Osteoporosis is scary. We know that youngsters get stronger and longer bones as they age and this goes on to some extent right through our twenties. Round about age 30 though we reach peak bone mass and bone strength and our bones are expected to get weaker from then on as we continue to age.
This loss of bone mass and strength is called Osteoporosis and is often regarded as “normal”. And indeed a quick look around in any shopping centre shows a huge number of elderly people with walking sticks and frames if they are walking at all an not being pushed in a wheelchair.
These folk have a mix of disorders but Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis would be prominent along with many other “age related” diseases.
My definition of normal is different because I am a Naturopath and regard bone loss and increased risk of fracture as simply a disease that can be healed with lifestyle adoptions and not something that has to be “lived with”.
In this article we’ll look at what you can do to take your health into your hands and get it under control. We’ll start with another definition of Osteoporosis and then move into the action points for you to consider adopting.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis or OP, is a progressive loss of minerals, strength and protein from our bones due to inadequate diet and activity.
It is a lifestyle disorder like diabetes and heart disease and like them can be addressed by going to the root of things and not by covering over the symptoms with pharmaceutical drugs.
Risk Factors For Osteoporosis
Those with a smaller stature are more likely to get OP and so are those from Caucasian families. But that just means that extra attention is paid to the diet and other lifestyle factors by those affected.
It is also a risk factor to have worked in industries or occupations that exposed you to heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. Sometimes just living in a polluted neighbourhood may be enough to get exposure. If you have heavy metal contamination that can be tested and treated pretty simply and is well worth doing.
Pharmaceutical medicines can also be risk factors. It is scandalous in my view that drug medicines taken to treat one condition often cause another but pharmaceuticals such as steroids, barbiturates, proton pump inhibitors, heparin amongst others are risk factors for OP.
If you take any of these it may be worth consulting your Physician to see if there are less harmful alternatives.
What We Can Do About Our Bones
Have you heard the Children’s song…
”Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Now, hear the word of the Lord!”
Words here http://www.walkingoliver.com/dem-dry-bones/
If people know anything about their bones apart from the incorrect notion that they get weaker with age it is that bones and dry and bones are white.
You get weaker – both in muscle and bone with lack of exercise not age and bones are pale yellow and are living organs with a blood supply so they are not dry either!
Bones are living adapting organs that respond to exercise by strengthening and respond to nutrients like any other of our organs. So we need to nourish them, just like we nourish our muscles, brains and skin.
The Stress Connection
A memory has stayed with me since the early days of my learning clinical nutrition back in the eighties.
A researcher was about to publish a research paper and gave us an early peek into the data his study had found. The study compared the top drugs for Osteoporosis with a particular bone strengthening “exercise”.
The exercise was way more effective than the best drugs and now I’ll tell you what it was…
- The researcher showed us by standing so we could see him from the side.
- Then he lifted his heels off the ground a little – say half an inch, no more.
- He then let his body down to normal standing by letting his heels strike the floor.
That was it – stand up, lift heels off ground and then let them fall back onto the ground.
Why This “Foot Exercise” Works
Having read that you might wonder why this silly little move would work? Why would it beat the best drugs on the market?
Good questions and here’s why…
As we walk our hells are the first part of the foot to hit the ground. As it contacts the ground it makes what is called a “heel strike”. What happens with every heel strike is a shock wave travels not just through the foot but right up the legs and throughout the body.
The next bit is the interesting bit so read it very carefully…
The way that bones work is that they get stronger with shock and stress. So every heel strike makes the bones stronger and the shape of the bones will even change to make it even stronger to adapt to your movement and exercise.
Walking makes your bones stronger.
And so will the researcher’s silly little exercise.
And so would skipping and lots of other walking, jumping and jogging exercises but only if you do not wear trainers.
No trainers because they cushion the feet and cut down the shock waves and stress and we don’t want to do that.
Trainers are for professional athletes with special needs they are not for the average Jane who needs to exercise and get some shock and stress into her skeleton.
Is there a vitamin D connection?
There is another risk factor we face that can turn into an “Action factor” – something we can do to boost our health – and that is vitamin D. It is only in sunny climates that we can get enough natural vitamin D by our exposure to sunshine.
Northern latitudes such as Canada and the UK are at risk and lots of US citizens too unless you live in sunny Florida, Texas or Southern California, for example.
Even in sunny places we may not get enough sun exposure if we indoors too much or completely cover up due to fear of sunburn.
Best advice is to get a simple blood test of our vitamin D and then supplement with the needed dose of vitamin D3. Do take care that you see the actual amount of vitamin D and do not let yourself be told that your level is normal. Ideas of what is normal have changed a lot in the last few years and nowadays the normal level is much higher than it used to be.
A normal level is generally regarded as 50 to 60 ng/ml and anything below that needs fixing with daily D3 of say, 3000 iu tablets or capsules. In fact you can now get a D3 liquid with 5000 iu per tiny drop. You can even get a D3 spray so it is really very easy to get a daily shot of this vital vitamin.
In the Winter it is generally a good idea to increase your dose to make up for less sunshine. And preferably test again after a few months and see how you are doing.
Another Vitamin we need for bone health and strength is vitamin K. This vitamin we can get from our food but eats lots of green leafy vegetables every day? Not many people do but that is where we find vitamin K so that means that most people should be on a good supplement and the best is vitamin K2. This is easy to take and may be in your daily multi – it is often included in quality multi-vitamin supplements. A daily dose of 100 MICRO grams – millionths of a gram is all need.
Note – those taking Warfarin are recommended to keep their vitamin K supplements at low levels of 100 micrograms. Higher levels may interfere with their anti-coagulant therapy.
How About Calcium?
We have to talk about Calcium at some stage.
There’s a lot more in a bone than the mineral calcium – there are other minerals such as phosphorous, magnesium, sodium and bicarbonate as well as structures of collagen, blood vessels – but we do need around 1200 mg a day and most of us do not get it. So a supplement of calcium citrate is recommended or perhaps a mix of various forms of calcium glycinate, malate or a chelated calcium.
Please take note that Osteoporosis is not a calcium deficiency disease – we get oodles of calcium in our water and in milk and yet there is an epidemic of OP. Read on and get the full picture below…
I have recommended magnesium as an all purpose muscle relaxant, pain reliever and anxiety reducer but we need it for bones too. We can get plenty of magnesium from our diet but only if we eat plenty of green,leafy veggies…and do you do that?
Taking silica increases bone mineral density and increases the production of bone proteins. So it’s great for healthy bones and as a bonus helps improve the look and health of our skin too!
O Yes And Boron Too!
The last mineral in my Anti-Osteoporosis list is a seldom discussed one called Boron. We need very little but it acts to balance minerals and to reduce inflammation and reduce the loss of calcium in the urine. Only a milligram or two is all we need.
Is there an Osteoporosis Diet?
To fight or fix Osteoporosis we need to oppose the inflammation in the blood stream and elsewhere in the body and act to alkalise the body.
The diet needs to be anti-inflammatory.
A whole grain plant based diet does that and it supplies a lot of the minerals and vitamins we need but it does it in a way that helps the body heal rather than in a way that triggers allergies and inflammation.
Crudely speaking foods may be put into either an inflammatory or anti-inflammatory group.
Inflammatory foods are meat, fish, eggs and dairy products
Anti-inflammatory foods are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, omega 3 plant oils and spices
So a whole grain based vegan diet seems to be the most anti-inflammatory diet which combined with specific OP fighting vitamins and minerals.
If a vegan diet seems too restrictive for you a Mediterranean diet with a strong emphasis of the anti-inflammatory foods and supplements is what I’d recommend.
Osteoporosis is not a disease of ageing or of calcium deficiency. It is a logical result of many years of eating the wrong diet and can be corrected with a few months of eating the right diet – a “plant strong diet” packed with super foods and boosted with powerful anti-inflammatory supplements such as vitamins C and D.
O yes and after one of your plant based meals – take a nice relaxed walk and enjoy yourself.
And to answer the question in title – No our bones are not doomed to crumble. Whether they crumble is in our hands and is our choice; we choose to eat nutritious food or junk food; we choose to go couch surfing or wave surfing / walking etc.
This Yoga Teacher chose to keep exercising
Now I’d love to know if OP has been a part of your life? Please comment and share this post if you feel it could help people you know… Thanks
Photo credits Certo Xornal