Last Modified on Nov 12, 2014
What Is a Fracture?
The skeletal system makes up the overall structure of the body and is comprised of 206 bones. As these bones are subjected to constant pressure and use, the bones may become weak and even break. A fracture is a break in a bone of any size caused when the bone is expressed to more pressure than it can withstand. A fracture in which the bone punctures the skin is called an open or compound fracture while a stress fracture is a small, hairline crack in bone.
A fracture or broken bone can occur in any of the 206 bones in the body. However, several factors contribute to the breaking of a bone. Falling from a great distance, being involved in a car accident and being subjected to a direct blow are all possible causes of fractures. Likewise, child abuse or repetitive forces such as those involved with running causing stress on the foot, ankle, tibia or hip. Hip fractures are among the most common types of fractures; however, a break may occur in any bone.
Symptoms of fractures include a visibly out-of-place or deformed limb or joint, swelling, bruising, bleeding, intense pain and numbness or tingling. In severe cases, a broken bone may protrude the skin and cause limited mobility.
Natural Treatments for Bone Fractures
While broken bones do necessitate evaluation by a medical professional, many home treatments can be used to speed and aid healing of fractures. Many options are typically even effective as hip fracture treatment. One of the best ways to heal bones is creating a comfrey poultice or compress using several tablespoons of comfrey mixed into a paste with water. Applied topically to the wounded area and bound with a cotton cloth, this method shortens healing time and bonds bone together more effectively. Additionally, DMSO, garlic, MSM and turmeric are effective supplements for supporting bone healing.
Americans have been taught that they need lots of calcium ..... Adequate calcium absorption and levels of calcium in blood and tissues are of course essential for all children and adults for bones and teeth, and for women who are breast feeding or pregnant. In the U.S. 10 million men and women have osteoporosis... One out of two women and one in eight men breaks a bone due to osteoporosis... However, excess calcium intake may cause muscle spasms, the calcium may appear as unwanted deposits in organs and tissues, such as bone spurs or plaque in the wall of blood vessels or in kidneys, heart, and liver, and it may increase the risk of cancer and cause other symptoms, including migraine headaches, pain, kidney stones, depression, and heart arrhythmia. Americans consume milk and milk products as well as calcium supplements at one of the highest rates in the world. Yet we have one of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world.
Of course the goal is to have calcium in the right amounts in all tissues. But how much do we need? Despite all that has been written about calcium, it is not at all clear how much calcium humans need. This article will show that the conventional wisdom about calcium, which a number of prominent nutrition authorities reject, is faulty and incomplete, and that optimal health requires a substantial revision of our thinking about calcium.
The conventional wisdom about calcium is embodied in the government guidelines for vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.... Professors such as Willard Willett, chairman of the Harvard Nutrition Department, T. Colin Campbell, professor emeritus of nutrition at Cornell University, and Marion Nestle, chairman of nutrition at NYU, believe that the [currently recommended] RDAs are too high and are not supported by the evidence.... The calcium proponents have the upper hand right now, with many doctors pushing calcium, and with calcium being added to orange juice and numerous other foods to make it easy for everyone to meet the RDA. The calcium proponents cite many studies in their favor, some of them involving fewer fractures, so it becomes necessary to sort out the apparent conflicts between studies.
The RDA requires that in order to get enough calcium people must consume foods high in calcium, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, or take calcium supplements. Leafy green vegetables, broccoli, and other foods are also moderately high in calcium, but a person would have to consume such high quantities to meet the RDA that this approach is not at all practical.
Despite all the calcium hype, in this article I will present evidence that in general people who consume about half as much as the RDAs of 1,000 and 1,200 for adults actually have fewer bone fractures and better health than those who follow the RDA, and that high calcium consumption may actually interfere with calcium absorption, result in weaker bones, and cause calcium to be deposited where it is not wanted. I will then present a revolutionary theory that may explain these paradoxical results and why magnesium and/or silicon and a number of other nutrients are just as important for bone formation and preventing fractures as calcium. Finally, I will show that hormone production is very important for calcium balance and bone health, and present a natural approach to improve hormone levels without taking supplemental hormones or drugs. First, let's see what some large scale studies have found.
A recent 12-year study of 77,761 women nurses aged 35 to 59 (the Harvard Nurses Health Study) found that the quartile of American women with high milk intake actually had 45% more hip fractures and 5% more forearm fractures over 12 years from 1980 to 1992 than the quartile with the lowest intake.1 Approximately 98% of the women in the total cohort were white. The quartile with the lowest milk consumption and lowest fracture rate drank ?1glass of milk per week, while the quartile with the highest fracture rate drank ?two glasses per day. Those with the lowest total dietary calcium intake consumed ?450 mg calcium per day, and those with the highest dietary calcium intake consumed >900 mg calcium per day, and had 104% more hip fractures and 8% more forearm fractures than the women consuming ?450 mg dietary calcium per day during the 12 years of the study. (Those who consumed 451-625 mg dietary calcium per day had 102% more hip fractures, and those who consumed 626-900 mg dietary calcium per day had 85% more hip fractures than those who consumed ?450 mg dietary calcium per day. Women who took calcium supplements were excluded from this study. The subjects were all registered nurses and the reporting of milk and food consumption and fractures was deemed to be reliable.)
A 1994 study of 209 subjects and 207 controls in Sydney, Australia, found that the one-fifth portion (quintile) of men and women over age 65 with the highest milk product consumption, especially at age 20, had approximately double the risk of hip fracture compared to the quintile with the lowest consumption.2 In this study the quintile with the highest milk product consumption consumed about 11.5 units of milk products per week (glass of milk = 1 unit; serving of cheese or milk on cereal = 0.5 units), and the quintile with the lowest milk product consumption consumed one unit per week. The authors cite seven other case control studies of the relationship between calcium and dairy product consumption and the risk of hip fracture, and note that only two of those reported a protective effect of calcium or dairy, one of which was conducted in Hong Kong where the average calcium intake was only 171 mg per day. They also cite D. Mark Hegsted's article concluding that ecologic studies suggest that populations with high calcium intakes (mainly from dairy products) have the highest hip fracture rates.3 Hegsted, who was chairman of nutrition at Harvard, in the same article wrote:
"It seems quite clear that we do not understand the etiology of osteoporosis; the epidemiological data need an explanation, and something is wrong when current explanations are inconsistent with general experience.
"It is dangerous to ignore the epidemiological data. The first rule in formulating public health policy should be the assurance that the recommendations are not detrimental. It will be embarrassing enough if the current calcium hype is simply useless, it will be immeasurably worse if the recommendations are actually detrimental to health."3a
An ecological survey of women in 65 rural Chinese counties was conducted to obtain dietary and lifestyle factors associated with health. The study, published in 1991, found that the mean calcium intake in rural China was only 544 mg/day, about half the RDA in the U.S., while the mean bone fracture rate was only about one-fifth as great as in the United States.4 A related study of 764 women aged 35-75 years in five of these counties in China concluded that higher calcium intake was beneficial in increasing bone mass at skeletal maturity.5 The authors noted that all of the women in three of the five counties consumed no dairy products and therefore consumed amounts of calcium well below even the Chinese standard of 800 mg/day, and virtually all of them over 50 had bone mineral densities (BMD)
"However, the majority of women included in this study appeared to be normal, showing no signs of osteoporosis, such as back pain and dowager's hump, at the time of the survey on the basis of a physical examination. Moreover, ? <4% of these subjects had reported a history of Colle's [wrist] and other fractures suspected to be related to osteoporosis during their lifetime. This fracture rate is very much lower than those reported in studies in Western countries with subjects of the same age range and similar sample size.? Obviously, other factors besides bone mass, such as daily physical activity and chance of fall, may also be very important in understanding this discrepancy in bone fractures."6
The authors also note that the assumption that these Chinese women with low bone density have a high risk of fracture goes against the findings from other studies showing that "incidence rates of hip fracture were much higher in those countries where bone density was usually reported to be high, " and a study by Ross et al.7 that "reported a two-fold lower fracture rate for native Japanese and American-born Japanese than Caucasians, even though Japanese and other Asian people were often reported to have lower bone mass than whites."8 The authors also state:
"In fact, analyses of the prevalence of hip fractures between nations suggest a positive relationship between calcium intake and osteoporosis risk. Osteoporotic fractures appear to be more common in the United States, Britain, and Sweden where calcium intakes are higher than those in other countries."9
In one of the five counties of this study in China consumption of dairy was associated with increased bone mineral density and bone mineral content. Individuals in this subset were members of a nomadic group where vigorous outdoor physical activity (e.g. horseback riding) was more common. However, in this subset consumption of more calcium did not result in fewer fractures. In Part 2 of this article [to appear in the May/June issue of WBJ], I will discuss the importance of outdoor light in hormone production and the formation of strong bones, and the role of exercise, both of which may apply to this subset as well as to women in rural China in general. One of the principal authors of these studies of rural Chinese women, T. Colin Campbell, was raised on a dairy farm in Virginia. For many years he accepted the conventional wisdom that milk consumption produces strong bones, until long experience as a researcher, including 10 years in China, convinced him that the conventional wisdom was mistaken. Dr. Campbell believes that a largely vegetarian diet with relatively low protein consumption is a significant reason why societies that do not consume milk products have a history of many fewer bone fractures. The evidence regarding protein consumption, which I will discuss in Part 2, is complex. However, diets that exclude milk products also have substantially more magnesium, silicon, and potassium relative to calcium, which may be more important than low protein consumption in forming strong bones.
Thus, the American focus on bone density in studies of osteoporosis may be overemphasized because it misses the main point, which is not how to increase bone density, but how to make bones healthier and more resistant to fracture. Increased bone density brought about by high calcium intake may make bones weaker and more susceptible to fracture. This is not to say that bone density is of no importance, as there is a general decline of bone density in adult women after menopause and in men at a somewhat later age, which is associated with an increase in the incidence of bone fractures. However, it is obviously not the most important factor in bone strength. Until scans or other tests are developed that have the capability to measure the strength of bone, it makes sense to give greater weight to studies that measure fracture rates.
The evidence indicating that the current U.S. RDA may be too high appears to relate to other areas of health besides bones and teeth. For example, studies indicate that men with the highest calcium intake had an increased risk of prostate cancer. In one study, men who consumed >600 mg per day of milk products had 32% higher risk of prostate cancer than those consuming ?150 mg per day.10 The increased risk occurred whether the calcium came from food or from supplements alone, indicating that the risk was caused by the increased calcium rather than something else in milk products. The prospective Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that men who consumed >2000 mg of calcium daily had a 4.57 times greater risk of metastatic prostate cancer than those who consumed