A simple truth is that beyond middle age, our bones lose density. There’s no need to panic or to feel betrayed by this natural process. But whether you’re in your 20s, 60s or beyond, here’s a time tested way you can proactively maintain optimum bone health.

This useful model for regarding osteoporosis, or a thinning of the bones, comes from traditional Chinese medicine. According to this system, you can maintain strong bones by taking good care of your kidneys. In this paradigm, “kidneys” are a kind of shorthand that refer to the physical flesh and blood kidneys themselves as well as their larger domain that includes one’s overall energy or qi plus the adrenals, bladder, nervous system, teeth and bones. Even though kidney qi naturally declines with aging you can retard this process with a good diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

Western medicine also acknowledges the correlation between kidney disease and bone problems; however their recommended “kidney friendly diet” is limited to a generic: eat nutritionally balanced meals.

The venerable 2000-year-old Chinese system, on the other hand, provides more explicit details for maintaining healthy kidneys and bones. Here are those helpful guidelines:

Dietary Rx for Strong Bones
Kidney-strengthening foods include all beans, seaweed, root vegetables, meat, seeds, melons and soup stock made from bones. The edible bones in canned sardines or salmon are an easily absorbable calcium source. Dark-colored foods energetically support the kidneys and so, for example, when you choose wild rice, black beans or black currants over white rice, lima beans or red currents you subtly support your kidneys.

Diet-wise, we care for our kidneys and bones with a mineral rich, whole foods diet that includes adequate fat and protein but not an excess of carbohydrates. It’s important to consume moderate amounts of both salt and fluids and to favor room temperature or warm foods and beverages. (Cold, frozen or chilled foods and beverages stress the kidneys.) Minimize inflammatory foods as they create an acidic condition in the body that, overall, interferes with absorption and adds stress to the kidneys. Stimulants such as coffee and alcohol tax the kidneys, as do toxins, including chemicals in the food or environment.

Lifestyle Rx for Strong Bones Regular weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, strengthens the kidneys and bones. (Conversely, standing or sitting for long periods of time weakens the kidneys. Keeping your lower back, especially the area over your kidneys, warm and protected from the cold also helps.

Understanding how to conserve and strengthen your kidney energy with diet and lifestyle is a practical way of maintaining healthy kidneys and bones. May these guidelines support you in that process.

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