Our skeleton may seem an inert structure, but it is an active organ; consists of 206 bones, as well as a network of tendons, ligaments and cartilage that connects them. The skeletal system performs six vital functions including support, movement, protection, production of blood cells, storage of minerals, and endocrine regulation.
65% of bone tissue are minerals which provide the hardness of bone, the major ones are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. The remaining 35% is organic protein matrix that deposited around by minerals which together contribute to the strength and flexibility of our skeleton. Bones are living tissues that rebuild constantly throughout our life – bone modeling. During childhood and teens, the body adds new bone faster than it removes old bone. After about age 34, you can lose bone faster than you make bone.
Skeletal disorders could occur due to a wide variety of reasons. While some people may be born with a bone disease as a result of faulty genes or inborn errors of metabolism, most people develop degenerative bone and joint diseases later in life. Given below are two most common skeletal disorders.
Arthritis is a term often used to mean any disorder that affects joints. Symptoms generally include stiffness, mildly swollen joints, and joint pain. The most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis affects more than 3.8% of people while rheumatoid arthritis affects about 0.24% of people. Overall the disease becomes more common with age.
Osteoarthritis is mainly a degeneration of the cartilage in the joints, it can also involve the synovial lining (lining of the joint) and the underlying bone. As the joint cartilage begins to wear down, it causes increased stress to the bone. In response to this intensified stress, the bone actually becomes denser and have spurs forming around the joint as a result. Osteoarthritis can affect every joint in the body, including neck and lower back. As the condition gets worse, it can cause significant discomfort, pain, and even disability. Since this degenerative arthritis primarily involves the weight-bearing joints, repeated mechanical stress caused by excessive weight, trauma, or activity is a contributor to the development and progression of this disease.
The next most common form is rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease. This occurs when the immune system begins attacking cartilage and the synovial lining of the joint. As a result, an inflammatory process begins significant destruction of healthy tissue including inflammation around the lungs, and inflammation around the heart. This also creates excessive free radicals and causes damage to the joints in those suffering with rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatment and prevention of arthritis
The basic medical treatment of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) and aspirin. While these drugs reduce inflammation in joints, they also have frequent side effects such as stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, not mentioning the fact that these drugs merely provide pain relief without fixing the fundamental cause of the disease – wear out of cartilage and oxidative stress.
Anyone who is suffering from arthritis needs to take a potent, well-balanced vitamin, mineral and antioxidant supplement. Strong evidence shows that patients with arthritis are deficient in several micronutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, boron, and B vitamins. We need to supply all these vitamins and antioxidants at optimal levels in order to control and fight excess oxidative stress that resulted from inflammation.
Glucosamine is one of the basic nutrients for the synthesis of cartilage. It is an amino sugar that in supplement form and often manufactured from the shells of shellfish, which contribute to the elasticity of cartilage and slow down the breakdown of joints due to aging process. Unlike Medical drugs, glucosamine does not simply cover up the pain but rather helps to rebuild the damaged cartilage. Several studies from the American College of Rheumatology showed that glucosamine not only reduced the pain and inflammation of arthritis but actually stopped the deterioration of the cartilage. What was even more impressive was the fact that there was evidence of actual cartilage regrowth.
Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease. It is referred to weak and porous bones that are incapable of maintaining normal bone functions, which increasing the risk of fracture and compression of spinal vertebrae. In vast majority of cases, the disease is progressive but in silent, because the bones only become easy to fracture when they get extremely weak and results with tremendous amount of pain and disabilities.
From a nutritional perspective there are three main contributors. These are excessive protein consumption, leading to leaching of calcium from the bone to neutralize excess blood acidity; lack of estrogen due to post-menopausal, which is a major trigger for bone growth; and deficiency of bone building nutrients, which include calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, B vitamins, zinc, manganese, phosphorus and boron.
Treatment and prevention of osteoporosis
Bone is not just a collection of calcium crystals; rather it is living tissue continuously remodeling itself through osteoblastic (bone forming) and osteoclastic (bone resorbing) activity. Skeletal system is constantly engaged in biochemical reactions that are dependent on many different micronutrients and enzyme systems. Therefore, like any living tissue, bone has diverse nutritional needs. Inadequate intake of any nutrients required for bone health contributes to osteoporosis.
We must pay attention to several important factors: preserving adequate bone mass, preventing the loss of the protein matrix part of the bone, and making sure that the bone has all the proper nutrients it needs to repair and replace damaged areas of bone. Nutritional supplementation plays a vital role in all three areas of preserving and building bone. Let’s take a look at each nutrient in the fight against osteoporosis.
There is no doubt that calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis. Bone contains about 99% of the body’s calcium which is an essential nutrient in the fight against osteoporosis. Both men and women should take supplement at least 1,000mg daily. People more consistently absorb calcium citrate than calcium than calcium carbonate; but when taken with food and good levels of vitamin D, the absorption level is quite similar.
Magnesium is major mineral with essential structural and functional roles in the body. It is a critical component of our skeleton, with 50%-60% of total body magnesium found in bone. Vitamin D needs magnesium to convert to its active form. If there is a deficiency in magnesium, it can lead to a syndrome of vitamin D resistance.
More than half the mass of bone mineral is comprised of phosphorus, which combines with calcium to form hydroxyapatite crystals. The body must maintain a balance between phosphorus and calcium. Excess intake of phosphorus can occur with diets high in processed foods, soft drinks, and meats, which could lead to problems with bone metabolism over time.
Manganese is necessary for the synthesis of connective tissue in cartilage and bone. This nutrient needs to be present at optimal levels to prevent the development of both osteoporosis and arthritis.
We need vitamin D for absorption of calcium. Everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplement because we tend to spend less time in the sun in modern lifestyle, as vitamin D deficiencies can become very common. And remember – you will absorb calcium much better if you take it along with vitamin D and food.
Vitamin K is critical in bone formation, remodeling, and repair. It is required to synthesize osteocalcin, a protein found in large amount within the bone. Vitamin K also helps the body absorb and retain calcium rather than excrete it.
We often discuss the mineral aspect of bone, but organic protein matrix is also an integral aspect of bone quality and health. Collagen makes up 90% of the organic matrix of bone, which needs the present of vitamin C during synthesis.