After years of dieting and menstrual irregularity, I lost bone density and had three stress fractures in my early 20s. My doctor increased my food intake (with extra vitamin D and calcium), so the nutrients I take in match my exercise level. My hormones are finally normal too. My question is, How do I strengthen my bones? I feel like I'm another injury waiting to happen.
—Amy, Los Angeles, CA
As you've learned, lifestyle plays a big role in dancers' bone density. But you can take steps to prevent further bone loss. Apart from maintaining a balanced diet and estrogen levels, new research indicates that probiotics increase bone density—at least in female mice. While more studies are needed, researchers say the type of bacteria is important. Check the ingredients list of your yogurt for Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG). According to the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, habits like high caffeine consumption (more than two cups of coffee per day), high alcohol intake and smoking can put you at a greater risk of losing bone density. Oxalates, which bind to calcium and may prevent its absorption, should also be eaten in moderation. Foods that fall into this category are night-shade vegetables like eggplants, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Tea, sweet potatoes, okra, collards, berries and chard also have varying amounts of oxalates. Keep these in mind as you plan your meals.
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