I'm always interested in ways to get more calcium as a vegan. I do have severe osteoporosis (last DEXA scan was -3.6 spine and -1.8 hip) and have already had some minor fractures. My risk factors include losing my ovaries at the age of 33 (and first period wasn't until I was 16 so very short exposure to natural hormones), being on thyroid meds for many years, being underweight for six years, smoked from 1997-2006, and genetics (small boned, runs in family).
My third DEXA scan was in 2010, a year before going vegan. My scores then were -1.6 hip and -3.0 spine, where they had stayed pretty much since my first dexa scan in 2006. So I was shocked when my spine score dropped from -3.0 to -3.6 in the four years I have been vegan. I was the same weight when I had my fourth DEXA scan as when I had my third one. I have been on estrogen replacement for years and was taking calcium and vegan D supplements all along. In fact my D levels and blood calcium were always healthy when tested. I had a nasty relapse into my ED in 2013 and got to a very low weight where I stayed for almost a year. The last DEXA Scan was the wakeup call I needed to get healthier and put on weight and stop restricting so much. But I had also had a nasty relapse and lost even more weight back in 2009 and yet my scores in 2010 were no worse than the ones in 2008. The only thing I can attribute to worsening scores as a vegan is just the cumulative years of being underweight finally took its toll. I am much more active as a vegan and exercise a lot more. I need less thyroid med. I think I was overmedicated for a while and too much thyroid med can be detrimental to bones too. I wasn't replacing nutrients when I did all that exercise. So I am really hoping now that I have put on some weight and am more vigilant about calcium (and other nutrients) in my diet that things will improve. I did have to make the difficult choice to go on an osteoporosis med after years of avoiding them and just taking supplements and hrt, because of the fact that I am still rapidly losing bone mass. I worry about the long term effects of the med I am on. So far I have no side effects and it actually helps the chronic hip pain I used to have. But the long term side effects are scary.
I do think milk/dairy is highly overrated and fraught with its own health consequences (never mind the suffering behind it), but I also think that a lot of vegans are flippant about getting calcium and think that there is nothing to worry about. We still need to be mindful and eat a variety of calcium rich foods. I try to get my calcium from foods like figs, some types of beans, low oxalate leafy greens and broccoli, sesame seeds/tahini, plant milks, tofu, black strap molasses etc. I have to be constantly mindful about it, because it is easy for me to get too little. it's really important to be sure to eat enough too, and eat a variety of plant foods. and of course do weight bearing exercise too, and avoid other bone robbing substances like caffeine, nicotine, and some medications that can cause bone density loss like antacids and some antidepressants. There is definitely more to bone health than just calcium.
In the end, only kindness matters. - Jewel
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