Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bone Health, Digestion, and the Need for Resistant Starch

A good place to start improving bone health is in your gut. Poor digestion and rotting food in your intestinal tract provides both a smorgasbord and a breeding ground for pathogens. This causes gas, bloating, abdominal pain, belching, and lots of flatulence. If you have these signs and symptoms your digestion is impaired, your gut is full of toxins, and you are not able to absorb the nutrients you need for good bone health. In addition to reduced absorption, an unhealthy gut causes the immune system to go into overdrive. This creates a continuous outflow of pro-inflammatory substances from the intestinal mucosa. When this happens for an extended period of time it can lead to a condition called chronic inflammation, one of the most common causes of osteoporosis.

Improving gut health starts with a better diet. Reduce your sugar intake, cut back on the alcohol, and stop eating processed foods. After that, you may need to try taking hydrochloric acid (HCL) and/or digestive enzymes with your meals to aid digestion. Many of us, especially as we age, don't produce enough HCL to fully digest our food. The third step is to supplement with probiotics (live cultures of microorganisms) either in supplemental form or by drinking cultured milk called kefir. (Check out my blog on kefir and bone health.) Reinoculating your gut with "good" bacteria will help prevent gut colonization by pathogens and other opportunistic bacteria. We want to keep our digestive tract healthy, not only for better nutrient absorption but also as a way of reducing inflammation.

If you read chapter 5 in my book, The Whole-Body Approach to Osteoporosis, you will get a better understanding about how all this works and why it is so important for improving bone health. In addition to probiotics, it's a good idea to make sure the probiotics you are putting into your gut have something to eat so they can thrive. This is where "pre"biotics come into play. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that act as a food source for the good bacteria in your gut. If you want to learn more about the importance of prebiotics check out this great video from The Hungry Microbiome. And if you REALLY want to learn more about the importance of prebiotics, and specifically the use of potato starch for promoting gut health, check out Richard Nikoley's two part article on resistant starch.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

An Interview Done With Dr. McCormick for Osteo Naturals

How long did it take for you to turn your osteoporosis around?


It took several years of intense study of bone biology and the pathophysiology of osteoporosis before I was able to understand the disease process itself, and that was only the beginning of my recovery. Of course, during this time I took the calcium and vitamin D that the "experts" suggested. However, my bone density didn't improve, it actually got worse, and I kept breaking bones. Finally, after piecing together several huge "brain maps" that interconnected four areas of complex information: 1) bone biology, 2) the causes and mechanisms of bone loss, 3) the specifics of my own symptoms and laboratory test results, and 4) nutrigenomics, the study of how diet and supplementation can affect the body, I was able to piece together this incredibly complex puzzle that we call osteoporosis. I could see where I was--terribly fragile--and where I wanted to go--healthy and strong--but getting there seemed a long way away. My goal was to create an environment inside my body that would be physiologically conducive to building bone. To do this I needed to reduce the catabolic, or destructive forces, and increase those that were anabolic. I knew this would take time. It became very clear to me after making these brain maps that recovering skeletal health was a lot more complex than just taking calcium.


When people are under unusual stress, whether emotional or physical, it sets a perfect breeding ground for inflammation. This can, and did in my case, lead to bone loss. There is no doubt that I had stressed my body physically for years training for the Olympics and triathlons, so it didn't surprise me that I not only displayed symptoms of a catabolic/inflamed/destructive physiologic state but my lab tests confirmed it. And this, from what I could determine, resulted in a loss of muscle tone and the extremely poor density and strength of my bones.


Before I was to see any improvement, I needed to decrease any pro-inflammatory agents that were either entering my body or already there. And, I needed to actually, somehow, turn off those hyper-inflammatory signaling systems, those inflammation-producing circuits that were apparently deeply embedded in this destructive type of activity, and pull this run-a-way train back down to a normal speed. It was only by understanding how cellular and systemic mechanisms worked; by understanding things like what could be up-regulating pro-inflammatory molecules, what could be uncoupling mitochondrial activity, and what could be messing with my neurotransmitters that I could piece together what and how specific nutrients would be able to affect these processes and positively influence bone remodeling in my body. I needed to go way beyond the simplistic concept of loading up with calcium and hoping for the best.


I needed to "rethink bone strength" and the factors that went into it. Hormones, body pH, vitamin/mineral status, digestion and absorption capacity, immune function, energy systems...all of this was important. And all of this had to be improved for me to regain bone strength.


So the short answer to this question is that it took me five years to slowly start turning things around and get healthier and stop breaking bones. The good news is that it doesn't really have to take that long...I just didn't know what I was doing at the beginning. That is where OsteoNaturals products can make a huge difference in other people's lives...and that is cool! It can actually be fairly simple to improve bone strength. But it does require a change in diet (lots of veggies to make the body more alkaline), some exercise (check with your doctor, of course, first), and supplementing with the right nutrients--they are all there for you in the OsteoNaturals products.


At what age were you diagnosed with osteoporosis?
45


How many fractures have you had?
Lost track. But thankfully, it doesn't really matter any more. I've moved on from those days and never intend to go back there...ever.


How old are you now?
60


What is your favorite meal?
A huge plate of lightly sauteed kale and chard (topped with lemon juice), broiled flounder, and rice with miso.


Really?!!
Yes, I have kale or chard just about everyday.


What is your favorite sport?
Triathlons, but I just love moving and running, especially in the woods. The only things I shy away from now are contact sports (never liked them anyhow), heavy lifting, and training race horses. (I used to have a horse that was a bit rank and would often flip over backwards onto me...I would have to roll out quickly at the last millisecond to avoid being crushed.) My bones are a lot stronger than they used to be but I'm not going to push my luck. I've always said there are no limits in life and I truly believe that...except bones do break at a certain point...and I know where that point is for me now.


What are your goals?
On a professional level my goal is to help people see that regaining skeletal health is more difficult than maintaining it in the first place. But I understand that there are also a lot of people who have osteopenia or osteoporosis and I would like to make there battle against bone loss a whole lot easier.

On a personal level, my goals are to keep training and competing. Whether it's training for the Ironman World Championships, the Boston Marathon or just doing crazy events like Tough Mudders or the Mt. Washington Road Race, I'm the happiest when I have a big carrot in front of me. Goals are important for everyone. They certainly keep me exercising but they are also what I use to inspire me. They help keep my engines running on all cylinders. Goals are one of those things in life that keep me ringing the doorbell to "living." I love putting myself on the line and seeing how fast I can go and how far I can push myself. And of course, I want to stay healthy and strong. That is a goal, but continuing to train and compete helps maintain my health so it's a win win situation. I don't take health for granted any more. I cherish each and every day.
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