No Bones About It
I know that this column is designed to educate us about ingredients in the products we consume, wear or slather on our skin. But now and again, something moves me to speak about something more than ingredients.
This is one of those topics.
Each month, we work to create awareness of another illness that is plaguing our modern lives. We host runs, walks and any number of events to raise money for research to find the cure for disease after disease.
This month, we honor osteoporosis awareness, a modern plague of both men and women. I know this one. I lived through it with my husband who was diagnosed with the bones of an 86-year-old man at the age of 48.
What? It’s true. My husband was a strict adherent to a very austere vegan macrobiotic approach to eating and he was also a seriously committed distance runner (still is…so you know there’s a happy ending coming here).
He ate very little protein and even less added oils. He was happiest when there was a big, steaming bowl of brown rice in front of him. He ate tons of veggies and miso soup. He weighed about 119 pounds, standing 5’ 9”…very thin. We would literally argue over how much protein and oil we ate. I didn’t worry too much because he had tons of energy.
Until the day he didn’t.
He ran the NYC marathon and had the worst race of his life. He developed severe back pain and couldn’t sleep. He said he felt “hollow.” We traveled to Barbados, where he broke his foot hiking. Six months later, still in a cast, we finally convinced his doctors to test his bones. His diagnosis shook us both to our cores.
Long story short, my husband is a deliciously stubborn man and once the doctor told him he could have a new skeleton in 3-4 years, he decided to take a natural approach. We met with our family doctor, Bernardo Merizalde, MD who worked closely with us and advised us on supplements and how to re-think food.
We added a lot more protein and good quality fats to our daily diets. We cut back on the volume of whole grain he consumed and added richness with nuts and seeds. We ate more desserts that I prepared so I knew that they were good quality with no refined sugars added.
It was a tough road for a few months, with him suffering multiple stress fractures in various places from his knees to his ribs to his spine.
Then we turned a corner. He gained 24 pounds and was out of pain after 6 months. He was osteoporosis-free in 3 years. Yup, he had that brand new skeleton he promised he would create.
This month as we continue to battle this awful condition that steals the health of millions, you’ll read articles and research all about bone health. Most of them are valid and valuable to us. There’s a lot of expert advice out there; I don’t claim to be one, except through my experience with Robert.
But I will say this.
Take your time; do your research. Finding your way back to a healthy skeleton can be done naturally with food as your medicine. You have to be patient and carefully balance your food; you must exercise; you must commit. You are not doomed to a life of fragility. Just ask Robert. Three years after his diagnosis he stood once again at the starting line of the New York City marathon and ran it with his usual grace and stamina with strong, healthy bones.
This was one of favorite calcium-rich recipes that brought him back to health.