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  1. Norma Jean Gaston
  2. Special Needs
  3. March 23, 2017
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I've been vegan for about 7 years. My bone density tests this month showed my osteopenia to be worsening. I know the Dr will suggest medication but I don't feel comfortable taking that stuff. Do calcium supplements help? I've been taking bone rejuvenation herbs and a plant based calcium supplement for a long time, yet it has worsened. What do you suggest?

  1232 Brookside Dr, Hurst, TX 76053, USA
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Hello Norma,

I am so glad you are asking questions in this forum. This is not an answer to your question but I just wanted to let you know that this is exactly where we like to answer questions and that Dr. Carney is generally not able to look at the forum until after she finishes seeing patients.

Thank you for asking your excellent question here. 

Sean

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  1. more than a month ago
  2. Special Needs
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Hi Norma,  Thanks for your question.  It’s a great one!

Although I cannot suggest for you personally, because I am not allowed to practice medicine through this website, I can tell you what I choose for myself.  I am a long-term WFPBNO eater who is, at age 57, probably in the osteopenic range due to my petite bones and lower body weight.  (I have not undergone a DEXA in about 7 years).

Calcium supplements will only harden our arteries.  Calcium supplements will not make it into our bones, because the calcium in pills in not as bioavailable as the calcium in foods.  I myself do not take calcium supplements.

Neither would I take the medications for osteoporosis.  These medications can have serious side effects and are not worth the risks, to me.

But have you noticed, when studying the graphs for bone density and age, that almost ALL Americans are classified (by those who make these graphs) as having osteoporosis by the age of 80?  Hmm…. How convenient for those who want to sell us drugs, right?  Yet not all people break a hip or bow their upper back permanently, do they?

Perhaps we are being labelled as “diseased” (osteopenia) when it really is not so serious for us?

So perhaps the normal bone loss expected with age is being marketed as a disease, emphasis on MARKETING.  Could this be so that doctors will be taught in med school to push medications on people, creating block-buster profits for pharmaceutical companies?  I have to wonder.

Rather than let them talk us into medications we don’t want to take, might we reverse our osteopenia, as many of my patients have done? Should we not seek to minimize the loss of calcium in the urine, by avoiding the 5 top factors that promote urinary calcium losses?

The top 5 causes of urinary calcium loss include:

  1. Nicotine
  2. Alcohol
  3. Caffeine
  4. Salt
  5. Animal protein in the diet (and other foods that acidify the body, unlike vegetables and fruit, which alkalinize the body.)

Calcium is used as a buffer (by the kidneys) for the sulfuric acids created when animal protein is eaten, because that acid must be buffered to prevent the acid from harming the urinary system lining (bladder burn, etc.)  The amino acids (homocysteine, methionine, cysteine, etc.) that are more likely to contain sulfur are more commonly found in animal proteins when compared to plant proteins.  These sulfur-containing amino acids that are common in animal protein create more sulfuric acid in the body than do the plant proteins, which are less likely to be made of sulfur-containing amino acids.  So I commend you for eliminating the most prevalent cause of urinary calcium loss.

But if we use caffeine, even in small amounts such as in chocolate or in decaf products, we may still lose too much calcium in our urine, and thus, lose bone density.  It is because I was not born nor raised vegan that I scrupulously avoid eating or drinking any product more likely to diurese away my calcium.  I need all the bone density I can hang onto, because of my later start into this way of eating.

And the happy new is that, for some of my vegan patients who also learn to eat without salt or alcohol, etc.  I have seen their bone densities improve after a year of stopping those habits that lead to calcium loss in their urine.

Better DEXA scores after one year of cutting out the booze, salt, and caffeine, even for my patients who were already non-smoking vegans when I met them?  Yes, if they will faithfully add 30 minutes daily of sunshine and fresh outdoor air as well as weight-bearing exercise. 

It is not everybody in my private practice who is willing to cut out the products that lead to internal acidity of the body or calcium loss via salt.  But those who did make the changes, committing to daily sunshine and an active exercise regimen that also included taking walks 7 days per week, have been delighted to see their DEXA scores improve.

And I rejoice right along with them. 

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  1. more than a month ago
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Here is an article about Osteoporosis called: "Diet and Osteoporosis, The Broken Bone Business" that you might find helpful: https://www.drcarney.com/blog/science-inspired/diet-and-osteoporosis-the-broken-bone-business

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And, here is another one called "How the Calcium Paradox Baffles Bone Beliefs" that is also very good: https://www.drcarney.com/blog/health-issues/how-the-calcium-paradox-baffles-bone-beliefs

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