Saratoga Springs Acupuncture DaveOstrowski Traditional Acupuncture and Oriental Bodywork Tui Na Oriental Bodywork

AcuDave Home Page


Tui Na Oriental Bodywork

About Dave



Articles and Essays

Driving Directions

Contact Info

Related Links


  The Calcium/Magnesium/D3 Debacle  

I like Chinese medicine because it’s so simple. Its principles are based upon the laws of nature, are easy to grasp and apply, and haven’t changed one bit since life on this planet came to be. In the treatment room we expand upon them and explore the possibilities, but Yin/Yang will always oppose, depend upon and relate to one another as they always have, and always will, and one is as important as the other. The same applies to the 5 elements. Water will always be contained by Earth, control Fire, feed Wood, and be fed by Metal. Winter always gives way to spring, and summer will always follow. It all fits beautifully, and manifests perfectly in all aspects of body/mind/spirit It’s observable, undeniable, easy as pie, and very comforting to me, to feel I can trust in its principles in the treatment room, and as they apply to our lives and our health.

Coming from that world, I often find it bothersome to see that the health care that we are expected to embrace, seems based on changeable principles, and contradictory, outdated and in some cases, clearly incorrect information. The Calcium/Magnesium/D3 story is no exception.

It began for me in the early 90’s. By then I was fully indoctrinated into the ubiquitous “Calcium for women to prevent osteoporosis” reality. It had been all over the mainstream for years. Women were taking synthetic Calcium supplements, Tums, drinking milk, and doing everything they could to make sure they got enough Calcium. Then I met a doctor at a retreat, who spoke about how Magnesium is as important as Calcium, how they’re the Yin/Yang of our structure, Calcium for strength and Magnesium for flexibility, and that women should be taking a 50/50 ratio. He was bothered that Magnesium was all but completely ignored by the mainstream, and adamant that excessive Calcium supplementation was causing the unprecedented increase in osteoporosis and heart disease in women in this country, while still being promoted to treat the epidemic. 30 years later, and it still is.

16 years in practice, and I’m still hearing so many of my new female patients wholeheartedly assert their need for Calcium supplements. In the last 10 years or so, “Vitamin” D3 has been added to the regime, “for better Calcium absorption, mood enhancement, cancer prevention” a bunch of other things, and a subsequent double face palm from the acupuncturist, but more on that later.

The good news is that more and more women are now reporting that their doctors are discussing their need for Magnesium, and discovering this through their own online research.


Certainly, even natural Vitamin D from the sun could never “replace” Magnesium when it comes to building and maintaining strong, resilient bones, and supple bodies. Make no mistake: Magnesium is critical for the absorption, assimilation and appropriation of Calcium, ridding our bodies of excess calcium, and addressing all the disastrous outcomes of over calcification that continue to cause such suffering in the lives of so many folks, especially women, in this country.

Magnesium activates over 350 enzyme reactions in the body, translating to thousands of biochemical reactions happening on a constant basis. It’s is crucial to nerve transmission, muscle contraction and relaxation, blood coagulation, energy production, nutrient metabolism, and bone and cell formation. Clearly, Magnesium is an important mineral with so much to offer. I wonder why it’s been kept such a secret for the last 30 years.

While you’re pondering that question, let’s take a quick trip across the Pacific, and look at the functioning of Calcium and Magnesium from a Chinese physiological perspective. Expanding upon the Yin/Yang idea from earlier, I see the relationship between the two as akin to the relationship between the Water and Wood elements, or Kidney and Liver.

Water represents our deepest most powerful strength, and the wisdom and will required to both conserve, and draw from it appropriately. Its physical manifestation is bone. Just as winter gives way to spring, Water creates Wood, and potential turns kinetic. Wood relates to our muscular forces, our tendons and ligaments. It actualizes Water’s potential, smoothly and with precision, strength, and flexibility. Wood corresponds to springtime, and is represented in any growth phase, and as such, the growth phase of bone. The Wood aspect of Water, assures that bone is precisely and wisely knit, the way nature intended, to be as strong and resilient as possible. Water within Wood recognizes that Wood is drawing from Water’s potential, and actualizing it. Its flexibility comes from soaking up an appropriate amount of Water through its root system. Trusting in its inherent integrity and strength should not be a question.

This little story speaks well to the functional aspect of these two minerals. Interestingly, the kinds of symptoms associated with a Magnesium deficiency are often associated with the classic Wood/Liver disharmonies:

Muscle tension and tightness; cramps and spasms; neck, back, and joint pain; headaches; migraines; facial tics; TMJ; a general sense of feeling “uptight”; an inability to take a comfortable breath; frequent sighing; chest tightness; difficult swallowing; sensation of a lump in the throat; poor vision; photophobia; sensitivity to loud noises; insomnia; exhaustion; anxiety; restlessness; heart arrhythmias; angina; high blood pressure; panic attacks; agoraphobia; premenstrual irritability, cramps and breast tenderness; constipation; urinary spasms; numbness; tingling; “nerve pain,” and fibromyalgic symptoms. The list goes on, but is more than enough to point to a compromised Liver at the very least. As we know, a healthy Liver assures smooth, strong, precise, relaxed, pain free movement, rest, and functioning on every level.

Food sources for Magnesium are plentiful, and include:

  Veggies - Spinach, swiss chard, beet greens, turnip greens, collard greens, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mustard greens, summer and winter squashes, cabbage, asparagus, kale, green beans, bok choy, romaine lettuce, celery, bell peppers, tomato, cauliflower, cucumber, dulce, watercress, and leeks.
  Beans - navy, pinto, kidney, black, soy, lima beans, black eyed peas, and green peas.
  Seeds - pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax, mustard seeds and cashews, too.
  Grains - quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, barley, millet, oats, rye and wheat.
  Fruit - apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe, lemons, peaches, figs, raisins, and papaya.
  Herbs - clove, basil, parsley, cumin and fennel. Also, blackstrap molasses and brewers yeast.

As you can see, it’s present in some pretty common foods, and those leafy greens are also a great source of Calcium.

There’s growing concern about the nutrient content in our fruits and vegetables, due to “soil depletion.” It’s outside the scope of this article, and I haven’t explored it, but personally wouldn’t be surprised if modern farming techniques have, to maybe even a great extent, stripped our soil of essential nutrients. Magnesium has reportedly taken a big hit. So, you might take that conversation into consideration, and get your veggies from the organic section, the farmers market, plant your own garden, and/or consider non food Magnesium supplementation.

Magnesium depletion in our bodies can be brought about easily by following the American Diet: processed foods, soda, sugar, alcohol, all meds, and believe it or not, Calcium supplements, too. It would seem that the cards were stacked against our hero.

Fortunately, there are many options available to supplement your Magnesium intake, and based on our over calcification epidemic, I actually approve of them where applicable. Go for the mineral salt forms, with the highest bioavailability. Salts come directly from nature. I like Magnesium Chloride, from sea water. It’s highly bioavailable, water soluble, and absorbable. Something important to note here: Natural Magnesium Salts could be labeled “inorganic” on the bottle. There are also forms processed in a lab known as either acid complexes or amino acid chelates. These are referred to as “organic.” These definitions, although legitimate in a chemistry lab, are confusing to health minded consumers, who prefer to see “organic” on the label, rather than “inorganic.”

I prefer the Magnesium oil spray, to pills. It’s actually not an oil at all, but it does have a slippery feel to it. I spray it right on my sore back and get immediate relief. Since I began taking it, I’m feeling more flexible on every level, so I know my Liver is happier, and that’s what Magnesium does, and that’s a good thing. I have a few patients, who are having great results using it on their stiff and sore hands and feet, and I’m hearing reports from patients of better sleep, and feeling more relaxed from using it. With the spray, you can easily regulate how much you take a day, and where and when you want to apply it. I really like that. Plus, because it’s transdermal, it bypasses the GI tract. If you’re like me and like to save money, you can make your own spray using Magnesium Chloride flakes and distilled water. It’s really cheap and it works.

It’s easy to figure out how much Magnesium spray is right for you, as too much non-food Magnesium supplementation shows up as loose stools, at the onset. Ignore that progression and you might also end up with nausea and vomiting. Looser stools are a good barometer though, and who doesn’t enjoy being more regular? Apparently, as a Magnesium deficiency corrects, you’ll find that you need less of it. I have seen many claims that because the spray bypasses the GI tract that you won’t get diarrhea if you take too much. Don’t believe a word of it.

One principle of Chinese physiology is that Liver controls Spleen. One of the many functions of Spleen is to cook down and assimilate, or digest what we take in as food, and as life. It “holds things in place,” assuring that what we consume doesn’t pour through us, but rather that it has a perfectly timed trip through the assimilation process, to assure that all available qi, or nutrients if you’d prefer, are extracted. When this becomes compromised, the classic symptom of diarrhea can show up. Further, as things are not properly “held,” an interesting and unsettling bearing down sensation in the abdomen can manifest. Both first and second hand experience with this phenomena is a great reminder that Liver’s control over Spleen is dependent upon its integrity as a yang, male, assertive energetic. Too much Magnesium seems to ultimately “soften up” Liver, beyond the point of flexibility, and it loses its integrity and its assertive control over Spleen.

Magnesium sulfate, commonly known as Epsom Salts, are great for the bath. You can ingest them, and folks do, however, Magnesium Chloride is more highly absorbable than Magnesium Sulfate. You will see recommendations for putting a couple oz. in your bath water - an expensive proposition, and as it’s less readily commercially available, I stick with Epsom Salts in the tub and Magnesium Chloride for supplemental purposes.

A common misunderstanding is that Magnesium levels can be quantified via blood work; not the case. Because Magnesium is rapidly absorbed into every cell in our bodies, serum blood levels are inaccurate and irrelevant, and as of yet, a cost effective means to measure intercellular magnesium levels hasn’t been made commonly available. So, when the doctor is reviewing your blood work with you, it’s safe to disregard the Magnesium levels. Let your bowels tell you what’s what. They’re always right.

There are potential contraindications with some commonly prescribed meds, and with kidney failure and some heart conditions, so as always, consult your GP.


What about Calcium? We know that taken in appropriate levels, through natural sources, its scope is well beyond just “being” bone. It plays an important role in enzyme and nervous system functions, blood clotting, muscle tone and contractions and cell membrane integrity.

However, when in excess, when ill absorbed, and/or when it’s just the wrong kind of Calcium, i.e. Calcium Carbonate, which so many bottled versions seem to be, it deposits in places where it’s not supposed to be: joints, blood vessels, skin, eyes and internal organs, and blocks up free and fluid functioning. This results in immobility due to tight and contracted muscles, painful arthritic joints, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, kidney and gall stones, bone and heel spurs, and cataracts. When you really think about it, how are our bodies supposed to respond to ingesting excessive amounts of pulverized rocks, shells, and coral? Further, why would we need more of it to treat the same things they seem to be causing? As the old saying goes: one can take too much of even a good thing, and in the case of Calcium, I’ll drop in another one of my favorite one liner’s: “If you didn’t take so many supplements, you wouldn’t need to take so many supplements.”

Here’s my view. Too much of any nutrient is not good, neither is too little. It’s interesting how the diseases that Calcium is supposed to prevent or cure, osteoporosis included, are now being attributed to both Calcium deficiency and excess. As usual, it sounds like balance is the key here, and considering all the other minerals needed to maintain the body’s delicate balance, what’s the point of throwing it off? Unlike the Calcium found through natural sources, Calcium supplements are not “all natural.” There are different types and differing additives and processes that they all go through in order to make the shells and rocks more absorbable, even if our bodies don’t really know what the heck to do with them.

Look though: foods that are rich in Calcium are abundant!

  Veggies - collard greens, kale, turnip greens, dandelion greens, green beans, okra, bok choy, watercress, broccoli, and hijiki.
  North Atlantic Fish - salmon, perch, rainbow trout, pollock, sardines, clams, and blue crab.
  Herbs - dill, basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, poppy seed, celery seed, mint, parsley, rosemary, stinging nettle, oatstraw, red clover and comfrey (traditionally referred to as “bone knit”)
  Grains - oats, quinoa, amaranth.
  Nuts and Seeds -almonds, crushed sesame seeds and tahini.
  Beans - black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans and black-eyed peas.

Most soy and dairy products, which I would for the most part avoid for a host or reasons, and deserving of their own respective “debacle” articles, are commonly (mis)used sources of Calcium, as well. I do approve of fermented soy products, such as miso and temphe. Plain organic yogurt seems to be acceptable as well.

Regular excessive consumption of certain things can interfere with proper Calcium absorption: processed foods, salt, soda, sugar, coffee, dairy, unfermented soy products, white flour, steroids, fluoride from toothpaste and water, fiber and bulk producing laxatives. Spinach, rhubarb, chard and beet greens, consumed in excess also appear to throw off the balance, but that wouldn’t stop me from eating them, in moderation - like anything, as they are rich in other nutrients.

If you have well water, consider having it tested. Hard water may indicate high Calcium levels. I once lived in a house where the plumbing fixtures always had a white scaly buildup. As it turned out, the water had extremely high levels of Calcium. The form of Calcium that results in a scaly buildup in your plumbing fixtures is Calcium Carbonate. This form is not water soluble, therefore our bodies do not assimilate it, and will follow suit with a scaly buildup. Sounds like a job for Magnesium Man. But why not Vitamin D?

  Vitamin D  

As many of you know, I’ve been mad at Vitamin D for some time now. It’s nothing personal, but I don’t like how it’s being pushed as the best way, or only way, to assimilate Calcium or to fight cancer, avoid rickets, cure depression and everything else it's claimed to do. I don’t believe it, and I know for sure that magnesium needs to be a huge part of the picture and has been virtually ignored.

Vitamin D’s importance through natural means is as the regulator of Calcium and Phosphorus in our bodies and is therefore a key player in the building and maintenance of bone. In Chinese physiology, Bladder is the Yang aspect of the Water Element. It grants the capacity for wisely expending resources. It sets and maintains limitations, especially in regard to its Yin sister, Kidney - sounds a lot like Vitamin D’s function as it relates to bone, doesn’t it? Bladder is tasked with honoring the limitations necessary to maintain our precious Kidney yin – our essence, our bone, and for wisely allocating it as the basis and foundation of all aspects of our animation and expression on every level. It’s an important balancing act, and I truly believe we shouldn’t be goofing around with it.

If you don’t already know this, and I didn’t, the go-to supplement,: “Vitamin D3,” is not natural, or even a vitamin at all, but a synthetic, produced in a lab. A vitamin by definition provides the body with an essential nutrient that it cannot make on its own but is required for survival. This is not the case with synthetic D in a bottle; whether labeled D2 or "Natural D3," they're imposters. We’ve been led to believe that D2 is the synthetic version of Vitamin D and that D3 is natural. Thanks to some fancy labeling laws and practices, this is once again not the case. All bottled D3 is a synthetic isolate from irradiated animal tissue. How’s them apples?

How did I not suspect this? I suppose though that the animal part makes it “natural” or they put it in “organic “olive oil to make it look legit on the shelf. It’s not, and I find that bothersome, so much so that I threw my drops out after 3 years of taking them on a daily basis. At first I felt great when I took them, literally like taking a dose of sunshine, and I loved the way they tasted. They were supposed to be good for me and I even felt guilty when I didn’t take them. I hadn’t done my research or exercised any common sense before I drank the Kool-Aid.

Clearly, you have to dig deep to find anything “wrong” with D3. The pop health guru’s are pushing it, as are the mainstream doctors, but I don’t think anyone’s really sure why. Honestly, I couldn’t find any studies to substantiate its claimed efficacy, and any positive results that I found were correlative at best. Is that science?

What ought to be science is that regularly ingesting something that’s synthesized in a lab for the sake of wellness and prevention makes no sense at all. How can it? Our bodies don’t know how to deal with synthetics and when used over a period of time, they cause dis-ease – inherently. Our receptor sites are in essence hacked into, and as the little folded up pieces of paper inside our medicine boxes suggest, we can expect system wide ramifications.

There’s a certain group of folks who follow a line of thought called "The Marshall Protocol" and claim that all Vitamin D is toxic and dangerous, and will ultimately lead to basically every disease process that it’s purported to cure or prevent. They’re presenting a different view of its bio-molecular function and are catching a lot of flak for it. The treatment protocol is extremist as it calls for a complete avoidance of Vitamin D, even from the sun, with high doses of antibiotics, to boot. Why the extremes? How can this be good for anyone?

I do appreciate the fact that they perturb the assumptions about the D's, and, correct in their science or not, are sounding a horn. This will all hopefully lead to further inquiry from differing and more moderate perspectives, but unfortunately, I’m sure there will be more studies too.I'm not a big fan of studies. By necessity, they analyze tiny little aspects of a much greater functional whole. The end result, by necessity, ignores the whole, and I say that renders them insignificant from a holistic standpoint.

A garden functions as a garden, not as a slice taken from the bark of a tree in the garden. Yes, you can further understand the tree bark, as a function of the tree in the garden, but you can’t understand the garden as a function of only the tree bark. There’s just too much other important stuff going on, all of which would be folly to ignore. We are the garden, and the thing about gardens, and the thing about life, and in this case, a nutrient, is that its action is dependent upon the action of every other nutrient, electro-chemical reaction, and functioning on a system wide scale, all the time. We can’t expect to isolate something then understand how it completely works within the whole body. You can’t pull one strand of the web and not affect the whole web.

So, study or no study, I predict that the D’s will be just another “miracle preventative and cure-all” gone the same way as hormone replacement therapy, soy, fluoride, low cholesterol, dairy, sugar substitutes, vaccinations, and lobotomies. Time will once again tell as it always seems to with trends. But, pay no attention to that, ‘cause right around the corner there will be a brand new, completely artificial, “natural,” Franken-elixir to make sure we stay healthy... so long as we buy enough of it!

Surely though, the importance of Vitamin D – the real deal - can’t be understated, and the best natural source for Vitamin D is a small, intelligent amount of daily sunshine. Aside from its abundant life-giving brilliance, exposure to sunlight provides us lots of wondrous natural Vitamin D, as well as countless other heavenly gifts that could never be measured, isolated out, or bottled.

The sun should be celebrated, worshiped, and respected, yet we’ve been taught to fear it, blame it, and protect ourselves from it. I say the sun has nothing to do with the etiology of skin cancer and is more scapegoat, than catalyst. Anything taken to excess causes dis-ease, even if it’s “good for you.” That’s pretty basic.

If you’re from Finland, I can imagine that suddenly choosing to gorge yourself with collard greens for years on end would ultimately trigger a disease response. The same goes for baking your Northern European skin for a decade in the sunny climes of Southern California. They’re just plain incongruent. Add to this the processed, synthetic, partially hydrogenated, stripped of goodness, and fortified with ‘vitamins,” food stuff that was on the shelves in the 70’s, and still is today, it's no wonder the incidence of skin cancer has sky rocketed. Let's not blame the sun, folks, and slather on the toxic chemicals to protect ourselves from its deadly wrath. If you have to be in it for more than a reasonable, minimal amount of time for you, then cover up – not out of fear, but out of common sense. Too much Vitamin D, too much sun, isn’t good for anyone. It’s why sombreros were invented.

How much sunlight is enough for you, though? It depends. If your ancestry hails from the upper latitudes and you burn easily, you can expect to require less. Maybe 5-10 minutes of direct sunlight a day is right for you - more if you’re sporting a tropical bloodline, especially if you spend a significant amount of time indoors. Generally, I'd approach the sun with respect and common sense based on your history. As always, moderation is key. So, know thyself, don’t burn, don’t avoid, and come up with a level of sunshine that you can feel comfortable with and which therefore works for you.

Aside from sunshine, there are a handful of foods that provide our bodies with what they need to make Vitamin D. Fatty fishes such as salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, sockeye, halibut, eel, trout, herring, catfish and oysters are good sources. If you don't care for fish, egg yolks and beef liver will do, and cod liver oil is an excellent and popular source, as well.

So, if I were a woman who cared about any of this, I’d want to do some of my own research. In the meantime I would eat more of my favorite natural Calcium sources, consider a complete elimination of non-food Calcium supplements, introduce Magnesium Salts and Magnesium rich foods, especially if I'd been diagnosed with oseopenia, osteoporosis, heart disease, or any of the array of popular symptoms or diseases of either calcium excess or the subsequent magnesium deficiency. Further, as the jury is still out, and the scales are beginning to tip on the synthetic D’s after all these many years, why risk it? I’d drop it entirely, and sit in the sun for 10 minutes a day instead, take some cod liver oil and eat more salmon.

I’d certainly have regular acupuncture treatments to be sure all 5 Elements are flowing together nicely. Right now, as winter moves into spring, and Water feeds Wood, there’s a tremendous amount of emphasis on actualizing our deepest potential. It’s when our bones come to life again and we spring forward with strength, precision and ease.

Acupuncture and Tui Na support and appropriate our functioning on every level, in every system, and throughout every cell in our bodies. Every innumerable and complicated bio-chemical reaction, every emotional tendency, every inspired moment is simply qi moving with direction and function. Through the 5 Element lens it can look like a steady breeze, an afternoon thunderstorm, or an early frost, at one with the quality of the earth, the orientation of the sun, and the choice of plantings in our gardens.

We are the gardens, and the thing about gardens is that they exist as an inseparable whole. They’re entirely unique to themselves, their environments and their histories, and require highly individualized care. In order to thrive, their owners must be observant and wise to their nature. They don’t respond well to extreme fads or daily doses of toxins. They’re a heck of a lot simpler to tend, and enjoyable to be, than biochemical factories, and you don’t need to be a molecular biologist to understand how they work.

But don't be fooled! I’m not a woman, a doctor, or a scientist, so please consult your doctor, do your own research, listen to your gut, and know that, as fun as this was to read, that its contents are based on my own opinion, research, observations and personal experience, none of which constitutes medical advice.

March 2014


Colloidal Silver: Another lesser known, but incredibly safe and effective must have. This one kills all pathogenic bacteria, virus and fungi.

On being a more conscious consumer in the medical marketplace:
The Diagnosis Dilemma, pt.1

Back to the Articles and Essays main page.

Back to the Top.