520: Kevin Ellis on Osteoporosis and Building Stronger Bones

520: Kevin Ellis on Osteoporosis and Building Stronger Bones

Wellness Mama®
Simple Answers for Healthier Families
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Download file | Play in new window | Duration: 00:57:26 | Recorded on February 7, 2022 | Speakers: Katie Wells, Kevin Ellis | Download transcript
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Today, I’m here with Kevin Ellis, who’s known as the Bone Coach. He’s a certified integrative nutrition coach, podcaster, YouTuber, and bone health advocate. His story began with a diagnosis of osteoporosis in his early 30s. He’s not only transformed his own health but he’s dedicated his life to helping others with the same problem.
We talk in-depth about different facets of his work, such as the difference between osteopenia and osteoporosis, how to know if you’re at risk, and the top ways to help our kids reach peak bone mass around age 30. Our conversation also covers how things like fluoride and environmental chemicals can affect bone health and the actual nutrients you need for your bones (hint: it goes far beyond just calcium and vitamin D).
Even if you don’t think this is an issue for you now, there’s a lot of great preventative advice in this episode.
Did you enjoy this episode? Please drop a comment below or leave a review on iTunes to let us know. We value knowing what you think and this helps other moms find the podcast as well.
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This podcast is sponsored by Good Culture, a company making naturally fermented dairy products, including my favorite cottage cheese. This is a food I loved as a kid and stopped eating when I realized what was hiding in most brands. But my love was reignited when I found Good Culture! It has 19 grams of protein in every single serve cup and is low-carb, keto, gluten-free and gut friendly. They even have lactose free varieties. Good Culture’s cottage cheeses are the ultimate protein-packed addition to your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can mix it in with your bowl of oats, spread it on some toast, or enjoy it on its own for a light snack. And if you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, try Good Culture’s low-sugar fruit-on-the-bottom cottage cheese. Each cup has fresh fruit in every bite with only 3-grams of sugar and boasts 15-grams of clean protein. Good Culture is a certified B corporation and donates 1% of all profits to support regenerative agriculture. So ditch your yogurt and head to goodculture.com/wellnessmama to save on your next purchase with a coupon — exclusive just to our listeners! You can also find their products at your local Whole Foods, Sprouts, Target, Publix, Kroger, and other fine retailers. And here’s a hot tip—check out their cultured sour cream varieties while you’re there.
This podcast is sponsored by Hiya Health Children’s Vitamins…. Most children’s vitamins are basically candy in disguise — often filled with two teaspoons of sugar, unhealthy chemicals, and other gummy junk growing kids should never eat, with synthetic forms of vitamins. But Hiya is different and is made with zero sugar and zero gummy junk, yet it tastes great and is perfect for picky eaters. Hiya fills in the most common gaps in modern children’s diets to provide the full-body nourishment our kids need with a yummy taste they love. Manufactured in the USA with globally sourced ingredients each selected for optimal bioavailability and absorption. Hiya arrives straight to your door on a pediatrician-recommended schedule. Your first month comes with a reusable glass bottle that your kids can personalize with stickers, then every month thereafter Hiya sends a no-plastic refill pouch of fresh vitamins — which means Hiya isn’t just good for your kids, it’s also good for the environment. Go to hiyahealth.com/wellnessmama and use this link or use code wellnessmama for 50% off – discount applied at checkout.
Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.
 
This podcast is sponsored by Good Culture, a company making naturally fermented dairy products, including my favorite cottage cheese.  This is a food I loved as a kid and stopped eating when I realized what was hiding in most brands. But my love was reignited when I found Good Culture! It has 19 grams of protein in every single serve cup and is low-carb, keto, gluten-free and gut friendly. They even have lactose free varieties. Good Culture’s cottage cheeses are the ultimate protein-packed addition to your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can mix it in with your bowl of oats, spread it on some toast, or enjoy it on its own for a light snack. And if you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, try Good Culture’s low-sugar fruit-on-the-bottom cottage cheese. Each cup has fresh fruit in every bite with only 3-grams of sugar and boasts 15-grams of clean protein. Good Culture is a certified B corporation and donates 1% of all profits to support regenerative agriculture.  So ditch your yogurt and head to goodculture.com/wellnessmama to save on your next purchase with a coupon — exclusive just to our listeners! You can also find their products at your local Whole Foods, Sprouts, Target, Publix, Kroger, and other fine retailers. And here’s a hot tip—check out their cultured sour cream varieties while you’re there.
 
This podcast is sponsored by Hiya Health Children’s Vitamins. Did you know that most children’s vitamins are basically candy in disguise — often filled with two teaspoons of sugar, unhealthy chemicals, and other gummy junk growing kids should never eat, with synthetic forms of vitamins. But Hiya is different and is made with zero sugar and zero gummy junk, yet it tastes great and is perfect for picky eaters. Hiya fills in the most common gaps in modern children’s diets to provide the full-body nourishment our kids need with a yummy taste they love. Manufactured in the USA with globally sourced ingredients each selected for optimal bioavailability and absorption. Hiya arrives straight to your door on a pediatrician-recommended schedule. Your first month comes with a reusable glass bottle that your kids can personalize with stickers, then every month thereafter Hiya sends a no-plastic refill pouch of fresh vitamins — which means Hiya isn’t just good for your kids, it’s also good for the environment. Go to hiyahealth.com/wellnessmama and use this link or use code wellnessmama for 50% off – discount applied at checkout.
 
Katie: Hello, and welcome to “The Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and wellnesse.com. That’s wellness with an E on the end. And this episode is all about bone health. I’m here with Kevin Ellis who’s known as the Bone Coach. And he’s a certified integrative nutrition coach, a podcaster, YouTuber, bone health advocate, and the founder of bonecoach.com.
 
And his story began with an osteoporosis diagnosed in his early 30s. And this began a journey for him of both his own healing and helping a lot of other people as well. And today, he’s not only transformed his own health, but he’s dedicated his life to helping others with the same problem. And through his unique three-step process and coaching programs, his team of experts has helped people in 1,500 cities around the world. And we talk a lot in depth about the different facets of this. Things like the difference between osteopenia and osteoporosis, the baseline testing and scans that are good to get before they’re actually recommended, and how to know if you’re at risk. The top things we can do for our kids to help them actually reach their peak bone mass around age 30.
 
More reasons to avoid excess sugar consumption, the way things like fluoride and environmental chemicals can affect bone health, the actual nutrients that you need for your bones. They go far beyond just calcium and vitamin D. The universally beneficial and harmful foods for the bones, and much, much more. Even if this is something that you don’t think you have a potential issue with, there’s a lot of really great preventative advice in here. And to his point, you might actually be surprised to know that you have some of the risk factors, and that early scans can help you avoiding any actual problems. So I learned a lot. And without any further delay, let’s jump in. Kevin, welcome. Thanks for being here.
 
Kevin: Hey, thanks, Katie, for having me. Super great to be here.
 
Katie: I’m excited to chat with you and we’re gonna talk all things bone health, which you are an expert in, but before we do, I have a note in my show notes that you have a goal to mentor a million kids who don’t have good role models. And I would just love to hear some of the reason for the motivation behind that.
 
 
Kevin: Yeah. For me, you know, when I was a young kid…my father passed away when I was super young, when I was about two months old and, you know, had a dramatic impact on my life. I grew up, I had an abusive stepfather you know, some frustrating challenges in my childhood and I never really had a father figure that I could look to that I felt like was teaching me the values, the lessons, the morals, all the things like that, that I really wanted to have and feel when I was a kid. And, you know, as I got older, I realized there are a lot of kids, you know, going through that now. And that’s kind of something that I want to be a mentor, somebody who can teach them the values, how can you be a good kind contributing member to society from a really young age? And eventually, I’d love to get that to the point where, you know, these kids could have an internship or something like that in a purpose-driven organization like ours.
 
Katie: That’s beautiful. I think we definitely need more of that. And, unfortunately, this is, like you said, something that affects a lot of kids and I think resources like that are gonna be so helpful in the future for…and I think that creates ripples as well. Like, when you help a child at a young age, it creates ripples for future generations. And that’s much the same reason I’ve always loved working with moms because I feel like if I can help moms, then that creates ripples for their kids and for generations beyond that as well.
 
Kevin: Absolutely.
 
Katie: Well, I know that you’re also an expert in all things bone health, and it seems like this came from a place of kind of personal experience for you as well. I’ve often heard from people on this podcast and myself as well, a lot of us get into the health and wellness world trying to solve our own problems. So I would love to start broad and hear the story of how you got started on this journey in the first place.
 
Kevin: Yeah. And part of that, you know, starts with my father’s passing. You know, he passed away when he was 35, at a really young age, and my entire life, I had this fear that I was gonna follow in his footsteps to an early grave and not have the opportunity to watch my kids grow up and experience the joys of being a father. And when I was diagnosed with osteoporosis at 31 at a time when I still had all these other health issues to resolve, I thought my fate was destined to be the same. You know, I had a young daughter, son in the way, I was devastated. And I remember the day the doctor sat down with me and confirmed that I had osteoporosis, and it wasn’t just like a letter in the mail, like actually sat down with me and her exact words were, “This is going to be an issue for you.” Bone drugs and fracture were my future. And I walked out of that office afraid.
 
And for the people who know me well, they know I’m typically not the most emotional person, and there are very few things that are gonna strike fear in my heart, but that did it. And when I got home that night, I was laying on the couch across my wife. My daughter was upstairs sleeping and I looked up, I saw my favorite picture of her on the wall. She was a little over 1-year-old wearing this cute polka dot dress standing in front of a white picket fence, blonde hair, blue eyes, innocent and sweet as can be. And I just broke down crying. And I cried hard. It was the kind to cry that empties the sum of life’s burdens. And after I was done, I looked over at my wife and said, “I just wanna dance with my daughter on her wedding day.” She needed her daddy and I questioned whether I’d even be alive to be there for. And for those first couple of days and weeks, I was angry, upset, overwhelmed. I was scared. I had no idea where to start. I just wanted to know everything was gonna be okay and how I was gonna even figure out how to improve my health and my bones.
 
And after a great deal of reading, research, working with doctors, consulting with people, my mindset started to shift. And once I got to the point where I started applying the things I had been learning, was actually making improvements in my health and my bones, that’s when I realized just how challenging it can be for the average person, mostly the average woman who’s diagnosed with osteopenia and osteoporosis, normally not, you know, the young man, to figure out what they need to do to address bone loss, build bone strength, and prevent fracture. Because the prescription for 90% of women who are diagnosed is calcium, vitamin D, walking, and a bone drug, and that’s woefully inadequate. And it’s really that reason why I started BoneCoach and bonecoach.com.
 
Katie: And that probably had to be quite the shock for you to be 31, and like you said, a guy, which is not the normal risk demographic and probably in very good health. I read that you were a Marine before that, it wasn’t from lack of movement. It wasn’t from…you know, like you were doing a lot of the things that should have potentially not put you at risk. So that had to be quite a shock to find out. And I’m curious at that age, like how did you know that you had it and how would someone else who maybe has the early risk factors know that they might have it as well?
 
Kevin: Yeah. So for me, even though, you know, being a Marine, knowing how to work out, being physically active, all those kinds of things, I had that. And I had a foundation of weightlifting and things like that when I was younger, but at the same time, I had celiac disease, malabsorption of nutrients for many, many years. A slew of digestive issues, low energy, poor sleep. You know, I obviously probably wasn’t absorbing my nutrients. There were just a lot of different things. While I was in the Marines, I smoked for five years. You know, there was some drinking and things like that that took part during that time too. All these things can contribute and work against us. Typically, you’re not gonna be getting a DEXA scan, a bone density scan, and we’ll talk about those in a minute when you’re younger. But for me, because I had celiac disease, that’s one of the things that we ended up pushing for. And we originally thought I was just gonna be checking the box, but turned out…found out we had osteoporosis. So that was kind of a complete shock for me at that time.
 
Katie: Gotcha. So that was the impetus for you, like going in and getting tested at that point was…
 
Kevin: Yep. Yep. Absolutely.
 
Katie: And so I’m assuming those are all also then risk factors. If someone already has celiac disease or really have some kind of gut dysbiosis, that can be a potential risk factor for bone issues.
 
Kevin: They absolutely can. They absolutely can be risk factors for that. And in terms of like…I didn’t even know when I was diagnosed what osteoporosis was. So osteoporosis literally means porous bone. It’s characterized by either not enough bone formation, excessive bone loss, or a combination of all. In osteoporosis, both your bone density and your bone quality are reduced, and that’s gonna increase your risk of fracture. And I had just mentioned a bone density scan. So that’s kind of the gold standard of finding out how you have osteoporosis is the dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. It’s a painless test, kind of like an X-ray, but very low levels of radiation. You lay down on a machine, the machine does a scan. It tells you your bone mineral density, the actual mineral content of your bone. And then it generates a score. And the score is called a T-score. And a T-score is telling you how much your bone mass differs from the bone mass of an average healthy 30-year-old adult.
 
So a score of zero means your bone density is equal to the norm for a healthy young adult. Score plus one, minus one, considered normal and healthy, but a T-score of between negative one and negative 2.5, that indicates you have low bone mass, oftentimes called osteopenia, which is like a precursor to osteoporosis. And then a T-score of negative 2.5 or lower indicates you have osteoporosis. The greater that negative number is, so negative 2.5, negative 2.6, negative 2.7, the more severe the osteoporosis. Most women are getting these scans done by the time they’re in their 50s and 60s as a check in the box. Their doctors are gonna order them, but that’s too late in my opinion. If you haven’t had one yet, and you’re in your 30s, your 40s, your 50s, go get one. It’s a good idea to get a baseline. And we don’t wanna avoid doing something too just because the answer may not be something we don’t wanna hear, right? You can’t address something also until you’re aware of it. So that’s a really important note there that I like to make is let’s be on the side of prevention, get a baseline. And that way, we don’t necessarily just react later on in life.
 
Katie: Yeah. That’s a great point. I remember finding out when I first found out I had Hashimotos and it was in some ways a relief because at least then I knew and I could start addressing it. And you’re right, I don’t think a lot of people think to get that. I haven’t ever gotten a DEXA scan and I’m in my 30s. But it makes sense, and I know there’s a lot of other information that can come from that as well. So it seems like a great baseline test. I’m guessing it’s multifactorial, but what do we think causes osteopenia or osteoporosis?
 
Kevin: Great question. And I try to get people to think about imagining their body as like a…imagine you have a bucket of water, okay? The bucket represents your body. The water within the bucket represents your bone mineral density, the measure of how much bone you have. And imagine that bucket has a small hole in it with a very tiny leak. And over time, over years and years, that water level gets lower and lower and lower until one day you go get that bone density scan, you realize your water is low. You have osteopenia and osteoporosis. And you’re shocked. I thought my bucket was full of water. And usually, the reasons are because either you have a bunch of health issues like I did, and that’s what led you to go get a DEXA scan or you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum.
 
You work out, you think you’re eating healthy, you’re doing everything right, you get a DEXA scan as a check in the box, you find out you have osteoporosis. In either of those scenarios, you have this reaction of how do I fix this right now? And sometimes people make quick drastic decisions, including taking a bone drug often influenced by our doctors to immediately plug the hole and fill our buckets back up with water. And we do this before identifying where the hole is, what caused it, or if there was even a hole in the first place because your bucket may not have ever been full of water to begin with. So let’s talk about the first one. Is there a hole in your bucket? Are you actively losing bone? A single bone density scan will not tell you that. And you need to know the answer to that before you make other decisions because something could be causing that loss, could be multiple things.
 
So the test we wanna use here is called a serum CTX test or a CT low PET type test. This is a bone turnover marker test, and it’s looking at the level of bone breakdown that’s taking place in the body, okay? It’s measuring these collagen bone protein fragments. If that level is elevated or really high, that can be an indicator of active bone loss. So that’s one of the ways to tell in between DEXA scans if you’re still actively losing bone. Then the question becomes, what caused the hole? And this is leading more into your question of what contributes or could have contributed to the bone loss and osteoporosis. And a lot of people don’t know this, but there are multiple types of osteoporosis. There’s primary osteoporosis, which is typically related to a decrease in estrogen in post-menopausal women.
 
Estrogen has a protective effect on bone. When estrogen levels decrease as they do during menopause, it’s gonna cause an increase in the activity level of cells that break down bone. But then there’s a whole other cause of osteoporosis. That’s secondary osteoporosis. This is a category I fell into. And this is where osteoporosis occurs as a result of, you know, behaviors, conditions, diseases, disorders, medications, variety of those different things. Most people who are unexpectedly diagnosed in their 30s, or 40s, or 50s and 60s, they have or had a secondary cause, okay? And that’s what we have to go and explore and figure out. And then the last part is, and this is important for kids, too. Did you just not start with a full bucket? Did you just not achieve peak bone mass? Because what’s important to keep in mind, if you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, it does not automatically mean that you’re actively losing bone. You may just not have built up enough bone in your younger years.
 
Up to 90% of your bone mass is acquired by age 18, and it peaks by the time you turn 30. So by the time you turn 30, your bucket is about as full as it’s going to be. So if when you’re younger you had an eating disorder, poor nutrition, low calcium and vitamin D intake, if you smoked or drank excessively, if you led a sedentary lifestyle, or if you took certain medications, those all could have prevented you from achieving peak bone mass and starting with a full bucket.
 
Katie: So many directions to go from there. I think the first being so as parents, what can we be aware of to make sure hopefully our kids do reach that full bone mass from an early age? Like, what are the factors we wanna be really careful about?
 
Kevin: Yeah. Especially with young kids, too, get them active, get them outdoors playing, get them playing sports. Any of those activities when they’re younger that are gonna surprise their bones. We want to, you know, soccer, bone density in the legs of soccer players is usually great because it’s multidirectional. They’re changing direction really quick. There are these short, intense bouts and then they’re off. So that’s great. Resistance training is great. Getting them active and walking and moving, all fantastic. One thing I would say for kids, too, is sugar. We gotta pay attention to sugar, okay? We don’t wanna be consuming a lot of different sugar. Excessive sugar intake could exacerbate vitamin D deficiency. Research have actually found that a high intake of fructose is gonna increase the expression of an enzyme responsible for degrading vitamin D. And that’s also going to decrease the expression of an enzyme that helps synthesize vitamin D too.
 
So it’s gonna reduce our internal absorption of calcium. It’s gonna increase our urinary excretion of calcium and magnesium. These are important minerals for our bones. So it’s not just, you know, I know we hear all the time not to eat sugar and not to be giving our kids a bunch of cookies and cakes and candies and all those things, but there’s good reason for it too for the health of our skeleton. So those are some important things. Chemicals, paying attention to chemicals when we’re younger, too. I would say, and I’m sure this is about the most common advice out there and one of the easiest low-hanging fruit that we can do is trying to shift to consuming organic produce and things like that as possible.
 
That way, we’re not getting things like glyphosphate and, you know, some of the other damaging chemicals and things like that out there. We don’t wanna be consuming those things for our kids. And then even your personal care products. To pay attention to the things that you’re using there. You know, I’ll even just say, you know, when I first started saying that you had fluoride-free toothpaste and things like that came out, we jumped on that immediately like in our house. We were using some other brands and things like that, but fluoride can actually not be the best thing long-term for your gut health, for your bone health, especially if your kids are swallowing that stuff long-term instead of spitting it out in the sink, probably not gonna be the best thing there either. So those are a few things from a kid’s perspective too that I would consider incorporating.
 
Katie: And then for adults as well, you said age 30 is kind of when you’re optimally gonna hit your peak bone mass. And ideally that’s when it’s gonna be really good. For people who maybe get a DEXA scan or start noticing some of these symptoms and find out their bone mass isn’t ideal and maybe they’re in their 30s or 40s, I would assume from hearing your story that that doesn’t mean all is lost and some of that damage can’t be undone. But what does that process look like, if someone gets similar news or just finds out they may be or have some of these risk factors or kind of on that path?
 
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. So number one, no, it does not mean you’re permanently fragile, right, if you get a diagnosis of osteoporosis. And this doesn’t mean, you know, no matter what age you are. You can build bone strength in the age, it just becomes more challenging. The older you get and the more bone you lose, there are fewer cells involved in the process, that process becomes less efficient. So we want people to wanna be on the side of prevention and not reaction. So let’s say you find this out, your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s even, you’re still gonna follow the same process. The first step has to be you have to identify and address all those root cause issues of bone loss and bone damage, right? If there are things working against you actively, you have to address those things first.
 
You gotta know what tests you need to order and get done. You have to know how to understand your results. You gotta be your own best advocate. And this is with any health condition, not just osteoporosis. You can’t just put all your faith into one person and expect them to do everything for you, and then make sure that that’s gonna get you your best health. You still need to be kind of guiding and directing that process.
 
The second part of this is nourish. You need to restore the raw materials and nutrients that you need for stronger, healthier bones through diet, through digestion, through absorption. You need to make sure you have the right inputs to produce stronger outputs because you can’t rebuild something that’s not there, right? And that’s gonna happen on three layers. Are you taking in the right nutrients in the right amount? Are you actually absorbing those nutrients? If you have digestive issues, those digestive issues can actually be a source of inflammation that contributes to bone breakdown in the body. And then are those nutrients actually making it to the cell level?
 
And a lot of times, you know, people are just told, take your calcium, take your vitamin D, but there are other nutrient that are important beyond just that, magnesium. Magnesium is unbelievably important, not just for our bones, but for our overall health. One of the primary functions of magnesium is that we need it to make proteins in our body. So when you eat proteins in your diet, be it from animals, eggs, fish, dairy, beans, peas, brown rice, whatever, through the process of digestion, you break those proteins down. And once we absorb those amino acids, we can then rebuild them in our bodies into various proteins, but you need magnesium to do this. And just about everything in the body is a protein or is made by proteins. You know, bones are 50% protein by volume.
 
Another important nutrient that’s often overlooked is vitamin K, okay? There are two types of vitamin K. Or, well, at least for the sake of this conversation, let’s just say K-1 and K-2. K-1 can be converted to K-2, but not efficiently. K-2 is what’s most important for bone health. There are some major forms, there’s MK-4, there’s MK-7. But vitamin K-2 is gonna aid in bone mineralization. And that’s super important too. So it’s more than just calcium and vitamin D. And then the last part of this is…I would say the last part of this process would be build. You need to build strength, the body strength, the mind strength, the bone, you need to reduce your stress, improve your sleep, get an exercise plan in place that’s gonna help you actually build bone strength, and do those things in a way that’s gonna prevent, you know, fracture and injury and things like that. So that’s the high level, and that’s pretty much the same across the board for people no matter how old you are.
 
Katie: Yeah. And it seems like great advice across the board, like you said, even for kids starting at a young age to make sure they have those nutrients optimized and they’re getting a varied diet. It seems like you’ve mentioned the absorption piece a couple of times. And I think that’s a thing that is not talked about enough in modern society is not only is our diet nutrient-depleted compared to what it was a couple of generations ago, but we’re likely not absorbing things nearly as well because of all of the other things that are inputs in our bodies and the chemicals we’re exposed to. It also seems like there is a very direct connection here between bone loss and gut issues. So can you talk more about that and kind of what to be aware of related to gut health and if that can be part of the problem?
 
Kevin: Absolutely, yes. Major connection between gut health and bone health. So I know I was talking about a bucket earlier, but let’s forget about the bucket for a second. Let’s just say…you know, we’re gonna use a completely different metaphor. Think of our bodies and our bones as being like plants. In order to grow, they need nutrients and the right conditions, right? So most people focus so much on the nutrients, the salads, the smoothies, the supplements that they fail to consider the soil. Our gut is like the soil. We absorb almost everything here. So when we take in food or supplements, we start to break them down into smaller pieces in our mouth. That food makes its way into our stomach, where it’s turned in the acidic mix to break it down even further. Then it makes its way to our small intestine, our soil. And this is where our nutrients are broken down to their smallest form to be absorbed by us, the plants.
 
But in order to absorb anything, we need roots in our soil, right? Our roots are called villi. These tiny little hair-like projections cover our small intestine and are responsible for absorbing nutrients. They absorb the nutrients from the food you eat and then shuttle those nutrients into your bloodstream so they can travel to where they’re needed in the body, whether that’s for healing a cut on your hand, growing your hair or fingernails, or rebuilding stronger bones. The job of our roots, our villi, is so important that the total surface area they use to absorb nutrients is the size of a football field. How amazing is that, right? But when we have poor digestion and our gut health isn’t optimal, we can’t properly break down our food. And when we can’t properly break down our food, nutrients won’t be available. And if nutrients aren’t available, the villi won’t be able to absorb them. And the body won’t have the raw materials and resources needed for stronger, healthier bones.
 
So where do we have to start? What we need to start with, are nutrients making it to your soil. If you have bloating, belching, burping, excessive gas, even diarrhea after meals, or you feel like food just sits in your stomach and stagnates for a long time, there’s a good chance you have low stomach acid. Age, stress, nutrient deficiencies, gut infections are all contributors. And surprisingly, you know, one of the best indicators of low stomach acid is reflux, which is shocking, right? And when people have reflux, what do they take for? The same thing I took for a number of years, tums and proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, Omeprazole. Like most people who take PPIs, I mistakenly thought I had too much stomach acid and I ended up suppressing what little stomach acid I did have.
 
And the reason that’s a problem is because we need stomach acid to properly break down and extract nutrients from our food like amino acids, the building blocks of protein. I mentioned earlier, our bones are 50% protein by volume. They need amino acids. Calcium is the primary mineral constituent of our bones. Low stomach acid reduces its absorption. Magnesium, iron, B12, if you have low stomach acid, your soil will be starved of these nutrients and others. The next question about, you know, gut health, does your soil have the right balance of bugs? Other problems are gonna rise if your soil has the wrong balance of bugs, dysbiosis, the presence of bad bugs, gut infections, or even good bugs in the wrong place, SIBO like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. These bugs make up our microbiome.
 
When this is out of balance, it’s gonna negatively affect your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and it’s gonna contribute to leaky gut systemic inflammation, both of which are bad for your body and your bones. So, again, how do you know if your bugs are not balanced? You might experience the bloating, the belching, the excessive gas, the heartburn, the constipation, diarrhea, even fatigue. Those can all be indicators. And then the last part of the digestive health picture kind of ties into one of the reasons why I developed osteoporosis, you know, at a younger age is there are multiple conditions and diseases that affect your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. So are your roots even working properly? Celiac disease is one of them and it’s the primary reason for my osteoporosis. How does that contribute to nutrient malabsorption bone loss? When you ingest gluten, those villi, our roots become blunted to the point where they can’t do their job.
 
And so for me, my roots effectively became damaged. My body was starved with key bone-healthy nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. Those are usually absorbed a little higher up in the small intestine where that damage is more likely to occur. And this went on for years, had no idea calcium was being raked for my bones to serve other purposes. And, you know, there’s a good chance that that can be a contributing factor in osteoporosis. So we need to make sure if you are still consuming gluten, you know, the tTg-IgA is a great test to help with that. And then also the total serum IgA can also be a helpful test there too.
 
Katie: That’s super helpful. I was taking notes. And I’m curious how your bone health is now after like going on this journey and what your progress has looked like.
 
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. Been able to make progress along the way and improvements along the way. And, you know, we took that, we took everything that I had learned, but it wasn’t just me, it was basically taking the research and all the things and we made it actionable for other people now, too. That’s probably the most important thing is now we actually have been able to help people in over 1,500 cities around the world at this point putting a plan in place, walking them through a three-step process, and putting them in front of highly credentialed team members and experts that along my… In my own journey, I realized it’s really hard when you put all your eggs into one person. Sometimes you need to coordinate with a lot of different people. And that’s one of the things we’ve able to do is put people in front of all the people that can help them get answers along the way. So is really one of the more challenging parts of the journey.
 
Katie: And I’m glad you brought up the magnesium connection too, because this is something I’ve been talking about for years and realizing it’s so depleted in the modern diet and it’s needed a lot more than we are getting often and often there’s a place for supplementation. I’m curious if you can just kinda walk us through, I know you also have this all as a full approach online for people who actually need to go into the details, but just kind of an overview of what an optimal diet supplement exercise plan might look like, maybe even at different ages for bone health?
 
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. So you know, let’s even just start with diet and nutrition as a beginning place. Obviously, you know, we wanna make sure we’re getting the right foods, the right nutrients. If we don’t have the things there to help us build bone, we’re not actually gonna be able to rebuild our bones and we’re not gonna be able to prevent bone loss. Something I wanna point out though with diet and nutrition is every time you eat, you have the opportunity to give your body everything it needs to heal and rebuild itself. But it’s about a lot more than just drink a bunch of milk and alkalize your body with green vegetables. And people ask me all the time, what’s the perfect diet, and they hate my response. It depends, right? We’re all biochemically and genetically unique individuals. We respond to different foods and dietary approaches differently, which is why no dietary approach would be considered a rigid framework with zero flexibility.
 
It’s also why when you see someone saying, everyone should eat this specific superfood because it’s guaranteed to be good for your body and your bones, make note of it, but realize it might not work for you because no matter how much of a superfood or health food someone claims something is, or how great they say it is for your bones, if it creates inflammation in your body, it’s not a health food for you. And also where you are in your health journey is gonna be another important consideration. So if you’re working to overcome digestive issues or bacterial overgrowth, candida, or put autoimmune disease in remission, your dietary approach will differ significantly from those who are not. General rule of thumb, anti-inflammatory diet. You know, if somebody does not have a lot of different health issues and things like that, a good starting point could potentially be a Mediterranean-ish-type approach.
 
If somebody is coming in and they’ve got, you know, autoimmune conditions and things like that, we’re probably gonna at least, you know, start them somewhere around a paleo-type approach or something like that. Paleo AIP is obviously gonna be important too, but especially on the more restrictive plans. So if you’re on AIP or some other diet for gut health specifically, you’re not gonna be staying on those things ideally, you know, indefinitely or as a long term approach because if not, you could be creating nutrient deficiencies and things like that long-term there too, if you’re not paying attention. Then specific foods I would say, some universal foods that we could start incorporating now that are good for a lot of people. I would say small-boned fish. So things like salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel, those kinds of fish with the bone in. You can get those in cans. Vital Choice is a great place to go get those.
 
And those have, you know, great source of protein, all the minerals that you need to support your own healthy bones, and then you’ve got the omega 3s there too. So those are great things if we can incorporate those. You know, do those every chance you get. Coconut oil, another one is great. It’s considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet, but it’s great for your bones too, okay? So virgin coconut oil is great. It’s not only been shown to help with protecting against bone loss, but actually in the improvement of bone structure. So that’s another one that could be helpful. And then also arugula. Arugula is a great leafy green, same cruciferous family of vegetables as broccoli and kale, but it’s lower oxalate, okay? And spinach is a common green that a lot of people consume, but what they don’t understand is that even if you look at a container of spinach and it says, it’s got a lot of calcium there, most of that calcium is not bioavailable. It’s bound up with oxalate.
 
So arugula is a great one to swap for that. And also, you know, if somebody has issues with oxalates, they may have kidney stones, arthritis, joint pain, things like that, those may be indicators. They might have a hard time breaking down and degrading that oxalate. So arugula could be a good swap there too. And then vitamin C-rich foods. These are great because vitamin C is not just key for your body health, it’s also important for your bone health. Bones are made up of this collagen protein matrix upon which minerals are laid. Vitamin C stimulates pro-collagen. It enhances collagen synthesis, and it stimulates something called alkaline phosphatase activity, which is gonna help with bone-building cell formation. So you can get that from your citrus fruits, Kakadu plums, acerola cherries, strawberries. Those are great fruit sources.
 
And then, you know, in terms of vitamin C-rich vegetables, red and yellow bell peppers, you know, dino kale,  kale, steamed broccoli, Brussels sprouts, those are some great options in terms of food to get started.
 
And then just in terms of exercise, being active, incorporating resistance training. You wanna make sure you’ve got two different types of stimuli going in terms of building your exercise plan, muscle pulling on bone and impact, okay? Those are the most effective interventions for exercise. Muscle’s gonna pull on bone to make them stronger. That mechanical signal is gonna send a chemical signal to tell the bone basically to become stronger. Impact exercises, they’re great addition too. Swimmers and long-distance running, they do not provide that varied packed. So long-term, those should not be the only source of exercise that someone is getting. Really important to outline that too. And then if we’re doing resistance training, studies are gonna show that the greatest fact, the more intense the exercise in that 5 to 10 rep range, that’s what’s gonna be best for stimulating muscle and bone growth.
 
Katie: Super helpful. I took a lot of notes. I love that you brought up things like canned sardines. I’ve been saying that for years of it being basically a multivitamin and I get pushback from people saying, “It’s so gross”. And I’m like, I promise you can learn to love it. Maybe put some pickles with it or mustard or whatever helps you with the taste, but it’s like the cheapest natural source of a lot of those things that you can get and you’re literally getting bones. So it makes sense that that would support your bones.
 
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I also love that you brought up oxalates. Because I feel like this is another area that’s not talked about when we talk about, you know, greens are great for you, have lots and lots of greens is that there is such a range there. And often I’ve found just genetically a lot of people don’t do great with a whole lot of leafy greens, especially raw. And you can confirm this. My understanding is that things like cooking it can actually reduce the oxalate and make it more bioavailable. Any other tips for that? I love the arugula one. I didn’t actually know that. So I’ll put that in the show notes as well.
 
Kevin: Yeah. Boiling is gonna have the greatest reduction in oxalates, but also with that, you know, you reduce some of the other nutrients there too. But the reduction is not gonna be a complete reduction, too. So if somebody is already…you know, if they’re coming to us and they already have digestive issues, and kidney stones, and arthritis, and joint pain, we’re gonna, ideally, it’s not like you can eliminate…or it’s challenging to eliminate every single food that contains oxalate, but you can make some healthy alternatives and swaps, and arugula is just an easy one to do that. And also a lot of times if people have taken antibiotics for a long time or, you know, they’ve done some things to degrade their gut bacteria, one of the actual gut bacteria that breaks down and degrade oxalates, oxalobacter formigenes, that could be an issue too, right> People may not actually have that gut bacteria to help break down and degrade the oxalate.
 
Katie: And you also mentioned bones being like kind of a collagen matrix structure. Certainly like dietary supplements of collagen have gotten really popular in the last couple of years. Do you suggest those or is there a better way to get that?
 
Kevin: Collagen supplements can absolutely be helpful, right? Because you’re still getting the amino acids. The only thing to keep in mind is that collagen is not a complete protein, right? It’s missing tryptophan, you still need to be sure you’re getting complete proteins in your diet, but it can be a great addition. And it’s an easy addition for a lot of people too. Another alternative for upping your protein intake, which is super important. You know, making sure you’re hitting your protein needs is super important. Whey protein could be an option if somebody can actually tolerate that, that’s an important note also. And then, you know, whole foods, actual whole foods, canned sardines, things like that. And you don’t always have to eat the canned version of things just to get the bones. Yes, you can still eat the other cooked salmon or baked salmon or chicken or, you know, whatever it is that you’re incorporating, but incorporating that animal protein is absolutely something that, you know, I think is important to be doing in your diet.
 
Katie: Yeah. And I know that there are a lot of also hormonal reasons that women often are more affected by this than men, but some of the points you just brought up made me think, especially for women, there’s two really important things I wanted to highlight that you said. One being about hitting protein targets because I’ve had past podcast guests and then seen firsthand in my own life that many women drastically under-eat and under consume enough protein. And this was really pivotal for me when I actually started mapping out how much protein I was eating and then making sure to enough protein, I realized I was way below what I needed to get before. And it became so much easier to build muscle and actually lose weight even by eating more food when I got that protein in target, which it’s great to know also benefits my bones, but I feel like often for whatever reason, women are not as encouraged to eat as much protein. And that maybe is an area of deficiency for a lot of women, along with the types of exercise that you mentioned.
 
I feel like those impact and muscle versus bone activities are ones that on average, typically, guys tend to do more often. And we see women more in like classes or gentle cardio or swimming, but that’s not giving the same effects. So I’d love to just talk a little bit more about both of those, maybe some specifics on protein targets and how much is that exercise threshold because like I said, I saw big changes in my life from upping my protein and then doing things like sprinting, like rapid sprints, and then weightlifting really changed my body pretty drastically. So I’d love to talk a little bit more about those.
 
Kevin: Yeah. So protein targets, I would look more toward being at least, at the very least, you know, if you’re 0.545 times your body weight in pounds would be about the number of grams of protein that you would want. So let’s say you’re, you know, 100-pound female, 0.545 times your body weight and pounds would be about 55 grams of protein, minimum, absolutely minimum that you’re gonna wanna be getting. And you can obviously go up from there to help, especially if you’ve got that more intense exercise and you’re actually lifting and doing the resistance and things like that, you want to have the fuel there and the nutrients there to provide that muscle growth too. Because remember what I said, when you’re actually building muscle, that’s gonna help build bone too. So resisting training is super important.
 
A lot of times too what I see with exercise is people are doing…maybe they’re long-distance cyclers or they’re long-distance runners and they just count the running. Maybe they run a lot of marathons or they’re clocking 5, 6, 7 miles every single day, but they don’t have any other varied exercise. Number one, you’re not getting the varied impact if you’re just, you know, running the same direction. There’s no variation in the impact, that can have a negative effect on your bones long-term. And then also if you’re not actually lifting weights, building muscle strength, that’s really only working, you know, for the most part, the lower half of your body, but we’ve got other bones in parts of our skeleton that we just can’t chalk that up if the only workout that we’re doing for our lower half. So that’s when we want to be incorporating some of the larger compound movements, the overhead presses, the deadlifts, the squats, those kinds of movements that engage the most muscle and that are actually, you know, we’re doing them at least in the 5 to 10 rep range. That’s what’s gonna be most helpful for stimulating muscle and bone growth.
 
I say that with an asterisk is that if you do not have a background in weightlifting, don’t just jump on YouTube, watch a video of somebody deadlifting, and then go jump out there to try to do that on your own. That could lead to potential injury. But if you get some guidance, you get confident in these things, especially on the younger groups. If you’re 20s, 30s, 40s, if you can develop a passion for this young and you get the right form and body mechanics down now, that’s gonna do wonders for you later on in life. And a lot of people don’t…the people that I work with a lot of times too, if they’re in their 50s, 60s, especially when they get to their 70s, they’ve got daughters, I hear this every day, right? They wish they would’ve done more to be on the side of prevention. And if you’re in that age range of 20, 30, 40s, keep your bone health in mind. Do these things now that are gonna set you up for an active future.
 
Katie: Yeah. I saw a really fascinating graphic on that one time of comparing women who had lifelong weightlifting hobby or practice, and showing that even women in their 80s side-by-side of one who consistently, and it’s not like hours a day, we’re talking small amounts of weightlifting and ate enough protein. And they looked 30 years apart in age. It was really, really drastic. So as a side benefit, these things also seem to have a pretty strong anti-aging effect.
 
Kevin: Absolutely, absolutely.
 
Katie: And you mentioned, people as they get older, and I know that that’s a much more common demographic for bone loss, and we’re seeing that from the statistics, I’ve seen that’s on the rise right now, pretty drastically as well. For people listening who are either in that age bracket or have maybe parents or relatives who are, I know I have an extended family member who has been diagnosed with bone loss, what are some of the things they can do, are they destined to just getting fractures, or can some of these things still help kind of improve that trajectory for them?
 
Kevin: I mean, no matter where someone is at, you can build bone strength at any age. If you remember what I was saying earlier, you know, it just becomes more challenging. You have less bone cells involved in the process as you get older. As you lose more bone, the process of rebuilding becomes less efficient. So the earlier you can do something the better, but no matter when you start, if you… You know, the starting point, if we’re looking at it as identifying and addressing root cause issues of bone loss, nourishing your body and absorbing nutrients, and building strength, the body, mind, and bone, you can do those things at any age. So if you’ve got root cause issues. I would encourage people if you have a parent, right, that maybe you know has bone health issues and they’re just kind of ignoring it or putting it off or not paying attention to it, encourage them to make assumptions, or not make assumptions and make objective decisions, right?
 
Encourage them to be their own best advocate and to make sure they have all the info information they need to make educated, informed decisions moving forward with a medication, right? That’s always gonna be proposed by their physicians, but they can do something else first to see if that’s actually the route that they need even to go because a lot of times it’s not. And just figuring out the root cause issues, getting their nutrition plan in place, doing the right things for exercises are all super, super important.
 
Katie: Awesome. I’ve got a lot of notes for you, guys, listening, wellnessmama.fm. I’m putting them all there along with links to learn more about all of these. For anyone listening who maybe doesn’t have an acute problem but wants to make sure this isn’t going to become a problem, you’ve mentioned some testing, but maybe just give us kind of a blueprint for which particular testing at what age is a good point to start.
 
Kevin: So number one, DEXA scan. There’s also another test out there right now called the REMS test. And this test actually looks at your bone quality and your bone density at the same time, okay? And that’s Radiofrequency Echographic Multi Spectrometry technology. And what it does is it is gonna tell your bone density, and then it’s gonna give you a five-year major osteo product fracture risk. And it’s gonna also tell you your bone quality, bone density, bone quality combined to create bone strength. So you could get that as a baseline. It’s more prevalent in Europe, not so much here, but it’s gonna make its way, I think more into the U.S. here real soon. And then also, the CTX test, the bone turnover markers that I talked about earlier, you can get a serum CT low peptide test to just understand what the level of your bone breakdown is earlier on.
 
That way, later on in life, you kind of have a benchmark. And then some of the other ones, vitamin D, that’s a super important test that we wanna make sure we’re getting. Look at the 25 hydroxyvitamin D. Again, that range is really wide. Normally, if you’re in the U.S., 30 to 100 ng/ml, a lot of people are on the lower end of that range. We wanna bump that up. We wanna bump that up a little bit more. And then, obviously, the celiac test, checking your gut health. You know, if you’ve been consuming gluten for 30 days and you’ve got those antibodies present, the tTg-IgA test, that’s gonna be a helpful test to help identify if you have celiac disease.
 
And then also you can get your thyroid testing done. So you can do a TSH. You can look at your other thyroid markers, including your ferritin too. You wanna look at your ferritin. Comprehensive metabolic panel, CBC, and then your PTH, your parathyroid hormone, okay? This is gonna…your PTH, you wanna look at that in relation to your vitamin D and your blood calcium levels just to make sure you don’t have a parathyroid tumor, which could be raking calcium from your bones. Those are some of the general basic tests. There are a lot more than that where you can dig, you know, specifically deeper into certain areas based on what those results turn up, but that’s a good starting point.
 
Katie: Awesome. And I know you have a lot of resources about this. Where can people find you if they wanna learn more about any of these specifics, or they have an acute problem and wanna start working on it?
 
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. You can always find me over at bonecoach.com. That’s the easiest place. We also have a YouTube channel, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, all the major channels and a podcast too. So you can always find me @BoneCoach.
 
Katie: And those will be linked to you guys as well at wellnessmama.fm, so you can find them. And then a couple of last questions that I love to ask at the end of interviews, the first being, if there’s a book or a number of books that have had a profound impact on your life? And if so, what they are and why?
 
Kevin: I would say for me, which is probably an unusual answer, “Little Blue Truck,” which if you’ve got moms, you know, listen to this, I’m sure they might be familiar with that book. And really all the other books that I read to my kids, right? For me, it’s not so much, I read leadership and development books and business books and health books, and things like that all the time. There are a lot of great ones out there, but in terms of the books I actually care the most about it would be the ones that I read to my kids at night. It’s because I didn’t have that with my dad when I was younger. And really for me, I feel blessed to have that opportunity to be the father that mine didn’t get a chance to be for me. So those are the best books for me.
 
Katie: I love that. That is a new recommendation. I’ll make sure that’s linked as well. I understand what you mean about those are some of the most special books. Not that I learned the most from, but that I had the most memories from.
 
Kevin: For sure.
 
Katie: Are there any other things that people don’t know or misunderstand about bone health that we haven’t already covered today?
 
Kevin: I don’t know. A lot of times I get questions about, you know, extreme things in terms of like, should I never do this again, or should I… You know, one of the most common ones I get is coffee and caffeine, for example. Like, do I need to completely stop drinking coffee? Caffeine very slightly increases calcium excretion and decreases GI calcium absorption. Most people do not need to completely avoid coffee. And I typically highlight that as like drink less. So caffeine intakes greater than 300-milligram a day, so a cup of coffee usually has what, 100 to 250 milligrams, that increases the amount of calcium excretion the urine and the risk for osteoporosis-related fractures, but only in those who were not meeting adequate daily calcium intake. So that’s super important, right? I think some of the other ones, you know, people always ask me about dairy.
 
You know, it is a rich source of calcium. That is a fact. A little over 30% of calcium in dairy is absorbed. Ideally, that calcium should be coming…you know, if we’re consuming cultured and fermented dairies, so your kefirs, your yogurts, those could be helpful additions. But at the same time, if your dietary approach, like, if you have an autoimmune disease, for example, and you’re working trying to put that into remission, dairy’s probably not gonna be incorporated into that approach. So, again, it comes down to differences for every single person. There are plenty of other ways to get calcium though without using dairy. Edible bones. Like we just talked about earlier in sardines, that’s a great way. Cruciferous vegetables, the absorbability of calcium there is pretty high, 40% to 60% about. And then it’s a lot less as you get into things like Spinach, really poor absorbability. Yeah, I would say those are some of the bigger questions that I get. You know, should I incorporate dairy? No, it should not be your only number one source. For developing kids, I think it could be helpful.
 
Katie: I think a lot of people will be relieved to know that coffee doesn’t have to go away entirely. And it sounds like we can popularize sardines and coffee for breakfast and solve those problems.
 
Kevin: Oh, I’m all about that.
 
Katie: And then lastly, any parting advice, could be related to bone health or not?
 
Kevin: Yeah. I would just say, you know, be kind to yourself. If you’ve ever been on a health journey at all, you know that it can be frustrating. It can be challenging. You try, you know, a lot of the different things. They don’t work out. You pursue a different path. You invest your time, your energy, you know, all these things into it and it might not work. Be kind to yourself, be patient. You know, progress is never perfect, but it’s always possible. You need to aim for progress. That would be my thing.
 
Katie: I love that. I think that’s a perfect place to wrap up. And thank you so much for your time today. This has been a really fun deep dive. I know I learned a lot, and hopefully, our listeners did as well. Thank you for being here.
 
Kevin: Hey, thanks for having me, Katie. Glad I could join and wishing the best for your audience.
 
Katie: Thank you. And thanks as always to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of “The Wellness Mama Podcast.”
 
If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.
Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a wife and mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.
Geneve Vaughan

This was a great interview. I listened to it twice and took lots of notes that I ACTUALLY plan in implementing such as weight lifting, sprints, arugula, sardines, and coconut oil.
Your podcasts have helped me become healthier in many ways. You are a talented interviewer. Thank you.
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