The Better Bones Blog

by Dr. Susan Brown, PhD.

judy better bones customer

Hidden celiac disease and osteoporosis: Learning from Judy

Judy had never even heard of celiac disease when she was told she had extremely severe osteoporosis in 2009. She was 57, underweight and suffered from excessive and life-limiting fatigue, but had no digestive symptoms to suggest a hidden problem was lurking to cause her bone loss.

Frightened by the diagnosis, Judy tried two bone drugs for a few months, but felt much worse on one and quickly stopped the other due to tiresome daily injections and scary side effect warnings. Judy decided that bone drugs weren’t for her; she began researching natural approaches, and that’s how she found the Better Bones program. She started my Better Bones Builder supplement, developed an alkaline diet and began walking.

Despite her good efforts, Judy’s fatigue persisted. Finally, during her annual physical in 2011, Judy discovered she had celiac disease — an autoimmune disorder in which exposure to gluten (a protein in wheat, rye and other grains) leads the immune system to damage the intestinal tract, causing malabsorption. Although she had no digestive problems or other symptoms, her blood work showed her to be extremely iron deficient. She wasn’t losing iron through an intestinal bleed, so a thoughtful physician decided to test her for celiac, which often leads to malabsorption of iron and other nutrients. The blood test for celiac was positive, as was a follow-up intestinal biopsy.

All excessive bone loss has a reason

Shortly after her physical, she began her gluten-free diet in combination with iron infusions for her anemia and the life-supporting nutrients in the Better Bones Builder. Within weeks, she began to feel and look better, regaining both energy and weight. Even more important: Over the next 8 years, Judy’s bone mass increased by a remarkable 20% — and this was between the ages of 57 and 65, when most women expect to lose bone.

In short, the key factor to restoring her bones was uncovering that she had celiac disease. Using that information as incentive, she initiated a gluten-free yet alkalizing diet and incorporated our targeted nutrient supplementation and lifestyle suggestions to gain back her health, vitality, and bone. She’s an inspiration and a reminder of something I tell all my clients:  all excessive bone loss has a reason, and at any point in life we can start regaining bone strength!

For more information see my DVD, Uncovering the Hidden Causes of Bone Loss.

A message from Judy

“I would like to thank Dr. Brown for all the research she has done on osteoporosis. Because I found her website my life has changed.

“I began using the Better Bones Builder in 2009 after I was diagnosed with severe osteoporosis. Along with taking the Better Bones Builder I tried to eat better, alkalize and walk at least 3 times a week and doing this I have had significant improvement in my bones.

“Every time I have had a DEXA scan since my first one in 2009 I have experienced improvement in bone density. My gains in bone density and in overall well being were especially dramatic after detection of and treatment for hidden celiac disease in the fall of 2011. In particular, between 2014 and 2016 there was a 13.7% improvement in my hip and a 6.4% gain in my spine.

“I think this is very impressive and I will continue to take the Better Bones Builder and do the other parts of the Better Bones program. Thanks to Dr. Brown, I feel that I am not forced to take bone drugs that harm the body.”

woman resting chin on fist thinking

Answers to your top 5 questions about calcium supplements

Calcium is the nutrient people think about when it comes to bone strength. Every day I’m asked, “How much calcium should I take, and when? What’s the best form? Can I take too much?”

Perhaps you have one of these questions yourself, so here’s a brief “Calcium 101”:

#1. How much calcium should I take?

The current recommended calcium intake for adult women is 1200 mg a day between diet and supplements.You may need more calcium if you don’t absorb it as well as most people. Nocturnal leg cramps, for instance, may indicate a higher need for calcium.

#2. When should I take my calcium supplement?

It’s best to take calcium supplements with food so they absorb better — ideally, spread them out over two meals for best absorption. Blood calcium can dip at night, so it helps to take some of your supplemental calcium with dinner.

#3. What is the best form of calcium?

I suggest a mix of different calcium salts, including calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, calcium ascorbate, calcium glycinate and calcium malate. All of these forms of calcium are well absorbed and highly alkalizing, which is a top priority here at the Center For Better Bones.

#4. Why is the calcium in Better Bones Basics and Better Bones Builder so good for bone?

In my products, I use a mix of alkalizing calcium forms, including calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, calcium ascorbate. These forms are concentrated – so that you can get the optimal dose with the fewest pills possible. Calcium carbonate is the same form of calcium as found in marine algae calcium pills and it is highly absorbable if taken with food

But what makes the calcium even more highly effective in Better Bones Basics and Better Bones Builder is that it paired with other nutrients it needs to do its job — magnesium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D. For example, calcium absorption depends on vitamin D. A person with inadequate vitamin D absorbs 65% less calcium than someone who has adequate vitamin D (or 32ng/ml).

#5. Can you take too much calcium?

Yes. Although we need calcium in relatively large quantities, you can take too much. For those looking to maximize bone health generally, supplement with calcium in the range of 600 and 700 mg/day. I don’t recommend using over 1000 mg supplemental calcium, as doctors tended to prescribe in the past.



NIH. Office of Dietary Supplements. Calcium, Nov. 17, 2016.

Heaney, RP et al. Absorption of calcium as the carbonate and citrate salts, with some observations on method. Osteoporosis International, 1999;9(1):19-23.

Your FRAX fracture prediction: Take it with a grain of salt

If you’ve had a DEXA scan, you may have noticed a statement on the report that reads something like this: “This test suggests that you have a __% risk of fracturing a hip within the next 10 years.”  Depending on what that magic number is, you may be very concerned about your potential fracture risk, or you may be thinking, “Great! Nothing to worry about there!”  Either way, you may want to take the number with a grain of salt. Here’s why:

Concerns about the FRAX and calculations

  1. There are some pretty serious concerns about how the FRAX makes its calculation — serious enough that the World Health Organization (WHO) has disavowed the tool and its recommendations (Ford et al., 2016).
  2. No one, apart from the people who developed it, knows how the FRAX calculation works (not even WHO).
  3. Even though nutritional deficits like vitamin D deficiency are known to play a major role in bone health and fracture risk, the tool doesn’t include them anywhere — a really key omission. Instead, they use a list of 10 rather general risk factors that barely scratch the surface.
  4. If your 10-year risk of hip fracture is ≥3% or of any other major osteoporotic fractures is ≥20%, you will be recommended bone drugs. Ditto if you have bone density T score of –2.5 or more. Yet according to these standards, most women would be told to take bone drugs as they age (Donaldson et al., 2009) — and many experts agree that medicating the majority of women isn’t needed or beneficial.

FRAX calculation tool for Caucasian women in U.S.


So what does my result mean?

Here’s where the grain of salt comes in. On the one hand, you shouldn’t be alarmed by a prediction that shows you to be at relatively greater risk of fracture — and I say this in full understanding that one-third of all women in the U.S. likely will experience a meaningful osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime.  The older we get and the more health problems we have, the greater the risk of fracture, but an individual’s risk for such fractures can be greatly reduced with appropriate nutrition and lifestyle modifications.

On the other hand, you should consider it a wake-up call encouraging you make an assessment — a comprehensive one! — of what factors you have that you might address to reduce your risk of fracture. I have dedicated my life’s work to helping people make such assessments, and this website offers plenty of information for strengthening bone at any stage of your life.

Take heart and take action. Consider making it an adventure to reduce your fracture risk factors and rebuild skeletal and overall health.  For a more comprehensive fracture risk assessment take my Bone Health Profile.



Ford N., Norris S.L., Hill S.R. Clarifying WHO’s position on the FRAX® tool for fracture prediction. Bull World Health Organ 2016;94:862 | doi:

Donaldson M.G. et al. Estimates of the proportion of older white women who would be recommended for pharmacologic treatment by the new U.S. National Osteoporosis Foundation Guidelines. J Bone Miner Res. 2009 Apr; 24(4): 675–680. Published online 2008 Dec 1. doi:  10.1359/JBMR.081203

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