Vitamin D: The Lesser Known Nutrient for Bone Health – Tampa Functional Medicine
The main focus of today’s topic is bone health! Many have known that calcium is beneficial for strong bones; for growing kids and the elderly over the age of 65-70.
Which is one of the many reasons why milk became so popular (although, if you’ve read our previous blog about dairy, you know that non-dairy alternatives can pack just as much calcium, if not more), as well as calcium supplements for those at risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
Clinical research supports Vitamin D supplementation for the following conditions:
- Musculoskeletal Pain
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Prevention of Cancer
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Syndrome X
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Suppress and/or Prevent Certain Autoimmune Diseases
- Muscular Strength
As you may have started to learn after gaining familiarity with the Functional Medicine approach, is that all of our body’s systems are interconnected and there are always many factors to consider with any condition. That being said, what many people aren’t aware of, or informed of by their physicians, is that vitamin D plays a crucial role in the maintenance of our bone density! Along with our kidneys, a hormone called parathyroid hormone, and lots of other biochemical players.
As you can see when it comes to bone health, there are many DIFFERENT components, but all working together to keep your bones healthy and strong. Although, as with many things in life, we need to have adequate amounts of these nutrients in order to get optimal results!
How They All Work Together
Our bodies are incredibly intelligent and resourceful, there are always back up systems in place and resources to tap into if it isn’t being fueled properly through nutrition. So just like our body begins to metabolize our fat stores when it needs more energy, our body will actually begin to tap into our mineral stores (in our bones, specifically our femur bones) in order to function as optimally as it can if we aren’t getting the proper amounts from our diet.
When we become at risk of fractures and low bone density, what typically jumpstarts this is low calcium and low vitamin D levels. When our body registers this, our parathyroid hormone gets produced in greater quantities to signal to our body that it needs these minerals to perform essential functions. Ultimately resulting in the demineralization of our bones (typically the femur as mentioned before), leading to increased risk for falls, hip/femur fractures, and osteoporosis.
To give you some scientific insight into this, I’d love to share some research with you.
An Insightful Study
In a German research study, 148 women above the age of 70, that were vitamin D deficient, were divided into treatment groups and monitored over the course of 2 months. One group was prescribed 600mg calcium twice a day, and the second group was prescribed 600mg of calcium and 400IU vitamin D twice a day. A feature of this research study to point out, is they specifically asked these women to not change their current diets, that way it is easier to rule out any dietary changes as a cause of the results. But remember, diet IS important!
After 8 weeks, it was found that the women that took both calcium and vitamin D, had significant reduction in their parathyroid hormone levels! Remember, that’s the hormone that initiates your body to demineralize your bone, so we want those hormone levels to be low. In addition their vitamin D and calcium levels improved significantly. A huge win all around for these women.
To top off the benefits that were found in this study, supplementing with both improved their balance scores while walking, and were much less likely to experience falls compared to calcium only supplementation.
How to Support Your Own Bone Health
As always, after providing you some helpful information, it’s important to also help you with applying this information to YOU and your health! Whether you are currently at risk for low bone density, have osteoporosis, or are currently without risk but looking to achieve optimal health and prevent disease, there are many avenues you can take to nourish your body and work on getting adequate calcium and vitamin D!
- Fatty fish – salmon, sardines, a couple times per month are a great source of vitamin D.
- Leafy greens – spinach, kale, collards, swiss chard will help you boost your calcium intake!
- Sunshine – our body makes vitamin D from exposure to the sun, so regular exposure can help prevent deficiency. Stay mindful of the length of time you are in the sun, and wear proper protection.
- Seeds – sunflower, chia, sesame, all seeds that hold tons of nutrients, especially minerals like calcium and magnesium. Include some of your salads, or on top of your leafy greens!
- Fortified foods – milk and milk alternatives are fortified to include more calcium and vitamin D, but as always, as much as you can, go with whole natural sources!
- Supplementation – it’s always best to seek healthcare advice on supplementation, especially when it pertains to specific health concerns and conditions you might have. This is to ensure you are getting the proper dosage for YOU compared to anyone else, which we are happy to help you with here at STRONGLIFE!
At STRONGLIFE Functional Medicine in Lithia, FL, Dr. Justin Scott can help you address any underlying issues, whether you realize they’re there or not, and improve your overall health.
“I hope that you found this as valuable as my patients have over the years. If you’re interested in a patient-centered process that takes into account all aspects that affect your health, then I would encourage to visit our website at www.stronglifefunctionalmedicine.com to see how we help our patients improve their health and to find if you are a good candidate for a Functional Medicine approach.”