One of the things I found while researching osteoporosis was the number of opinions (experts, authors and lay people) that others had which often seemed to conflict and the amount of research that I had to wade through to work out what I needed to know.
To make life easier for me when I research, I always draw a body map and add in everything I know about me, no matter how unrelated it seemed to osteoporosis, remember we are always looking for clues.
I create several of these, one for the past – body, mental/emotional and spiritual. And one for now. Sometimes I split them up further – it depends on how I feel in the moment.
The past – I make a list of all of the things I can remember on the left health-related – traumatic birth, ear infections (antibiotics), lactose intolerance, water and kidney infections (antibiotics), painful and heavy periods, pernicious anaemia diagnosis (B12 injections), parasites, IBS, insomnia, overactive thyroid, high platelets, low blood pressure, gluten intolerance and low blood glucose. On the right anything stress or mind/emotion and spiritually related – sexual abuse, anxiety, relationships, anger, divorce, workaholic, self-hatred and betrayal.
Next, to each of these, I put the age I was if I could remember. This acts as an aide memoir and to remind me that for example if I was looking at a food that supposed to be great for osteoporosis to make sure that it was equally beneficial for say an overactive thyroid.
On the other side of the past body map, I create two columns one for mum and one for dad and write in their illnesses and also add in other generational stuff for each parent. For my mum, I wrote traumatic birth, acne, bad back from childhood, osteoporosis, arthritis, thyroid, cholesterol, low blood pressure and interstitial cystitis. For her mum and sisters, I add anaemia, pernicious anaemia, thyroid, osteoporosis, IBS, reflux, depression, celiac, Parkinsons and a few other things.
This picture shows me that I have been born into a picture of toxicity, dehydration and inflammation from a naturopathic perspective. It also connects lots of dots, not only am I looking at my life I am now looking to ensure that I covered any other potential genetic conditions.
My aim was and is to heal what I know and prevent anything else biting me on the bum…
My now picture is similar, except I am looking at what is happening and how I feel right now.
With these pictures in front of me, I can pick out the things that I feel or sense are important to consider when researching how to heal osteoporosis or whatever my underlying causes are (more in another blog).
Next, I like to consider things from a science, medical and nutrition basis. For example, when I look at a vitamin I also look at any available scientific research, read several nutrition books and consider it in conjunction with hormones, thyroid (overactive), blood pressure, cholesterol and bone health and often I will add in other things that occur as a result of something I read while doing this.
Imagine if you find what you think is your magic bullet only to discover that it also lowers blood pressure and you already have low blood pressure.
Just where do you start and how do you research?
First and foremost you need to understand how to research (our way) and then chunk it down. Then write things out in a way that makes sense to you. For example, you may read lots of things about cortisol, I write them out as a mindmap (visual right brain) and then in a bullet point fashion (logical left brain):-
- Cortisol is an adrenal hormone which is also called the stress hormone
- Its levels vary over the day, helping us to wake up, keeping us awake and helping us to sleep
- Cortisol plays an important role in maintaining blood sugar, which helps you stay asleep (and awake)
- It helps deliver glucose to the brain
- It is affected by day to day activities and can be elevated by stress
- Stress is a big cause of insomnia and bone loss
- Too much cortisol could lead to depression, which is detrimental to healing
- If you starve yourself, cortisol levels rise
- Regular healthy meals and healthy snacks help maintain cortisol levels throughout the day which is vital for bone repair
No one is asking you to become a researcher, more to screw on your detective’s brain and become YOU and YOUR BODY aware.
How do you know something exists?
- You have a sensory experience, for example, you listen to your body and you see, hear, feel, taste, smell or sense something
- Discussion with others
- Expert opinion – although it may be conflicted (i.e. financially supported by a sponsor)
- Logic and reason
- Scientific research
When it comes to science they will have a process that they follow
Look at any research online and they will show you the process they went through. For example, they will have:-
- Identified the problem – bone loss in menopausal women
- Clarified the problem – bone loss in menopausal women who… and why is it important to study this?
- Created a dataset that they are researching against that they think will help solve the problem – e.g. review what already exists, others may have already done some research and how that study was conducted
- Organised their data so that it makes sense – apply logic and a methodology to it
- Interpreted the results – under these conditions, with these research criteria and methodology we found xyz.
Because if they don’t then someone will pick holes in their research and that can be costly.
They may also do things like surveys, look at comparative studies, consider historical data, experiment, consider causal links and anything that might be related.
When I began looking at supplements for osteoporosis I wanted to understand:-
- What vitamins and minerals a body needed?
- What are the daily recommended amounts (RDA) and what do the osteoporosis experts recommend?
- What does the body make and what are the precursors for the things that it can’t make?
- What vitamins and minerals interfere with each other (i.e. what do you need to take several hours apart) and which work together?
- What needs to be taken with food and what needs some time apart from food?
When I had this basic information (and I am still experimenting for my way to take supplements) I was then able to piece together a possible eating and supplement plan. Once I had this I looked at each nutrient in depth. I asked:-
- What foods is it in?
- Do I like the foods? E.g. prunes are high in boron, but I hate prunes.
- Are there any potential side effects? And how much of a side effect might this create?
- g. Spinach contains oxalates which might cause a problem if you have too much oxalic acid in your systems while at the same time have a high calcium level – think kidney stones. However, these foods also contain vitamins and minerals we need. The oxalic acid in spinach combines with calcium and it is excreted through urine, so you can’t add in this calcium as your daily amount.
- Nuts contain phytates which bind to essential minerals which are then excreted. There are simple ways to reduce phytates in nuts and that is to soak or sprout them.
- Grains that contain gluten interfere with absorption and are implicated in overactive thyroid – I have an intolerance to gluten. Gluten intolerance could also be a sign of for example gut issues like leaky gut. It is vital that we heal the gut to heal our osteoporosis.
- How could I reduce the potential side effects? E.g. cook spinach or eat kale instead, eat spinach less frequently and eat some other calcium food with it and soak seeds and nuts.
- Apply sense and logic. How much of whatever will actually cause side effects? How much of whatever can I actually eat?
- What nutrients work well together? E.g. eating fat (healthy) can assist absorption of vegetables. You also need fat so that your body can use fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). Do I need address anything like low protein so that I can, for example, absorb calcium?
- What quantities would I need to get the benefits I am seeking?
- Do I need to supplement?
- The common advice for most people is to get calcium from food, rather than a supplement. However, you may need to take a supplement (calcium) if a medication you are taking depletes it from the body.
- Do I need to split the daily dose of whatever supplement? The common advice is to split calcium over lunch and dinner (and take it with food).
- Other common advice is to supplement with a range of things which include magnesium, vitamin D3 & K2 – do you need to and have you been tested?
- Get yourself tested before you supplement and eat – full bloods, calcium (serum and urine), parathyroid hormone, thyroid, vitamin D, B12, gluten, cortisol, DHEA – see the link below for a full list or read pages 113 to 114 of Dr Lani Simpsons book – No-Nonsense Bone Health Guide (take this book to your doctor).
- What kind of supplement is it? For example, I get a bad stomach if I take magnesium citrate and I don’t when I take glycinate. When it comes to calcium if you are going to supplement look at the different types because this is very important.
- Can I get all of the nutrients I need from my diet? If not what can I add and for how long?
- Any other specific personal factors I need to consider? E.g. Gut absorption problems, inflammation, acid/alkaline and dehydration.
- Apply sense and logic again.
- Read and reflect.
After which I experiment to see what happens when I take or eat various things and I keep a record of these in my journal. I also don’t take or do everything at once, I start with the basics and consider how these go and then I add something else and consider that. For example, I tried an iron drink and that created constipation despite the amount of water I drank and I eased up my magnesium supplements on the advice of a naturopathic nutritionist.
My mum for example recently retired taking b-complex and ended up aggravating her interstitial cystitis. She now knows without a doubt that this is a problem for her and she needs to get her b vitamins another way…
When I go out I occasionally eat potatoes and live with the reactions. However, I would never eat gluten as the reaction is very uncomfortable.
Trying to design a diet for osteoporosis can be confusing
In fact, designing any diet can be confusing. The best thing to do is to rehydrate your body, remembering this can take a long time, eliminate waste effectively, sort out your gut health, eliminate rubbish foods and once your system is clean (or cleaner) you can test how you react to certain foods. It is trial and error because we are all unique. Do your research and create your individual way of eating. Do not give up, it will get easier over time.
Becoming an osteoporosis or any chronic condition detective is a lot of work, it is confusing, but if you read widely, make lots of notes, reflect and ask what do you think, you will find your answers. Remember if your body does not like something it will tell you.
Good research matters because
- Other people’s bodies and conditions are not yours
- Information on the internet may be flawed
- Other people most probably haven’t done their research and are passing on information that they haven’t verified
- You could end up feeling very unwell because of faulty information
Always trust yourself. Happy researching.
In another blog, I’ll look at researching when you have uncovered more of your root causes.