Osteoporosis – You Can Rebuild Your Bones

Background

A crippling, degenerative disease marked by gradual loss of bone mass, osteoporosis can lead to height loss, a stooped appearance, back pain and skeletal deformities or fractures, especially of the hips. Bone loss occurs at different locations depending on the woman, the most common being the spine and hips. Those with the highest risk have Caucasian or Asian ancestry, a family history of osteoporosis, take excessive mounts of thyroid or cortisone-like drugs, are physically inactive, have early or surgically induced menopause, a diet low in calcium sources and smoke or drink alcohol.

Although bone mass starts declining around the ages 30-35, the first five years after menopause is the major time of bone loss for most women. Osteoporosis is a nutritional deficiency at literally epidemic proportions in the U.S. More than 25 million Americans are living with the crippling effects of osteoporosis at a cost of about $14 billion dollars each year. More than 1.2 million fractures occur each year as a direct result of osteoporosis. Spontaneous compression fractures of the vertebrae and the back cause tremendous pain and suffering for those with this disease.

Osteoporosis has been presented to the public as a disease merely dependent on estrogen and calcium. In response, the health-care community treats menopausal women with Hormone Replacement therapy (HRT) in order to curb the onset of osteoporosis. Many believe HRT can slow the progression of osteoporosis but it can do more harm than good. More than 40% who take estrogen replacement get breast cancer. The pharmaceutical companies responded to this negative media coverage by convincing doctors that the benefits of HRT far outweigh the risks. In fact patients taking HRT have an increase of heart attacks, especially in the first year of taking it. Developing blood clots in the legs, and gallbladder disease is not uncommon. Perhaps the good does not outweigh the bad.

Several new products have arrived on the market, such as Fosomax, Actonel, Evista, and Calcitonin, which have the ability to increase bone density. Doctor’s are recommending these drugs more and more instead of HRT, primarily because of the concern about HRT.

A Little Bit About Bones

Bones are actives, living tissue, which is continually remodeling itself through osteoblastic (bone forming) and osteoclastic (bone reabsorbing) activity. Bone is not just a collection of calcium crystals; it is a living tissue engaged in biochemical reactions that are dependent on many different micronutrients and enzyme systems. Like any living tissue, bone has diverse nutritional needs.

The Standard American Diet (SAD), with its high intake of white breads, white flour, refined sugars, and fat, is terribly deficient in many of these essential nutrients. The SAD is high in meats and carbonated beverages, which increase the intake of phosphorous and decrease our absorption of calcium.

Supplements

Inadequate intake of any nutrient required for bone health contributes to osteoporosis. Calcium is not the only nutrient we need for strong bones. Nutritional supplementation plays a vital role in preserving adequate bone mass, preventing the loss of protein in the bone, and making sure the bone has all the proper nutrients it needs to repair and replace damaged ares of bone.

Calcium

Calcium and vitamin D supplementation slow down osteoporosis they do not prevent it. Calcium is an essential nutrient in the fight against osteoporosis. Both men and women should take supplements 800- 1,500 mg daily, depending on the amount of calcium they are getting in their diet. People more consistently absorb calcium citrate than calcium carbonate. Calcium supplements should be taken with food.

Magnesium

Magnesium is important in several biochemical reactions that take place within the bone. Magnesium activates alkaline phosphatase, which is a required enzyme in the process of forming new bone crystals. And vitamin D needs magnesium to convert to its most active form. If there is a deficiency in magnesium, it can lead to a syndrome of vitamin D resistance. Most Americans eat a magnesium-deficient diet.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D is typically produced in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight but as people age, they spend less time in the sun and vitamin D deficiency becomes very common. Most people get their vitamin D from fortified foods such as milk, but it must then be converted to its biologically active form, vitamin D3. Often the impaired conversion of vitamin D to vitamin D3 may be more of a problem than deficient intake. The recommended supplementation of vitamin D should be in the form of D3.

Everyone should take more vitamin D supplements and a level significantly higher that the recommended daily dose. The recommended dosage is 500-800 IU of vitamin D daily is critical if you’re going to have any effect on the epidemic of osteoporosis. It will then allow you to absorb calcium much better if you also take it along with vitamin D and food.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is required to synthesize osteocalcin, a protein found in large quantities within the bone. It is critical in bone formation, remodeling, and repair. For those with osteoporosis, by taking a vitamin K supplement, it will reduce urinary calcium loss and retain calcium rather than excrete it.

Manganese

Manganese is necessary for the synthesis of connective tissue in cartilage and bone. Like magnesium, manganese is lost in the processing of whole grains into refined flour. Most women with osteoporosis have low levels of manganese. This nutrient also needs to be present at optimal levels if you have any desire to prevent osteoporosis.

Folic Acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12

Homocysteine (see Understanding Heart Disease – How To Avoid and Reverse) is not only bad for you blood vessels, but it is also bad for your bones. Individuals with severe elevations of homocysteine have been found to have significant osteoporosis as well. Premenopausal women have a greater efficiency in breaking down methionine and have little buildup of homocysteine. This changes dramatically after menopause. Postmenopausal women have much higher levels of homocysteine. This clearly shows these women need higher amounts of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.

Boron

When it comes to bone metabolism, the urinary excretion of calcium decreases almost in half. Boron also increases magnesium concentrations and decreases phosphorous levels. Supplements with 3 mg daily of boron is more than adequate.

Silicon

Silicon is important because of it’s ability to strengthen the connective tissue matrix, which strengthens bones. People with osteoporosis, in whom the generation of new bone is desirable, need increased amounts of silicon.

Zinc

This mineral is essential for the normal functioning of vitamin D. Low serum zinc levels are found in the serum and bones of people with osteoporosis.

Herbs

Herbal sources for calcium and magnesium: Horsetail, Dandelion root, kelp, nettles, and oats.

Herbal sources for connective tissue: Bee pollen, royal jelly, horsetail, and rose hips.

Herbal sources for estrogen precursers: Dong quai, blessed thistel, sarsaparilla root, and black cohosh.

Herbal sources for vitamin A and vitamin D: Chlorella, yellow dock, parsley leaf and root, and alfalfa.

Herbal sources for enzyme producing herbs: Barley grass, dandelion root, licorice root, and chickweed.

Herbal sources for silica and support minerals: Horsetail, dulse, borage seed, white oak bark, black cohosh, and kelp.

While estrogen slows bone loss, it does not contribute to bone formation. Progesterone quickly promotes bone building and density by stimulating osteoblasts (cells building bone mass). Vitex and wild yam are good herbal progesterone promoters, and many women benefit from a progesterone cream.

More Information

Osteoporosis is not simply a disease that comes about from a lack of calcium and estrogen. Our bodies need multiple nutrients for bones remodeling and the production of good healthy bone.

We also need to control our oxidative stress. People with decreased bone density have increased oxidative stress. You will not only want to take important nutrients needed for bone production but also take all the antioxidants and supporting nutrients to build up your antioxidant defense system.

Before you get to the age of forty, begin supplementation with high quality antioxidant and mineral tablets along with additional amount of calcium, magnesium, boron, and silicon.

Other Changes

It’s critical for adults also to eat a healthy diet and develop a modest exercise program. Weight-bearing exercises need to be part of the program as they are a necessary component in stimulating the body to make more bone. Walking may help the lower legs but does very little for the back and hips; upper body weight resistance exercises such as lifting weights over your head are critical to anyone who is trying to protect themselves from this devastating disease. Hands down the best prevention and treatment for osteoporosis is weight bearing exercise. Other benefits of weight-bearing exercise include diminished risk of heart disease, better sleep, fewer mood swings and decreased pain. Be sure to choose an exercise that is fun and doesn’t cause excessive sweating or depletion. Be sure to avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking, salt, and excessive phosphorous (all carbonated drinks), as these cause bone loss.

Recommendations

Dietary Recommendations

High soy diet: 50-100 mg isoflavones per day.

High in dark leafy greens: 1-2 servings a day. Skip spinach and chard as they are high in oxilic acid, which binds with calcium, making it unavailable to the body.

Cultured dairy such as cottage cheese and yogurt.

Reduce animal products (best to avoid them altogether), promote vegetarian choices, but with adequate protein.

Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

Exercise

Regular weight-bearing exercise: 30-60 minutes a day, four or more times a week.

Supplements

Calcium Citrate: 800 – 1,500 mg per day

Magnesium citrate: 200-400 mg per day

Vitamin D: 500-800 IU per day

Boron: 3 mg per day

Zinc: 15 mg per day

manganese: 15 mg per day

vitamin K: 200 mcg per day

Folic Acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12: Make sure these are present in your supplement: per day

Herbal Formula

Sip this tea three times a day to help build and strengthen your bones.

3 parts horsetail

1 part nettles

2 parts black cohosh

2 parts burdock root

2 parts dandelion root

 

 

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Comments
9 Responses to “Osteoporosis – You Can Rebuild Your Bones”
  1. nancy crowley says:

    Thank you for your very informative article. I have been diagnosed with osteoporosis for 10 years. (Dr. ordered bone density test right after taking me off HRT.)I have none of the lifestyle risks – am very active, hike regularly, and eat a healthy diet with supplements. I am blue eyed and have small bones, so probably have a genetic risk (my mother was never evaluated for osteoporosis and died of Parksinsons Disease at 87.). I have been taking fosomax since I was diagnosed. My second bone density test (2-3 years after diagnosis) showed approximately the same level of bone loss. I was disappointed to hear my dr. say this year (8 years after 2nd test) that there was no need to do another test as results would probably be the same because fosomax does not rebuild bones, only prevents further loss. Since the second test, I have added 800-1000 mgs. Vitamin D, Boron, Maganese, Vitamjn K and B6. As a result of your article, I will now add Vitamin K.
    Would it not be a good idea to get another BD test after adding these supplements as well as taking a bone building exercise class (ongoing)? What do the studies show in terms of % of increase in bone mass for osteo. patients who follow the dietary, supplement and exercise protocal?? Or is stopping the bone loss the best we can hope for??

    Sincere thanks, Nancy

  2. Nancy,

    Research is still in it’s infancy concerning the results of adding the vitamin and minerals, exercise, and a change in diet. It is hard to pinpoint because there are vast areas for studying and vast areas for errors in collected data. Some lifestyle issues effect the outcome (eating meat – quantity is varied among patients, some exercise – some do not, some have risk factors – others do not, etc.) so it’s too early to report research findings in percentage. However, most research is coming back with high numbers in patients who consume very little protein from animals, take supplements supporting osteoblastic and osteoclastic, eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals needed for healthy bone, and regularly partake in weight bearing exercise.
    As for the bone density test, doctor’s look for progression of disease. I am assuming your doctor did not see a reason for the bone density test on you because he/she felt the disease has not progressed. Consider that a sign that your supplements, exercise, and other changes are working! Most people in eight years would have had noticable progression. Keep up the good work! The bone density test is the only way to know exactly what state your bone’s are in now and it is something you would have to talk to your doctor more about. Sometimes just telling your doctor you would like to have the test for peace of mind (from falling and preventing breaks, etc) and to make sure you’re going in the right direction.
    And, yes, you can rebuild your bone density. Bone is living tissue and this living tissue, if nourished properly with lifestyle changes, can grow back strong and dense. Slowing the bone loss is all the prescription medications will do but nutritional medicine and lifestyle changes will definately rebuild your bones.

    Alexa

  3. Annie says:

    Hello,

    I have Osteoporosis, and I get leg Cramps from K3!
    Do you know why?
    Also I’m now getting leg cramps when I take a low dose of minerals?

    I do take 2000, to 4000iu of D3 aday and Cals 1500mg and other vits.
    All those seem to agree with me.

    What do you think, or know about Strontium Citrate?
    I took on monthly Boniva one time and was sick for 2 weeks or longer, as even a few weeks longer I was have pain in different parts of my body and joints.
    I will not take Drugs for my Osteoporosis. From what I have read they really do not help anyways, and do have allot of side effects.

    Thank you,
    Annie

  4. Annie says:

    Hello,

    I have Osteoporosis, and I get leg Cramps from K3!
    Do you know why?
    Also I’m now getting leg cramps when I take a low dose of minerals?

    I do take 2000, to 4000iu of D3 aday and Cals 1500mg and other vits.
    All those seem to agree with me.

    What do you think, or know about Strontium Citrate?
    I took one monthly Boniva one time, and was sick for 2 weeks or longer, as even a after the few weeks, I was having pain in different parts of my body and joints.
    I will not take Drugs for my Osteoporosis. From what I have read they really do not help in the long run, and do have allot of side effects.

    Thank you,
    Annie

  5. Bonnie says:

    I am 58 years old.
    I became aware that I suffer from osteoporosis about a year and a half ago.
    (My mother, and probably my grandmother, also had osteoporosis. Plus, I have the typical body type.)
    Since then, I have increased my intake of calcium, Vitamin D and many of the other nutrients you mention (in a capsule with Ipriflavone recommended by my doctor). I walk a lot and exercise in a gym – including weight bearing – several times a week.
    My recent bone density test showed no change.
    I am not currently taking any medication for fear that Fosomax, etc. will interfere with my body’s ability to form new bone, according to recent research I have read.
    Is this true? Should I take a drug? If so, which would you recommend?
    Also, could you please comment on the value of ipriflavone.
    Thank you.

  6. ROSE KENT says:

    Good article. Knowledgable .I have deterioration of lower lumbar discs.

  7. Nikole says:

    Good information, thanks.

  8. Barb Sydow says:

    I have been feeling pain in my bones for the last 5 yrs. I started supplementing with vitamins at that time. I am doing most of the above, and I will now add K, Boron, and Maganese. Thank you for posting this. Last yr. I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis at age 41. I did have a hysterectomy at age 38 due to cysts and enlarged uterus. This week I was diagnosed with DDD of the cervical spine. I am in a lot of pain, but do not take any drugs. I wonder if there is anything else I can do to stop this from getting worse.

  9. Honeybee says:

    Thank you for all of the information you have gathered here! I am 29 years old and am already dealing with osteoporosis due to a spinal injury that occurred 11 years ago, keeping me from bearing weight/ walking. I know I will walk again. But in the mean time, I need to do all I can in supplying my bones with what they need to grow stronger again. Your article is right up my alley, not only because I always prefer doing things the natural way, but because it’s true that the drugs only try to prevent or stop the progression of osteoporosis; they do not reverse it. That’s not good enough, especially with the condition mine are in. So your article was an awesome starting point of research for me!

    There are 2 points I’d like to address, both for you to add to your wealth of info on this topic, and for anyone else who may read this comment… First, is soy. After reading this, I began drinking soy milk, but stopped it recently. Here’s why. Not only is soy high in phytoestrogens, which are chemicals that act like estrogen in the human body (which may be good for some, but not all), the big problem I read about is that soy has a potent enzyme that blocks the absorption of minerals including calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc in the intestinal tract. I definitely don’t want anything getting in the way of my absorbing these important minerals! This may be newer research since you wrote this article, but you examined the way spinach blocks calcium absorption (which I never knew!) so I just wanted to point out that soy does as well…

    The second thing regards vitamin K. I spent a lot of time reading about K1 and K2, and it turns out that a component of K2 is something called MK4. I encourage everyone to look up MK4! It turns out that it has been a treatment in Japan for osteoporosis with phenomenal results! It has caught the attention of doctors here, even ones in Harvard, and there’s a supplement out now that includes the recommended amount of MK4 with calcium and vitamin D. And it has better results, they are saying, than any drugs, on the prevention of bone fractures. This is because vitamin MK4 works on building the bones’ collagen, or elasticity, making them less brittle. And it does not have side effects. :)

    So between that and the rest of your helpful information, I hope to be seeing a great improvement in the rebuilding of my bones. Thanks again!!

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