After my ovarian cancer diagnosis and subsequent full hysterectomy (including both my ovaries), I quickly developed stage 3 osteoporosis by the time I was 37 years old. At one point, I had worse bone density than my 76-year-old mom!
There were two main reasons for the rapid decline of my bones. Firstly, the sudden drop in estrogen due to the removal of my ovaries, and secondly, having very low vitamin D levels (mine was at 12 at the time of my diagnosis). At the time, I had no idea that I have a medium impact genetic variation in some of the key genes involved in bone health. The odds were stacked against me!
It was only after pulling a Functional Medicine practitioner onto my team together with the information I gained from doing the DNA | HEALTH test together with the vitamin D profile test, that I could start to see 'where' I needed to target my health choices to avoid falling apart! My wellness goal is to be flexible, mobile and pain-free right into my old age. I have things to do!
It's important to note that after the age of 30, we all start losing bone mass. What's interesting is that your bones are not fixed structures - they are continuously being built, broken down and rebuilt. According to the latest research, genetics, nutrition, environment and lifestyle factors, all play an important role in determining bone health. Your vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene accounts for around 70% of the entire genetic influence on bone density. It plays an important role in how well your body absorbs calcium from your GUT and how it is used in your body.
The truth is, your bone health is actually determined before birth and it's personal. In other words, you shouldn't be looking at what will happen to all of us, but what will happen to your unique bones. A recent study from the University of Southampton study showed that the health of your bones could be determined before you are born. The researchers from the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit and the Institute of Developmental Sciences at the University of Southampton, as part of the Epigen Global Consortium, looked at whether bone health might be influenced by epigenetic modifications of DNA early in life. The results, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, provide an insight into the early determinants of skeletal growth and improve the understanding of how osteoporosis could be prevented in future generations.
There is growing evidence that whether genes are expressed or not (switched on or off) in particular human cells can change throughout life and can be affected by a range of environmental factors even before birth, such as their parents' health, diet and lifestyle before and during pregnancy. This switching on or off of genes is known as 'epigenetic modification' and an important epigenetic mechanism is DNA methylation. We call this "You are what your parents did!"
This research found that the health of a child's bone when they are young can influence the risk of osteoporosis in older age. This study provides exciting insights into the role of epigenetics in bone health and might allow us to more accurately predict an individual's future risk of osteoporosis. Our ongoing studies should enable us to work out whether interventions during pregnancy, for example, vitamin D supplementation, will actually alter the epigenetic marks, and lead to improved bone health in the offspring.
Based on this incredible research, we now know what to do to ensure that we make good bones!
So how do you get started?
Vitamin D is so vital to the body, we encourage you to measure and track your vitamin D levels every 6-12 months to ensure they're within the optimal range, not just the normal range. The normal range ends at 45, while the optimal range is between 60-80. Some doctors even suggest higher than 80. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that is can become toxic in high amounts so check yourself regularly.
This Vitamin D Profile gives you a comprehensive overview of your Vitamin D levels. It measures both forms of Vitamin D, namely 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and 25-hydroxyvitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).
If you have a medium to high impact genetic variation on your VDR gene, this test will help you measure whether you're taking enough vitamin D3 for optimal functioning or whether you are drifting into toxic levels. You can check your unique genetic variation for this gene in our DNA HEALTH test.
Once you have your own personalized scientific information to follow, you can start personalizing your health choices from your DNA and biochemistry up. I've listed some easy steps to get you started.
The top 5 nutrients that you should consume:
There are specific nutrients that your bones need in order to maintain their density and remineralization. These include:
Food sources include pasture-raised, organic egg yolk, organ meats, and cod liver oil for added Vitamin D. Taking a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement that provides 1000 IU per 11kg of body weight. Try not wear sunglasses while driving, and try to get 20 mins of sunlight daily. When in the sun for longer than that, use a non-toxic sunscreen that is free from chemical filters.
Food sources of vitamin K2 can be found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, and beet kvass. I recommend supplementing with vitamin K2 to prevent osteoporosis and especially if you are taking vitamin D3.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3s help to reduce inflammation and provide 'building blocks' for healthy bone tissue and hormones that regulate bone tissue formation. Eat grass-fed meat, pasture-raised eggs, wild caught fish, loads of green veggies as well as flax, chia, hemp and pumpkin seeds.
This is an incredible mineral! It's necessary for 325 enzymes in your body and is key for all Vitamin D regulating pathways. Eating loads of leafy green veggies, seeds, and grass-fed dairy provide good sources of magnesium. Having a daily green juice is a great idea too.
This is a building block for bone tissue. If you include lots of green veggies, seeds, and grass-fed dairy. Raw cheese, organic yoghurt, kefir, and ghee are good diet choices for calcium.
Exercise makes strong bones
Exercise is vital for optimal bone health. The best exercise for your bones is the weight-bearing exercises which force you to work against gravity. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis and dancing. We love the idea of these standing desks. In order to improve your bone health while standing and working, simply 'ADD IN' 2 minutes of a pelvic tilt, arm pumps, squeeze, hold your glut muscles, tummy squeezes or some jogging on the spot.
We love this rounder and standing desk. Heidi and I have both at our office to remind us to move and jiggle our bones!
To start making strong bones, visit our curated and integrated BONE SHOP.