Functions of the Structural System
1. Gives our bodies form and mobility
2. Houses all other body systems
3. Protects inside from the outside environment
Building A Stronger Structural System
Like a building, the human body relies on its internal structural system for strength. Bones, muscles and connective tissues give our bodies form and mobility. They make it possible for us to know the job of hard work well done and the excitement of childlike play.
Unfortunately, for many people these pleasures are restricted, sometimes severely so. Fragile or soft bones, an increasingly common health problem in our society, make normal pleasures and pursuits almost impossible.
Throughout our lives our bones are in a constant state of flux. Like many other tissues, they are continually rebuilt or remodeled by the body as new tissue is formed to replace old. Made up of calcium, phosphorous and magnesium (with the emphasis on calcium), bones act in some respects like banks.
Calcium is essential for all life processes, including heartbeats, hormonal systems, muscle contractions and brain function. In order to function properly, the body must maintain a high level of calcium in the fluids that surround cells. The body cannot manufacture calcium.
When the body’s level of calcium is low, the parathyroid glands secrete a hormone that ensures adequate calcium supplies in the fluids by making withdrawals from the bones.
If a person’s structural bank account is adequate, these withdrawals don’t represent a threat. But if the account is low, look out for eventual trouble. Over time, even small, steady withdrawals can leave bones weakened to a point where, in extreme cases, they are hardly able to sustain their own weight.
The ideal time to build up a calcium-rich bone bank balance is during the years between childhood and young adulthood. This is the time when calcium-rich foods can best help young bones grow in strength and density.
With age the body gradually loses its ability to replenish its supplies of calcium. When that happens and the body is no longer able to build up its account, it settles into a doomed struggle to maintain the status quo, As we age, we inevitably lose some of our bone mass. The trick is to develop sufficient stores while we can, then safeguard them in later years, supplementing where possible and avoiding obvious drains.
Women, especially as they grow older, are far more prone to suffer from the increasing fragility of their structural systems, but no one is immune.
Diet and lifestyle play a major role in determining who is at risk. Some foods, habits and even medications can be immensely harmful to the bones and connective tissues.
For example, alcohol may cause loss of bone mass. Animal studies indicate that high doses of alcohol inhibit calcium absorption and may even be toxic to bone cells. Likewise, smoking is bad because it depletes the vitamin C needed for proper production of collagen, a cementing substance that holds body cells together. A few prescription drugs-such as cortisone, some anti convulsants and thyroid medications-present a possible risk. Even caffeine, in large enough amounts, can cause a significant loss of calcium, as can aspirin and mineral oil-including the mineral oil found in some cosmetics, which can penetrate the skin and end up in the bloodstream.
Oddly enough, in some cases even the components of a basically nutritious diet hinder calcium absorption. Phytic acid-found in whole grain cereals, peanuts and soybeans binds with calcium, rendering the mineral largely useless. Much the same thing happens with foods that are high in oxalic acid-spinach, parsley and beet greens. However, since these foods contain many other healthful nutrients, it would be unwise to eliminate them from your diet. Just don’t rely on them as your sole source of calcium.
Probably the most insidious cause of calcium depletion is an obsession with fast foods. Too much protein (or too little), and too much fat, salt and sugars actually rob the body of calcium.
In addition, soft drinks contain large amounts of phosphorus, which can upset the calcium/phosphorus balance and end up both depleting calcium reserves and reducing the body’s ability to use additional supplements. Under ideal circumstances, phosphorus works with calcium to promote a strong structural system. Excessive amounts can wreak havoc. For a more complete list of which foods deplete calcium see this page.
Inactivity and stress negatively impact calcium stores. People who are bed- or wheelchair-bound lose part of their bone structure, even when their immobility is temporary, Patients have been known to lose as much as 1% of their inner bone per week. Fortunately, as soon as normal activities resume, bones begin to restore themselves.
Exercise-specifically weight-bearing exercise such as walking, tennis, cross-country skiing and dancing-can help increase peak bone mass at maturity and reduce the rate of bone loss in later years.
Regular exercise can also help ease stress and related mental disturbances. Regular exercise is a solid investment in good health.
Like all nutrients, calcium plays a complex role in our health and is interconnected with other vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Some have a tremendous impact on how well we’re able to use the calcium we introduce into our systems.
For example, vitamin D aids in calcium utilization. In fact, without vitamin D our bodies would be unable to absorb calcium. The best source of vitamin D is sunshine, but people who work or stay indoors all day or wear clothing that keeps them from the sun may not get enough exposure, nor may individuals who live in smoggy cities, since smog absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Enter vitamin D-enriched milk … along with a few false hopes. In the beginning, adding vitamin D to calcium-rich milk seemed like a perfect solution to a frustrating dilemma. But, as sometimes happens, reality didn’t measure up to the dream.
Synthetic vitamin D, the kind added to most milk, doesn’t work as effectively with calcium as the natural kind. Moreover, it robs the body of magnesium.
Better food sources of the sunshine vitamin are fish liver oils, sardines, salmon, tuna, herring and egg yolks. Note: For many individuals, especially the elderly, supplementation may be a wise decision. However, use a certain amount of caution since mega amounts of vitamin D can prove toxic or even fatal.
Magnesium is an extremely important mineral that works like a partner with calcium, helping the body to absorb vitamin D and changing calcium into a soluble state. It is also essential to the metabolism of other elements that help make calcium utilization as efficient as possible. Again, taking a supplement may be wise for many individuals since the chemicalized forming methods of the late 20th century have rendered our crops largely magnesium-poor.
Calcium Plus includes vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, and alfalfa which is a popular herb used for structural problems.
Although it is often ignored in nutritional texts, silicon is another element that plays a big role in the overall health of the structural system. Silicon is to calcium phosphate (the largest chemical component of bones, teeth and structural tissues) what carbon is to iron. High-tensile carbon-steel can be lighter in weight, smaller in section and more efficient in sudden or unusually heavy loading than its equivalent weight and size in ordinary iron.
Silicon is found in large amounts in the most durable structures of the body-the bones, joints, fingernails, hair, skin and connective tissues. It works along with calcium to make these things tough and flexible. But silicon is an increasingly unavailable nutrient in today’s world.
With the increased popularity of processed foods, during the past century or so many of the best sources of silicon have been nearly eliminated from our diets. To increase our silicon intake, we should consume the fibrous parts of fruits, vegetables and grains. There are also some excellent herbal sources, such as horsetail, oatstraw and dulse. Horsetail and Oatstraw are included in the herbal calcium formula called Herbal CA.
Finally, for calcium to be utilized properly, zinc, iron, selenium, sulfur, flourine, vitamins A, C, E and the B-complex family must all be present in the right proportions.
However, beyond these there is an element of such vital importance it cannot be overlooked. Before any nutrient can be assimilated, it must be broken down in the digestive system. If the digestive system is not functioning as it should, other body systems suffer. The structural formula, Skeletal Strength, includes digestive aids to insure assimilation. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains helps calcium absorption also.
Strong bones, sound gums and teeth-all these and more are part of a system that, like all others, needs continual nourishment. Without it we are sure to develop weaknesses. Some, like unhealthy gums, may even serve as harbingers of more serious problems.
Our bodies were designed to serve our needs, but we must also serve the needs of our bodies. We can best do this through a regimen of thoughtful, healthful living, wholesome food, regular exercise, a positive attitude and, where indicated, proper supplementation.
Our Most Popular Natural Solutions for Structural Problems
Ayurvedic Joint Health – an Ayurvedic herbal formula for arthritis and joint problems
Glucosamine with Cat’s Claw – helps to stimulate rebuilding and maintenance of the cartilage
MSM/Glucosamine Cream combines MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) with the cartilage-strengthening properties of Glucosamine to offer a nutritional cream for weary joints
Magnesium – a key mineral for structural health, energy, colon health, and nerves
Joint Support – used to ease the symptoms of arthritis and joint problems
Target Endurance – formula to increase endurance, used by athletes for that extra edge
Tei Fu Oil or Massage Lotion – headaches, muscle and joint pain, opens sinus, coughs, motion sickness, stiff neck
Skeletal Strength (previously named SKL Formula) – mineral and herb formula for the structural system; strengthens bones and helps with joint problems
CA, Herbal – herbal form of calcium, used for rebuilding nerve sheaths, bones, and teeth; strengthens nails and hair to prevent splitting and breaking; ingredients are Alfalfa, Horsetail, Oatstraw, Plantain, Marshmallow, Wheat Grass, and Hops
Calcium Plus Vitamin D – nerves, cramps, grinding teeth, poor sleep, growing pains, charlie horses