone Loss and Maintain Healthy Bones

Quit Smoking - Smoking isn't only bad for the heart and lungs, but also the bones. Nicotine and other toxic substances in cigarettes significantly hinder the absorption of vital nutrients, including calcium and Vitamin D, and therefore smokers tend to experience bone loss at an earlier age than non-smokers do. Most female smokers also have lower estrogen levels, which leads to hormonal imbalance, early menopause and inability to maintain bone density.

Avoid Heavy Drinking - Similar to smoking, heavy alcohol use can also interfere with calcium and Vitamin D absorption. Studies have shown that people who excessively consume alcohol on a regular basis are much more inclined to develop osteoporosis than those who only drink occasionally. To keep your bones strong and healthy, you must avoid chronic alcohol use. If you choose to drink every day, try to do so in moderation. According to the general guidelines suggested by Mayo Clinic, men should limit their daily alcohol intake to 2 drinks, and women should consume no more than one drink a day. In case you're not sure how much "one drink" should be, here are some examples of standard serving sizes.

  • Beer: 12 fluid oz
  • Wine: 5 fluid oz
  • Distilled spirits: 1.5 fluid oz

Avoid Extreme Weight-Loss Strategies- Being slim and healthy is a great thing, but being underweight isn't. Extreme weight-loss strategies, such as crash diets or purging, often lead to malnutrition and subsequently the loss of bone density. If you want to lose weight or stay in shape, there are many other better ways to do it, including eating balanced diets, adopting an active lifestyle, and regularly engaging in sports or effective exercise programs.

Enjoy the Sun - Sitting outside in the nice warm sun is an easy way to make your bones stronger, as your body can naturally produce Vitamin D from sun exposure. You must not forget about the harmful UV rays in the sunlight, though. Five minutes of sun exposure a day is quite enough. Remember to apply sunscreen on yourskinif you want to stay out and enjoy the sun longer than that.

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Comments 21 comments

Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Great list of natural sources of calcium since recently the news have been reporting supplements are not that good and could be detrimental to some... Voted up and useful!

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

This is fantastic, Om - I know I don't get enough calcium and this article is a good reminder to increase my intake! I also have a young child on a proton pump inhibitor (anti-reflux medication) that is known to cause early onset osteoporosis, so we really have to increase the dairy intake in our house!

krsharp05 profile image

krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

Om this is very relevant for athletes - especially teens since there seems to be such a constant battle over healthy eating. Nice job!

Robert Erich profile image

Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

Great tips! I learned some of this studying Anatomy last summer. Which means, rather than taking a college class, people could simply read your articles! lol. I enjoyed the tips and look forward to reading more of your work.

CassyLu1981 profile image

CassyLu1981 4 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

Now this I do a lot of! Great tips for keeping bones healthy. Voted up and useful :)

wwolfs 4 years ago

Nice hub and very informative on bone health. Calcium is really important to prevent bone loss. Thanks for sharing these great tips.

Voted up and useful!

writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

We've been taking Calcium for years and my last bone test about two years ago was very good. My Dr. was surprised how good. Living in Las Vegas we get plenty of Vitamin D. Now I have R/A which I can see is eating my muscles away and I'm that older group 60+. We do a 40 minute walk when we can Summer time it's usually too hot like today it's 104 grrr.

Chemistry Book profile image

Chemistry Book 4 years ago

Thought I should respond to the sapect of avoiding heavy drinking of beer! There is actually a seemingly non-alcoholic beer. I think an individual who can't take to moderation should use it to stimulate his sensation.

lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

Good information for people of any age. I do my best to eat a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D, also take supplements and try to spend at least 20 minutes each day in the sun. I do however, need to focus on increasing my physical activity. Well done and a great reference I will bookmark. Thanks Om! BTW I love the skeleton image. :)

greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia

This is great info. I take cereals every morning so I guess my calcium intake is OK? In fact, I did a test a few years back, and my calcium level is normal. Thank God!

laadhy profile image

laadhy 4 years ago from Maldives- The Paradise on Earth

great information.

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

Scribenet - Yes, it's best to get calcium from natural sources if you can. Thanks for stopping by!

leahlefler - Sounds like you certainly should increase the calcium intake for the family, which shouldn't be too difficult at all since there are so many kinds of food that are calcium-rich.

Robert Erich - Thanks. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work as well.

krsharp - Yep, strong bones are absolutely important for athletes, as they're at higher risk of falls or minor accidents during a game or practice.

anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 4 years ago

GOod information. I don't take too much dairy but I'm glad that there are plenty of food sources with calcium. Awesome.

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

CassyLu - Thanks for the kind words, CassyLu!

wwolfs - I'm happy to hear that you find this information useful! Thanks for dropping by.

Writer20 - Ah, I know sometimes it just gets too hot to take a long walk. Maybe you should consider going to a gym instead. There's no need to spend a lot of time in the sun to get vitamin D. 5 - 10 minutes a day is enough.

Chemistrybook - Sure! There's nothing wrong with drinking non-alcoholic beer. Thanks for pointing that out.

lindacee - Thanks! I like that picture, too. It's the goofiest skeleton ever! LOL

greatstuff - Great! Glad to hear about your good test result. Most brands of cereal are calcium-rich, so I believe you've been on the right track!

laadhy - Thanks!

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

anglnwu - Ah, we're pretty much alike. I don't usually drink milk or eat a lot of dairy products, either. I guess it's kind of like an Asian thing.

meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

Very interesting hub. My mum had osteoporosis. Is it an hereditary condition?

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

Yes, if your mom has osteoporosis, it's possible that you're genetically predisposed to it. This is because your genes play an important role on the regulation of vitamin D receptors and estrogen receptors, both of which significantly affect your bone mass. Osteoporosis can be easily prevented, though. Just because you're genetically predisposed to it doesn't mean you can't avoid it. :)

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

FABULOUS advice- on an issue I'm really concerned about, since I have low bone density! I'm really good about eating the right foods, getting a lot of exercise, and taking extra calcium + vitamin D supplements, but I want to point out that I've discovered (the hard way) that certain types of exercise that are better than others.

For example, I spent my entire childhood exercising in pools... which pretty much involved being weightless. That didn't help me develop strong bones- or so the doctors tell me!

So on the exercise front, I really recommend stuff like walking, running, soccer, tennis... pretty much anything outside a pool. ;)

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

Very true! Although swimming and other pool exercises can strengthen the muscles, they usually don't do much good for the bones. Thanks for pointing that out, Simone!

mypassion profile image

mypassion 4 years ago

The data provided is very helpful to get enough calcium and vitamin D naturally, required for our body. It is better than taking supplements.

I never knew excess alcohol can interfere with bone health. Another informative hub.

Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago Author

@mypassion - Thanks for dropping by. Glad you found this info helpful :)

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