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.