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Natural Support for Strong and Healthy Bones

One out of every two women will be affected by bone loss (osteopenia or osteoporosis).

Osteopenia is the first stage of loss of bone when bone mineral density begins to drop. Osteoporosis is the disease of severe bone loss and is the leading cause of fractures in the elderly. Over 50% of those people with osteoporosis will never fully recover from a bone fracture. Not only will they end up with a permanent disability, but over 20% of these people die within one year of the fracture. By taking steps for good bone health 20-30 years prior, many of these bone breaks could be prevented.

Am I at risk for bone loss?

Postmenopausal women are most at risk for developing osteoporosis because of the drop in estrogen levels during this time. If you are menopausal your bone loss is the most rapid for the first 5 years after your menses ceases. Men can develop osteoporosis as well. Typically, men develop bone loss later than women due to their larger bone mass. After age 60 men are at an increased risk for developing osteopenia (slight bone loss) or osteoporosis (severe bone loss). Men are particularly at risk if they have low testosterone levels. Many different factors determine your risk for developing bone loss. The following medical history may increase your risk for developing bone loss and osteoporosis:

  • Smoking or frequent exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Postmenopausal women
  • Menopause or hysterectomy in late 30s or early 40s without hormone replacement therapy
  • Men with low testosterone levels
  • Use of steroid medications
  • Use of reflux or certain antidepressant medications
  • Use of Methotrexate or other chemotherapy medications
  • Use of Heparin and other blood thinners
  • Diabetic patients who receive long-term insulin therapy
  • Immobility caused by injury or other sedentary lifestyle
  • Malabsorption, weight loss surgeries or eating disorders
  • History of fractures or family medical history of osteoporosis
  • Thyroid, parathyroid or adrenal disorders

How do I find out if I have weak bones that put me at risk for a bone fracture?

Bone mineral density testing (i.e. DEXA scan) is the most common test used to screen for bone loss. This test gives you a score called a T-score. If your T-score is 2.5 or more standard deviations below the average 25 year old adult (T-score = -2.5) then you will be diagnosed with osteoporosis. If you have a T-score between -1 and -2.5 then you have bone density lower than the average adult and you will be diagnosed with osteopenia. Recently the World Health Organization developed a web-based tool that can predict your ten-year risk of osteoporosis fracture. This assessment is known as FRAX. This online calculator uses your bone mineral density score while taking into account several other individual risk factors.

How can I support my bone health naturally without medications?

High-impact, weight-bearing exercises such as weight training along with long-term calcium supplementation are well known first steps to osteoporosis prevention. Women who take calcium supplements can decrease their fracture risk by half. But this is just the beginning. There are several other steps you can take to help establish good bone health.

  1. Eat a pH balanced diet (alkaline diet).

    Diets rich in processed foods, refined sugars, salt, caffeine, and an abundance of animal protein are known to cause the body to become more acidic. When this happens your body steals minerals from your bones to rebalance the pH. By eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and reducing your processed food consumption your body will not need the calcium and magnesium from your bones to re-establish balance. This type of alkaline diet will help preserve your bone health in the long run.
  2. Find Balance.

    Many traditional exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi are now available in local health clubs and fitness centers. Not only are these exercises teaching awareness and relaxation, but they also focus on strengthening those muscles essential for control and balance. By strengthening these muscles, we stimulate our bodies to build bone. In addition, better balance leads to less falls later in life.
  3. Decrease stress.

    We know that chronic stress can take its toll on our emotional well-being, but it can also be detrimental to our bone health. Our stress hormone, known as cortisol, is our body's natural steroid. Cortisol is released when we are sad, mad, scared or in pain. If it remains at a high level for a long period of time our body can develop many negative side effects including bone loss. There are special tests that can look at your stress hormone levels and help target therapies that can support and protect your body from the negative effects of stress. Many people find adrenal support supplements helpful for chronic daily stress.
  4. Build muscle.

    Quite simply, those activities that stimulate the body to build muscle also stimulate the body to build bone. A combination of high impact exercises (running and jumping) with low impact exercises (push-ups and lunges) is the best for building bone. Exercises like swimming and biking can increase your bones' flexibility and compression strength. Some gyms even have a whole-body vibration platform to stimulate bone growth. Combining resistant exercises with targeted nutritional support to build muscle can be a great way to build strong bones.
  5. Decrease Inflammation.

    If you have chronic conditions such as arthritis, asthma, allergies, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and chronic pain then you also have chronic inflammation. Initially, inflammation is the way the immune system triggers the body's healing processes. Sometimes the immune system can go overboard, and this can result in chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can make many conditions worse and can cause more problems in the long run such as bone loss. Taking steps to decrease inflammation by following an anti-inflammatory diet, reducing exposure to toxic chemicals, and addressing the underlying cause of health conditions that stimulate inflammation will not only improve your bone health, but will improve your overall well-being. Anti-inflammatory medications can cause damage to the intestinal lining and cause other negative side effects. For this reason many people are choosing natural anti-inflammatory formulas to decrease total body pain and inflammation.
  6. Targeted Supplementation

    • Calcium: Most studies show that calcium supplementation along with vitamin D can cut fracture rates by half. Calcium citrate and microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate (MCHC) are believed to be the superior absorbed forms of calcium. MCHC has the added advantage of including other trace minerals and proteins that help promote bone. Calcium should be taken in divided doses with no more than 500 mg at one time. We usually recommend consuming around 1000-1500 mg of calcium daily by taking supplements and eating calcium rich foods.
    • Vitamin D: Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of falls and fractures when combined with calcium supplementation. A vitamin D3 supplement 800-1000 IU per day was found to be the most beneficial to bone health. People who live in northern latitudes are particularly at risk for a vitamin D deficiency and often require much higher doses to maintain appropriate vitamin D levels. Have your doctor measure your vitamin D levels to determine your appropriate level of vitamin D supplementation.
    • Magnesium: Newer research suggests that taking magnesium along with vitamin D and calcium can help prevent bone loss especially in postmenopausal women. We generally recommend women take 600 mg-1000 mg per day of magnesium.
    • Vitamin K: Many doctors overlook vitamin K as a crucial nutrient for bone health. Vitamin K is responsible for activating osteocalcin in the bone, a protein that attracts calcium to the bone. This ensures the calcium you take in your supplements ends up in the bone rather than in the arteries. A reminder: if you are taking blood thinners consult with your doctor before taking supplements with vitamin K.
    • Trace Minerals (Manganese, Copper, Zinc, Boron): Taking a combination of these trace minerals along with calcium has been shown to better increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women better than taking calcium alone. These minerals seem to be crucial for slowing down bone break down and to help build the collagen scaffolding of the bone.
    • Cholinestabilized orthosilic acid ("ch-OSA"): Besides being a mouth full, this patented form of silicon helps stimulate collagen production in the bone. Collagen builds a strong net in the bone providing more places for the calcium in bone to adhere. This helps build a strong, flexible and fracture resistant bone.

There are many pharmaceutical grade supplements that combine these nutrients to supply a comprehensive formula for bone health. If you are concerned about your bone health or have been recently diagnosed with bone loss we encourage you to schedule an appointment with a qualified practitioner who can help you understand how to integrate natural therapies with osteoporosis medications.