As kids, we were always told to drink our milk if we wanted to grow up to be big and strong. Milk is one of the best sources of calcium, which does help to maintain bone health as you get older, but maintaining good bone health isn’t that simple—proper calcium absorption requires more than just consuming a lot of calcium. Here’s what you need to know about calcium absorption and how you can maintain your bone health as you age.
Calcium Absorption and Bone Health
When calcium is taken into the body, it is absorbed into the blood. Any calcium not being used for other processes in the body is then transferred by the blood to the bones, where it increases bone mass and improves bone health; it stays until its needed somewhere else in the body. When calcium absorption is failing and the blood is not taking in enough, it takes the calcium it needs from the bones, therefore reducing bone health and strength. When bone health is compromised, it increases your risk of fractures and can lead to the development of osteoporosis. Your body needs to maintain a proper level of calcium absorption, as the body cannot create calcium by itself and regularly depletes the amount it already has through the shedding of skin, nails, and hair, as well as by sweating and going to the bathroom.
Sodium and Bone Health
There are several factors that can impair calcium absorption for proper bone health. The one that’s perhaps most common is a high sodium intake. When sodium levels in the body are high, this causes more calcium to be removed from the body; since that excess sodium leaves the body through your urine, it takes additional calcium with it. Believe it or not, it’s pretty easy to raise the amount of sodium in your system so much that it affects calcium absorption and bone health, because so many processed foods contain excessive amounts of sodium/salt. But almost all of these processed foods, like junk food and fast food, shouldn’t really be part of your anti-aging diet to begin with, so whether they’re affecting your bone health or not, you should be cutting them out.
Protein and Bone Health
Another anti-aging diet factor that can impede calcium absorption and bone health is protein. Excess protein is similar to too much sodium—protein burned for energy creates sulfate, which takes extra calcium with it when it’s urinated out of the body, thus interfering with calcium absorption. That’s why when including protein in your diet, you have to be sure that what you’re eating isn’t too protein-heavy so that it doesn’t have a detrimental effect on calcium absorption and subsequently compromises your bone health.
Other Foods That Affect Calcium Absorption and Bone Health
There are other food components that can wreak havoc on calcium absorption and bone health. Oxalates, or oxalic acids, which are often found in healthier foods like spinach and sweet potatoes, will bind to calcium, and, as a result, the calcium and oxalates together will leave the body through your feces.
Too much caffeine doesn’t affect calcium absorption and bone health itself, but it’s a diuretic, which means that it makes you urinate more frequently, meaning more calcium is lost through waste.
Stress, smoking, and inadequate exercise can also make calcium absorption and proper bone health harder for your body.
Regulating Calcium Absorption for Optimal Bone Health
The most important factor when regulating calcium absorption and bone health is to ensure that your body is getting enough vitamin D, which preserves calcium levels in your system by helping the kidneys break it down, preventing calcium from leaving the body through your excrement. Vitamin D also helps to prevent bone loss and can slow down or even fully stop the progression of osteoporosis. The body gains vitamin D primarily from sunlight, but the body has a harder time absorbing it as we age. A proper anti-aging diet can also provide vitamin D for bone health. The best dietary sources for vitamin D include salmon, sardines, milk (which is also the best calcium source), eggs, and shiitake mushrooms.
For the best results for calcium absorption and bone health, pay attention to how much sodium and protein you’re consuming, incorporate vitamin D-rich foods into your anti-aging diet, stop smoking, and limit alcohol consumption—even just one to three ounces can damage your stomach, pancreas, and liver’s ability to absorb calcium and use vitamin D.
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