Sunday, August 16, 2009

Calcium intake and osteoarthritis?

Monique, I use home made soy milk, etc. and since this is not fortified, I am wondering if I should be taking a cal/mag supplement? If so, how much?

I am 60 years old and had a bone density scan and do not have osteoporosis. I do a lot of hiking and am sure this helps. I do have osteoarthritis though and find that too much calcium supplementation seems to increase my joint pain. Bonnie

Answer: First let me say congratulations on your bone density scan. I completely believe that your activity level and diet are the reasons for not having osteoporosis at your age.

While soybeans have some calcium, there is not enough in homemade or unfortified soymilk. I suggest that you take calcium citrate and magnesium supplements, and increase your consumption of calcium rich foods like kale, collard greens, broccoli, sesame seeds and tofu made with calcium sulfate.

Dr. Andrew Weil recommends "taking 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium citrate per day in divided doses with meals for prevention of the bone loss that leads to osteoporosis. Calcium citrate comes in several forms: as a pill, a chewable tablet, or as a powder or tablet that dissolves in water."

Dr. Weil also makes the following recommendations for coping with osteoarthritis. "Decrease protein toward 10 percent of daily caloric intake. Replace animal protein as much as possible with plant protein. Eliminate milk and milk products, substituting other calcium sources. Eat organically grown fruits and vegetables as much as possible as well as organic products made from wheat and soy. Eliminate polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, all partially hydrogenated oils, all foods (such as deep-fried foods) that might contain trans-fatty acids. Use extra-virgin olive oil as your main fat. Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eat ginger and turmeric regularly."

Ginger, turmeric and pineapples have excellent natural anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric (a perennial herb plant of the ginger family) contains curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Pineapples are natural sources for bromelain, another effective anti-inflammatory. I suggest that you consume both the natural food sources (ginger, turmeric, pineapples and pineapple juice) for their anti-inflammatory properties as well as supplements (ginger powder, curcumin, and bromelain), which can be found at most health food stores. This way you will benefit from the main active ingredients and many minor ones, and you will ensure that you get enough of these substances in your diet to product effective results.

Many osteoarthritis sufferers have also obtained relief by using glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate. According to Dr. Weil, "Glucosamine stimulates the production of the key elements of cartilage and then protects them. It helps your body repair worn cartilage, reduce pain and improve function. Chondroitin attracts fluids into proteoglycans, the molecules woven through cartilage that give the tissue its shock-absorber quality, and protects the cartilage against breakdown."

For more information about calcium, read . . .

(1) My Q&A
"What are non-dairy vegetarian sources for calcium?"

(2) "Protecting Your Bones" at

(3) "Calcium in Plant-Based Diets" at

(4) "The Protein Myth: The Building Blocks of Life" at

(5) "Be Young and Healthy By Building Strong Bones" with a recipe for "Garlic Herb Dip" at

For more information about foods with natural anti-inflammatory properties, read . . .

(1) My Q&A
"Natural remedies for healing muscles, ligaments and tendons"

(2) Dr. Andrew Weil's Q&A
"Arthritis Alternatives?"For more information about ...

Osteoarthritis, go to

Glucosamine, go to

Chondroitin sulfate, go to

Also, for recipes and more information about a healthy vegetarian and vegan diet, read my book
Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook
Other Recommended Books...

Plant Based Nutrition and Health
by Stephen Walsh

The New Becoming Vegetarian: The Essential Guide To A Healthy Vegetarian Diet
by Vesanto Melina & Brenda Davis

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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.


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