HFE Magazine

February 18, 2016

The Human Skeleton A Dynamic Lesson

Filed under: Family,Menopause — Tags: , , — Gail @ 1:44 pm

By Wendy Hillard D.C. in Health Magazine Vol 17

Wendy Hilliard holds a Doctorate of Chiropractic Medicine from New York Chiropractic College and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from East Stroudsburg University. Wendy has practiced as a chiropractic physician in both New Jersey and Virginia.

The design of the human body is fantastically miraculous. From the outside, the human body appears to accomplish everyday functions with minimal effort. In actuality, the human body is a complex and dynamic machine made up of related parts that act together to create a functional being—you!

There are so many interesting topics to discuss when it comes to the human body, although one of the most fascinating is the skeletal system, the collective arrangement of our bones as they exist in the body. The skeleton itself does more than supply the solid framework to support the body—in essence, holding us together. Most people think of the skeleton as little more than a coat rack to throw all your muscles and tissues on to. The truth is that the bones also provide protection for the vital organs. For example, the heart and lungs are sheltered by the rib cage, while the brain is shielded by the skull. The skeleton also provides stores of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus that are vital for several everyday biochemical reactions in the body. Likewise, it’s the site of red blood cell formation, which is the basis of human life.

What makes up the skeletal system is just as fascinating: skeletal bones and the joints they form when they come together with one another, making for a harmonious skeletal symphony. What’s more is that, at the point at which two bones meet, there is a fibrous joint capsule that surrounds the ends of the two bones which acts in a variety of roles to provide cushion, shock absorption, lubrication and protection—allowing for maximized movement. That’s a good thing, too, because joints thrive on movement and become stagnant without it. As the old saying goes—use it or lose it! For example, when a joint is stagnant, ligaments become shorter, lubrication of the joint capsule decreases and range of motion becomes compromised. Another amazing feat and benefit of joint movement is that it causes the joint capsule itself to produce lubricating fluid to nourish the ligaments and encourage range of motion, thereby feeding and facilitating movement.

Interestingly, bones themselves are commonly misunderstood as rock hard permanent pieces of our skeleton. Yet, in fact, bones are actually dynamic, constantly changing entities that play many roles in both the structure and the physiology of the body.

A mature bone cell is called an osteocyte which makes up the bulk of bone. There are two special types of bone cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts, which are responsible for the constant re-modeling process that keeps our bones fresh and strong. Osteoblasts build new bone in situations such as new growth, repairing a fracture or in response to increased demand placed on a bone, such as weight-bearing exercise. On the other hand, osteoclasts break down bone in situations such as the need for readily available calcium, remodeling a fracture or in response to decreased demands placed on a bone, such as a sedentary lifestyle. Basically, the balancing act of osteoblasts and osteoclasts maintain the skeletal system and result in our bones being dynamic and ever changing—a bone remodeling that results in the recycling of 5 to 7 percent of our bone mass every week and an entirely new skeleton every ten years.

Now, that’s dynamic!

Additionally, minerals make up the crystalline structure of our bones. For instance, calcium and its helpers act like a collaborative team, creating balance to support bone health. Calcium doesn’t work alone, however. It needs assistance in order to go to where it’s needed in the body. Case in point: vitamin K. It acts like an air traffic controller helping to direct calcium to the hard tissues such as bones and teeth, while blocking calcium from depositing itself into the soft tissues such as arterial walls and organs. Recent research bears this out. It indicates that taking a calcium supplement that includes vitamin K, as well as other bone team players such as vitamin D and magnesium, is imperative for effective calcium absorption and utilization.

A Body Needs to Move

Along with proper bone metabolism, movement is vital for bone and joint health. There’s a law in anatomical science known as Wolff’s Law, which refers to the principle that every change in the form and function of a bone leads to changes in its internal architecture. Simply put, it means that, in order for the bones to be strong and healthy, they must be subject to work demands such as activity and exercise. Incorporating consistent, moderate exercise such as walking, aerobics and strength training increases the demand on bones and makes them stronger. Similarly, flexibility exercises such as stretching and yoga promote lubrication of the joints as well as lengthening of the muscles to encourage full range of motion. Pretty amazing outcomes from moving, right?

Bone-Healthy Diet

Let’s not forget that a diet rich in bone-building nutrients is also important to support bone health. While dairy products can be a rich source of calcium, they can lack the proper ratio of bone constituents to assure the absorption and utilization of calcium. Dark green leafy vegetables are ideal sources of calcium, however, because they include the much-needed bone “team players” and trace minerals that make calcium readily available and usable to the body. For instance, seaweed is one of the richest sources of calcium, along with other dark green leafy vegetables, including kale and bok choy. When the diet is lacking in calcium—and many people’s diets are—or there is a need for additional calcium support, plant-based, whole-food calcium supplements are the ideal choice.

So, how’s it going with what holds you together? That’s a relevant question to ask, too, because bone and joint health is a significant concern in America today due to a societal shift from an active lifestyle to a sedentary one. Most people have no idea how their bones are doing. It’s not like you can see them in the mirror or measure them with a bathroom scale! The truth is that it’s more important now than ever before to make an effort to stay active, eat a nutrient- rich diet and supplement with whole-food, plant-based calcium when needed. Take care of your body—including your bones and joints—and it will take care of you.

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