What I do to help my bones

Dr. Susan Brown in her East Syracuse, N.Y. office/home on 9/5/08. (Photos by Michael Okoniewski-w.SyracusePhotographer.com)

As a bone health expert, I’m not surprised when women ask me what I do to help my own bones. But more than a few might be surprised when they hear my answer.

Not that my routine is bizarre or impossible to follow — quite the contrary. To keep my bones strong, I include yoga, alkaline food choices and even a consistent connection to nature. These are all realistic actions that nearly any one can take (and, more important, stick with) to live a healthier, happier life.

I think it’s my lack of following an extreme approach —a highly-restricted diet or hours of grueling exercise— that astonishes people. But if I’ve learned anything in more than 20 years of working with women to increase their bone health it’s that forcing yourself into unrealistic routines usually doesn’t last for very long.

 

With that in mind, here’s what I do to maximize my bone health

1. I am committed to taking my Better Bones supplement to get the all-important 20 key bone nutrients in therapeutic doses, plus additional anti-oxidants. While I make it a point to eat well, taking my own supplement is my easy guarantee I’ll get all the nutrients I recommend.

2. I enjoy regular group sports like biking, golf, tennis and cross-country skiing. Several times a week I incorporate yoga or Qi Gong, as these really help quiet my mind and strengthen my nervous system —and both also increase flexibility.

3. It’s a joke around the office that I always insist that everyone eat two cups of vegetables for lunch and dinner. I strive to do this daily, and this high veggie diet helps my body stay alkaline.

4. I limit my exposure to foods to which I am hypersensitive or allergic because avoiding these foods helps reduce inflammation. I limit my wheat and dairy exposure and avoid high fructose corn syrup and cornstarch altogether.

5. Every day I meditate at least once for 15 to 20 minutes. On the best days I meditate twice, first as the workday begins, and again after it ends.

6. I am learning to pay more attention to my emotions, and particularly keeping an eye on when I get frustrated. Everyone in the office can hear me performing my de-stressing “tree shake” that Qi Gong Master Lu taught me.

7. Finally, I like to plant tiny seeds in my garden and watch them grow, spontaneously and without effort, into strong healthy plants. This reminds me that my skeleton — along with my entire body — is an offshoot of the amazing intelligence and organizing power of nature.

With my Better Bones Package, you can find your own realistic ways to incorporate bone-healthy activities into your daily life for Better Bones and a Better Body. You now have three options available — right here on the Better Bones website — to fit your bone health needs.

 

 

How to decrease harmful inflammation

We’ve unwittingly created a world where — every day — nutritional, lifestyle, emotional and environmental factors are fueling chronic inflammation that is taking a heavy toll on our bones.

I know it can seem a bit overwhelming. But instead of feeling helpless, I encourage you to remember that you have the power to make changes that will make a real difference. Step by step, you can give your bones exactly the support they need in order to last your entire lifetime — as they are meant to do.

Here are four Better Bones keys to turning off inflammation:

1. Limit pro-inflammatory foods, such as:

• Saturated fats, beef products, and dairy (especially if intolerant to dairy).
• Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners.
• White flour and all refined grains, and other refined carbs.
• Trans fats, and rancid and over-heated oils.
• Excess alcohol, preservatives and artificial additives.
• Any food to which you are allergic or intolerant.

2. Increase anti-inflammatory foods:

• A wide variety of fresh, whole plant foods high in anti-oxidant flavonoids.
• Daily consumption of green leafy vegetables, onions and garlic.
• Eat 2 cups of vegetables for lunch and 2 cups for dinner.
• Eat 2-3 servings of fruits a day, especially berries.
• Eat 2-3 servings of nuts and seeds daily.
• Liberal use of herbs and spices such as turmeric (containing curcumin), cumin, coriander and ginger.
• Use fish, beans, eggs and lean meats as protein sources.
• Eat high fiber foods totaling at least 25 grams of fiber a day.
• Drink green tea, ginger tea and nettle tea as anti-oxidant beverages.

3. Develop an anti-inflammatory, life-supporting lifestyle:

• Reduce toxic exposure (chlorinated drinking water, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, heavy metal and toxic chemical exposure)
• Get adequate sleep (7-8 hours each night). Lack of sleep is pro-inflammatory.
• Control weight (excess fat becomes an endocrine organ that emits inflammatory factors which enhance osteoclastic bone breakdown)
• Control blood sugar and insulin (both of which are inflammatory when high).
• Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, outdoors when possible.
• Consider practicing mindful exercise, such as t’ai chi which reduces DNA-damaging oxidative stress. Set aside 15-20 minutes a day for meditation or silent contemplation.

4. Supplement with key anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients as needed.

These are the nutrients that send signals to the immune inflammation turn-off switches and control free radical damage:

• Omega-3 fats.
• Antioxidant vitamins (vitamins A, C, E, D, K2).
• Carotenoids (as lycopene, lutein) and flavonoids (as quercetin, kaempferol, epigallocatechin and rutin) Co Q 10.
• Lipoic acid.

You can have access to a powerful antioxidant formula, with a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. The Super Antioxidant is designed to help protect against damaging oxidative stress and support connective tissues, including healthy bone. Learn more about the Better Bones Program.

 

References:

Barbour, K. E., R. Boudreau, M. E. Danielson, A. O. Youk, J. Wactawski-Wende, N. C. Greep, A. Z. LaCroix, R. D. Jackson, R. B. Wallace, D. C. Bauer, M. A. Allison, and J. A. Cauley. 2012. Inflammatory markers and the risk of hip fracture: the women’s health initiative. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 27(5):1167–1176.

Lucas, R., E. Ramos, A. Oliveira, T. Monjardino, and H. Barros. 2012. Low-grade systemic inflammation and suboptimal bone mineral density throughout adolescence: a prospective study in girls. Clinical Endocrinology 77(5):665–671.

 

2013 — The Year of the Better Bones Revolution

2013_Happy_New_Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No one cares as much about your health as you do. No one has as much power to build and rebuild your body as you do. And, most importantly, no one will suffer the consequences of self-neglect as much as you will.

That’s why I hope you will join me in making dramatic change in 2013 — or as I am calling it — The Year of The Better Bones Revolution.

The Better Bones Revolution calls us to become informed and to take charge of our bone health, to educate ourselves and to work with nature rather than tinker with it or look to “better living through chemistry.”

Revolution Resolutions

Where to start? To show you that even a bone-health specialist can make improvements, here are a few of my favorite “Revolution Resolutions” to take charge in 2013:

• I will have my vitamin D level measured this winter, and make sure I maintain a 50 ng/ml level all year round. This is something we can all aim for!

• I will make time to exercise 40 to 60 minutes a day. Personally I like to walk with my weight vest, ski, golf, use my whole body vibration platform, practice Qi Gong or take yoga classes — so I have lots of exercise options. If you’re just getting started, you may consider finding an exercise you enjoy and work at least 30 minutes of it into your daily routine (outdoors, if possible).

• I will set aside all the research articles I love to read and sleep more—8-9 hours each night in the winter. I tend to push myself to do ever more at night, but nature rests in the winter and so will I! Are you getting enough sleep?

• I will consume 2 cups of vegetables (or near that) at both lunch and dinner (mostly cooked during the winter). Variety supports life, so I will try eating veggies from all the colors of the rainbow. One dietary change I can make is to rotate in some alkalizing root crops I usually don’t eat (like rutabaga, turnips, kohlrabi and parsnips).

What will be your Revolution Resolution?

Use the comment section below to let me know — and inspire others to join The Better Bones Revolution. Remember, by making your own Revolution Resolution, you’ll be taking important action to keep your bones and your entire body strong, vital and full of life at any age. For a natural approach that includes changes in the key areas that affect bone health, learn more how my Better Bones Program includes the methods recommended by the Surgeon General of the United States for reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and revolutionary 2013!

Too much information

If you’ve been taking charge with the Better Bones Revolution by staying informed about your bone health — congratulations!

That said, I know it’s easy to feel overloaded and even a little bit panicked by the sheer amount of health news coming out. Many of my patients tell me how difficult it is to stay calm whenever a new study warns about osteoporosis risk or other bone health issues. And, there is a lot of opportunity for worry — I just did an online search of “bone news” and came up with 305,000,000 results!

To help you stay up-to-date without being overwhelmed by the latest bone health news, here’s how to find the news that is most important and relevant to you:

Tips to stay informed–but not overloaded–with health news

• Remember that sometimes no news is good news: While I’m not advocating that you ignore the news completely, I do recommend you limit your news sources by choosing a few reputable news outlets. You’ll be confident the information is credible, while reducing your exposure to “news” based on fear or speculation.

• Use the two-day guide: If you do see some news that alarms you, I suggest waiting for two days. If the story has survived the news cycles and is still in the headlines, it may be worth investigating more. More likely, you may find that after two days, the information has been replaced by something else or just doesn’t seem as important to you.

• Ask — “does this apply to me?” Most of us can eliminate a lot of the noise caused by too much information by continuing our bone-building activities. After all, if you know your vitamin D levels are healthy, news about risks of vitamin D deficiency really isn’t relevant for you!

Finally, if you’re still overloaded and overwhelmed, why not consider taking a few bone-building deep breaths and simply not look at the health news for a couple of days? You may also want to focus on some of the proven, effective methods for strengthening bone in my article “A natural approach to osteoporosis and bone health.”

 

Celebrate National Women’s Health Week

iStock_000010668925XSmallHappy National Women’s Health Week! The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health has designated May 13-19 as the week dedicated to the idea that “It’s Your Time” to make health a top priority. And I couldn’t agree more with the recommendations that empower women to take action for better wellness:

• Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.

• Get active.

• Eat healthy.

• Pay attention to mental health, which includes getting enough sleep and managing stress.

• Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet.

In fact, it sounds like the government has been listening to me talk about my Better Bones, Better Body approach!

Why not celebrate women’s health by thinking about ways you can make a little extra effort this week to add bone-building activities into your routine? Then see if you can keep them up for the next week as well!

You might also share your knowledge with friends and family who can benefit from making some simple changes to their diet, exercise program or lifestyle. I’ve recently added two new slideshows to my website highlighting important issues in bone health, and National Women’s Health Week is a good opportunity to spread the word to your friends and family so that they can be empowered too!

The top 10 osteoporosis myths – Setting the record straight about your bone health

Six ways to stop bone loss during the menopause transition

And remember, you never need a special occasion to celebrate women’s health!

 

 

Deep breathing for bone health: the simplest way to get started

I’ve written several posts about the importance of deep breathing for bone building – it helps you relax, reduces stress, and boosts any exercise routine. Another benefit I find is using deliberate, full breaths in the morning raises my level of energy and purpose. It’s like turning on my switch!

Still, many women tell me that deep breathing remains somewhat of a mystery to them, and ask: “Do I have to meditate?” “Do I have to do yoga?” and “How do I know that I’m doing it correctly?”

Deep breathing iStock_000001812611XSmall (2)That’s why I wanted to focus this blog post on the simplest way to get started —

Deep breathing and nothing else

Here’s what you can do:

• Sit comfortably and tighten and release your muscle groups — noting what it feels like to be relaxed.

• Begin to breathe slowly and normally through the nostrils. Notice how your normal breathing is generally quite shallow. Your next step is to begin breathing in and out more deeply, but not so deeply that you feel like you are forcing the breaths.

• Breathe even more deeply. Imagine that you have lungs in your belly and that you are creating a gap that you need to fill. Sink into that gap as you breathe in and out.

• Imagine how each breath is bringing in energy — visualize a bright light that’s powered by your breath. You are now letting go of any draining, heavy thoughts.

• Focus your mind in the direction of what you will accomplish — such as rest or energy building.

• Continue breathing.

Follow the breath ratio chart to relax, balance, energize

See how many seconds you should try to allow for each segment of breath in order to achieve your desired result:

At first, you may start with just 3-4 minutes and build up as you wish. I often take 20 minutes in the morning for deep breathing, as well as another 20 minutes the end of my work day. I consider my morning routine a way to gather my internal forces before I power up, and I use the peace of mind to set my intention for the day. At the end of the work day, I use the time to rest and regain my energy as well as to detox and purify, releasing the negative emotions of the day, as well as toxins and acids.

My daily breathing routine is about as simple as it can be, and I encourage you to try it – even right now if you can!

Breathing snip

 

 

No “one size fits all” approach for bone health

I recently had a conversation with a woman in her 40’s who insisted that I list for her the top three things she should avoid for better bone health.

Camel burdens

I told her that while I could certainly tell her the most common bone burdens, it would be much more effective if she could give some thought to what she feels are the greatest imbalances in her life — and then what she might do to make changes.

After all, we all have our own inner guide. When we feel good, we’re generally on the right path. And when we don’t, we often inherently understand what we need to change.

That’s why when I’m working with women, I don’t want to force them into a one-size-fits-all approach. I want them — and you — to think about the choices that make sense.

For example, if you have one cup of coffee a day and love it, well then, I’m probably not going to tell you it is a problem. However, if you tell me you drink the whole pot and feel terrible after you do it (like I do), I’ll tell you this is not a good idea!

And I’m going to ask you to start looking for ways to move away from bone-depleting routines — such as not getting enough sleep so that you “need” a pot of coffee in the morning.

I always remind women that our individual bone burden is made up of multiple factors — as you can see from the camel illustration. We’re all in different places and our lives are heading in different directions.

Anything you can remove or limit from the camel’s back will help your bones. Anything.

Take some time today to consider what your greatest individual bone burden might be. If it’s diet, stress and anxiety, lack of sleep or any other of the camel’s burdens, you can find information throughout this website to naturally improve bone health and prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis — on your own terms.

 

My favorite detox techniques — for the body

I am often asked what I do to detoxify. I think this has much to do with the perception that detoxification is somehow “mysterious” or “complicated” even though many of the simplest and most effective techniques have been embraced for thousands of years.

My detoxification repertoire is quite expansive. Although you might not use the same techniques as I do, I am sure each of you benefits from your own detox strategies. If you have room for one or two more, you might be inspired to try out a few of my routines.

7 simple detox tips to try now

Alkaline for Life® detox: The foundation for any sound purification program is eating life-supporting whole foods and avoiding acid-forming ingredients like sugar, sodas, caffeine, food additives, and preservatives. Identifying and eliminating foods to which you’re allergic or hypersensitive can provide dramatic benefits including better digestion, weight control, and decreased joint or muscle pain. Speaking for myself, I find elimination of gluten, corn, and most dairy brings an immediate benefit.

Drinking hot water: Drinking hot water helps support digestion and hydration, two key factors for detoxification.

Skin brushing: It is worth noting that our skin is our largest and one of the most active organs in the body. Every minute old skin cells die and new one are created. Using a vegetable fiber brush over the entire body removes dead cells and stimulates new cell growth. Brush your skin while standing on a cloth and you will notice just how many flakes of old skin are removed.

Sesame oil massage: My favorite skin practice is giving myself a full body massage with warm sesame oil just before my morning shower. This Ayurvedic practice nourishes and detoxifies the skin while calming the entire nervous system. If you want exact details on how this sesame oil massage was traditionally done, see Deepak Chopra’s book Perfect Health.

Detox mineral bath: Just add 1/2 cup each of baking soda and Epsom salts to your bath water and soak. I’ll sometimes add a few tablespoons of sesame oil if my skin feels dry. This mineral bath releases toxins from the skin and provides a relaxing environment.

Nasal lavage: Use nasal rinse at the first sign of allergy or sinus symptoms. You can buy a nasal wash spray bottle with the needed alkaline salt packet at most pharmacies, or you can make your own using ¼ tablespoon each of baking soda and non-iodized salt per 8 ounces of warm water (the mixture can be poured into your nasal passages with a neti pot or even a small teapot).

Purifying herbal teas, veggie juices, and supplemental antioxidants: Many herbs are wonderful for detoxifying the blood and bowel. I often enjoy red clover tea, a well-recognized blood purifier, and a daily juice made of fresh carrots and green vegetables to support the liver — my detox powerhouse. Additionally, I consume a good balance of the supplemental antioxidants provided in the Better Bones supplements. I also use a generously buffered ascorbate (a special alkalizing form of vitamin C) for antioxidant and detox support.

Most of what I’ve described above focuses on physical detoxification, but negative emotions can be toxic to bones and overall health, too! I have a routine to limit my exposure to toxic emotions that I’ll share with you in a future blog.

Remember, purification leads to progress, even if it is just one small step at a time!

 

What if modern medicine didn’t exist?

The other day I got to thinking: what would doctors do without their prescription pads? What did they used to do? With the news about pharmaceutical mislabeling, disturbing side effects, and drugs being produced contaminated laboratories,  I couldn’t help but wonder what we would do without these so-called magic bullets?

I’m not the first to notice that modern medicine has become a bit lazy. Instead of taking a good hard look at why someone may have developed high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, etc. we focus on what drug will make it go away — or at least make it go away on the tests and measurements we’ve created.

Many physicians and healthcare practitioners agree that diet, exercise, and stress reduction are the three big components to healing and health, but most conventional doctors aren’t taught how to implement these interventions in practice. Instead, they’re rewarded for using a drug or scheduling a procedure. It’s not the fault of our doctors or even our insurance companies. We’re all to blame.

Think about how things could change if we walked into our doctor’s offices asking for a natural approach to health? Maybe demanding it? I have no doubt the system would change and embrace healing rather than simply managing disease. Imagine it! We have centuries of healing practices rooted in the innate wisdom of nature and the human body to draw on. I think it’s important for us all to stop and take a moment to think about what we would do without modern health interventions.

From Chinese medicine and Ayurveda to Native American healing practices and plain old common sense, we have many more tools at our finger-tips than you may realize. Here are possible approaches to treating four common disorders in their early stages without modern medicine:
• High blood pressure (diet, exercise, stress reduction)
• Type 2 diabetes (diet, exercise, stress reduction, detox)
• High cholesterol (diet, exercise, stress reduction)
• Osteoporosis (diet, exercise, stress reduction, vitamin D and other key nutrients)

I’m sure you noticed some common themes in the suggested treatment for all four disorders. Many of my patients can agree with the fact that diet, exercise, and stress reduction are three major pillars to health and longevity, but they want specifics. In the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging on tools for a new modern medicine to offer ideas about how to use age-old healing methods and new natural health techniques in our modern lives. These blogs will attempt to answer the question we should all be asking: what if modern medicine didn’t exist?

 

My Better Bones approach put to the test

As some of you might know, I’m an anthropologist turned bone health nutritionist, and a recent nine-foot fall made me glad I made the career change!

So here’s the story…

susangrandmaMy move to bone health nutritionist was precipitated by three events:

(1) My beloved grandmother in the photo below fractured a hip at 101 (a sure sign of osteoporosis).

(2) I was told I had receding gums at age 36.

(3) I was told I had osteopenia (both of the latter being my own personal early warning signs of osteoporosis).

 

These events motivated me to comprehensively rethink the true nature of osteoporosis, and to develop the Better Bones, Better Body Program®. Confident in my approach, I followed my own Better Bones approach over the years, and I found out three weeks ago that it really paid off.

As I reached the roof of a house I was inspecting, my “foldable ladder” folded on me. In an instant, I fell nine feet to the ground, landing full force on my right shoulder and back.  Even now, three weeks later, I shudder when I think of the fall.

While I suffered a concussion, whip lash and needed several stitches where the unfaithful ladder hit me, I did not break a single bone. I was honestly amazed (and very pleased). Sure, I suspect my guardian angels helped me a bit, but I also credit my long-term Better Bones philosophy with the building and maintenance of strong bones. As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

You can bet I’ll never use that ladder again, and you can bet I’ll stay with my Better Bones approach! For more information on strengthening your bones, read my article on a natural approach to osteoporosis and bone health.