The Structural System
Lesson 14, Page 10 of 16

True. Posture is often a reflection of our attitude, and our attitude can often be improved by improving our posture.

Back Pain

My experience as a doctor of chiropractic has taught me that most cases of spinal misalignment and chronic back pain are due to muscle imbalances. On the previous page we discovered that poor posture inevitably leads to muscle imbalances. But which came first? Does poor posture create muscle imbalances, or do muscle imbalances create poor posture? My experience has taught me that it is probably a little of both. But the important thing is - it doesn't matter which came first! To improve your posture and spinal alignment, and to get rid of back pain for good, the solution is to correct muscle imbalances through the correct use of specific exercises.

Here is the way Jesse Cannone, personal fitness trainer and former back pain sufferer, puts it: "What happens when you drive your car with unbalanced tires or your steering out of alignment? Your tires will wear down unevenly and quicker than normal... and eventually you'll have a blowout... the same is true for your body! It's critical for you to understand that your body alignment and mechanics are affected by your muscles and even the smallest muscle imbalance can place tremendous amounts of uneven pressure and wear and tear on your body, especially the back... What The Heck Is a Muscle Imbalance Anyway? When a muscle overpowers the opposing muscle, you have a muscle imbalance... Think Tug-of-War... When your muscles are out of balance they pull your bones and joints out of their normal position and this places your muscles, bones and joints under constant stress and uneven pressure... For example, the position and curvature of your spine is determined by numerous muscles and whether they are balanced or not... There are over 640 muscles in the human body! Nearly every muscle in the body affects your spine and if just one of these muscles are out of balance you're in trouble..."

Nutritional Support for the Structural System

Bones and Cartilage

In the previous section on osteoporosis, we discussed the causes of this potentially debilitating disease and some ways to increase our chances of avoiding it. We mentioned some lifestyle factors other than nutrition, such as exercise and smoking, and I refer you back to that section for those. In this section we will cover nutrition.


We saw earlier that the bones are made up of minerals, primarily calcium, on a collagen (a protein) matrix. One of the most important things we can do to support the skeletal system is to get enough good-quality calcium in the diet. Calcium is not only contained in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, it is also found in nuts, grains, beans, dark green vegetables, and canned salmon and sardines (if you eat the bones as well).

According to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (August 1997) the adequate calcium intake values for different ages irrespective of pregnancy or lactation in women are:

Age Group                    Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) 
0 - 6 months                    210 milligrams/day 
6 - 12 months                   270 milligrams/day 
1 - 3 years                     500 milligrams/day 
4 - 8 years                     800 milligrams/day 
9 - 18 years                  1,300 milligrams/day 
Adults 19 - 50 years          1,000 milligrams/day 
Adults 51+ years              1,200 milligrams/day 
These figures are represented on the graph below by the gray line. The actual amount of calcium that Americans consume is represented in the graph by the red line (males) and the blue line (females.) You can see that Americans fall far short when it comes to getting the recommended amount of calcium.

Mean Calcium Intake

Do we really need that much calcium?

The above recommendations are based on the typical American diet and lifestyle, which is far too high in sugar, corn sweetners, colas and caffeinated beverages; and far too low in healthy whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. As we saw earlier, such a lifestyle creates a tendency for the blood pH to shift slightly toward acidic, resulting in calcium being pulled from the bones to buffer the acid in the blood, leading to excess loss of calcium through the urine. So as long as you consume the Standard American Diet (SAD), YES, you will probably need that much calcium. And you are still likely to remain at risk for osteoporosis. However, individuals who avoid junk foods -- particularly those containing sugar, corn sweetners, bakery goods, and sodas -- can probably get by with far less calcium. In the United Kingdom, for example, the recommended daily calcium intake for children ranges from 350 to 1,000 milligrams depending on age, and the recommended amount for adults is 700 milligrams. The World Health Organization recommends a daily intake of 500 milligrams for children and 800 milligrams for adults. These latter figures may be more appropriate for Americans who choose a healthier lifestyle.

Are Tums and similar antacids good courses of calcium?

The source of calcium in Tums and similar antacids is limestone (calcium carbonate). Limestone is the cheapest form of calcium available. It is very effective at neutralizing stomach acid but it is an inferior source of calcium since it is not absorbed as well as most other forms. Furthermore, because of the danger of a rebound effect from taking too many antacids, which can make a stomach problem worse, antacids should never be taken on a continual basis. Tums is therefore not a good source of calcium. Tums also does not contain Vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption and enhances the bone building process. It also does not contain magnesium, phosphorus and boron, which are necessary for healthy bone.

SmithKline Beecham, the manufacturer of Tums, argues that "healthy" individuals get enough vitamin D to make their calcium effective. One problem with this is that the individuals who are at greatest risk for calcium deficiency, and the individuals who need calcium supplementation the most, are also the individuals who are at greatest risk for vitamin D deficiency. Furthermore, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (63:354-357, 1996), additional vitamin D increases the short term absorption of calcium even in healthy individuals with no apparent vitamin D deficiency. Therefore, all good calcium supplements should not only contain quality sources of calcium, but also vitamin D and the minerals magnesium, phosphorus and boron.

Recent medical evidence suggests that taking large amounts of calcium, without vitamin D, will actually deplete the body's stores of vitamin D, causing a weakening of bone structure. Furthermore, this vitamin D deficiency can result in increased risks for certain kinds of cancers, particularly prostate cancer in men. It is therefore not only inadvisable to rely on antacids for your calcium needs—it can be downright dangerous!

Another prerequisite for calcium absorption is HCl (hydrochloric acid), which is secreted by the stomach to aid the digestion of protein. Since antacids neutralize stomach acid, they are obviously not the best choice for a calcium supplement. The antacid manufacturers point to studies that indicate that "healthy" individuals produce enough stomach acid to absorb calcium carbonate, even in the presence of antacids. The problem with this is, as is the case with vitamin D, the individuals who are at greatest risk for calcium deficiency, and the individuals who need calcium supplementation the most, are also the individuals who are at greatest risk for insufficient stomach acid! Starting at about the age of 30, stomach secretion of HCl gradually decreases. Many of the elderly are deficient in HCl production and malabsoption of nutrients, particularly calcium, is a common finding in this age group.

The Great Antacid Scam: Why do antacid manufacturers promote their products as calcium supplements? Obviously to increase sales! They have a product that should only be taken occasionally—only when needed. And just like the aspirin manufacturers, they have figured out a way to increase their sales by dupping the public into believing that they should be popping their tablets on a daily basis like a vitamin pill.

"But my doctor recommended that I take an antacid as a calcium supplement."

Doctors are also victims of the scam. You would be amazed at the advertisements for antacids that appear in the medical publications that doctors read. (The same goes for aspirin—hence, "the great aspirin scam.") The drug manufacturers figured out a long time ago that if they would target doctors with their advertising, then the doctors would pass the information on to their patients. And their patients will swallow the misinformation because it comes from a credible source—their trusted doctor. The fact is, most doctors know less about nutrition than their patients.

Are dairy products a good source of calcium?

Dairy products certainly do contain calcium. A cup of cow's milk contains about 300 milligrams. However, cow's milk was designed for calves—not humans. I do not recommend dairy products for human consumption. If they are used, they should only be used sparingly—no more then 1/2 to 1 serving per day. There are many reasons why I say that. Below I will mention just a few:

Casein, the main protein in milk, has been linked to several forms of cancer, including liver cancer. Epidemiological research suggest a correlation between milk consumption and at least two kinds of cancers common in countries that consume a lot of dairy—breast and prostate.

In the famous "Physicians' Health Study," in which researchers tracked 20,885 doctors over a 10 year period, it was discovered that those doctors who consumed at least 2 1/2 servings of dairy products per day were 30 times more likely to develop prostate cancer than doctors who consumed half a serving. Another study done in 1999, the "Health Professionals Follow-Up Study," involving nearly 50,000 individuals, found that men who consumed a lot of dairy products had a 70 percent higher risk of prostate cancer.

Another large study, the 12-year "Harvard Nurses' Health Study" involving some 78,000 nurses, reported results just as shocking. This study found that the nurses who drank two or more glasses of milk a day broke more bones than the nurses who did not. The milk drinkers also had a slightly higher risk of arm fractures and a significanly higher risk of hip fractures.

New Dietary Guidelines Include Soy:
  The 5th edition of the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans", released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), includes soybean-based foods as a means to meet the dietary recommendations of the Food Guide Pyramid. The guidelines provide recommendations based on current scientific knowledge about how diet may improve health and reduce risks for major chronic diseases. The new Guidelines recognize one cup of a calcium-rich soy-based beverage as equal to one serving from the dairy group, and 1/2 cup of tofu or a 2 1/2 ounce soyburger as equal to a serving in the meat and beans group. Warning: I must point out here that soy contains phytoestrogens—or plant-based estrogen-like chemicals—which mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Therefore, males should strictly limit their consumption of soy products, and pregnant women should avoid soy products when carrying a male child!

Why is milk so touted as a calcium supplement? Because of the lobbying done by the dairy industry, and the politicians who are foolish enough to listen to them. Ironically, epidemiological studies show that the countries that consume the highest amounts of dairy products (the United States and Northern European nations) have the greatest incidence of fractures due to osteoporosis, while the countries that consume the lowest amounts (Asians and Africans) have the lowest incidence.

What are good supplemental sources for calcium?

Since people vary in their ability to absorb the different forms of calcium, the best calcium supplements include not just one, but several good forms of calcium. Calcium citrate has been proven to be a superior source. Other good sources include amino acid chelate. (When a mineral is chelated with an amino acid it is highly absorbable. The minerals in our plant foods are chelated.) Another good source is calcium phosphate (or di-calcium phosphate.) The calcium in our bones is in the form of calcium phosphate. Di-calcium phosphate contains not only calcium but the important mineral phosphorus as well, and it is in a form that is easily used by the body. All calcium supplements should also include vitamin D and the other minerals important for building stong bones, like magnesium and boron. The calcium supplement that meets and exceeds these standards is Skeletal Strength. Another good calcium supplement is Coral Calcium. Coral Calcium is also the most alkalizing form of calcium, which is great for helping to neutralize the acid buildup in the body tissues that results from consumption of proteins. (See lesson on the subject of Acid-Alkaline Balance.)

Which of the following forms of calcium is the least bioavailable (the least absorbable and usable by the body.)

Calcium citrate
Calcium amino acid chelate
Di-calcium phosphate
Calcium carbonate

(Select the best answer and click on the "Continue" button.)