Osteoporosis – You Can Rebuild Your Bones
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.
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 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 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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Regular weight-bearing exercise: 30-60 minutes a day, four or more times a week.
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
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