Osteoporosis, a disease characterized by porous and fragile bones, is a serious problem in the U.S.:
- 44 million Americans have compromised bone density (osteoporosis or osteopenia).
- 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in his or her lifetime.
- Osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures annually, costing a total of $14 billion every year.
Conventional wisdom says our bones are made of calcium, so by drinking lots of calcium-fortified milk and taking calcium supplements, we should be able to prevent osteoporosis. Backed by the U.S. dairy industry, America is the only culture that encourages milk drinking way beyond the infant years.
If we are taking in this much calcium in our diet, how come osteoporosis is so prevalent in America?
Are the osteoporosis drugs such as Fosamax, Actonel, Reclast, or Boniva really effective in treating osteoporosis?
What is the real truth about taking calcium for osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis Drugs Don’t Fix Osteoporosis
Bone is a dynamic, living tissue that is constantly being reshaped in a complex process of building and remodeling by 2 broad category of cells:
- osteoblasts, which build bone, and
- osteoclasts, which break down old bone.
As you age, more bone may be broken down than is replaced. The spaces in the honeycomb-like bone gets bigger and the outer shell of your bone gets thinner. All these make your bones weaker.
The biphosphonate drugs for osteoporosis work to kill the osteoclasts and stop the natural process that dissolves bone tissue. That means you are only left with the osteoblasts.
In a way, the drugs do increase your bone density, but unfortunately, not bone strength. Your bones lose their natural ability to build new bones that can adjust to the constantly changing forces applied to them. Yes, you have thicker bones, but with less strength, which actually increases your risk of bone fractures.
In addition, the biphosphonate drugs come with some terrible side effects, including:
- thigh bone fractures,
- osteonecrosis (damage and death) of the jaw bone,
- eye problems,
- liver and kidney damage,
- atrial fibrillation,
- esophageal cancer, and
- hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels).
Therefore, unless your osteoporosis is very severe, a natural approach (read below) is more effective in restoring bone health.
If you want to check your bone density, the most accurate test is the DEXA scan (Dual X-ray Absorptiometry). It measures the bone density of the spine and the hip to gauge fracture risk. Talk to your physician regarding such a test.
Bones Are More Than Just Calcium
For decades, you have been taught to believe that bones are made of calcium. This statement is only partly true. Bones are made of at least a dozen minerals, namely:
- chromium, and
- traces of many other minerals.
Calcium is just one of the minerals in the bone. Although it is very important, it doesn’t mean that by taking in a lot of calcium, your bones will be strong. In fact, the opposite is true. If you have an excess of calcium, you can create a grave mineral imbalance in your body.
Any sensible person can see that if you want strong bones, you need to have all of these minerals in your bones and in balance. We deplete our mineral stores on a daily basis, so we need to replace them all every day. Replacing just one mineral creates an imbalance that results in a cascading effect of harm.
- Excess calcium draws on more magnesium to keep the body in balance. A relative magnesium to calcium deficiency leads to increased muscle tension, nerve endings firing erratically, and the malfunctioning of other electrical functions of the body.
- To retain more magnesium, your body suppresses adrenal function, causing a loss of sodium and potassium in your urine.
- This reduces the production of stomach acid, leading to heartburn and other digestive disorders as well as the diminished ability to absorb protein, which results in a deficiency in essential amino acids.
- The decline in potassium leads to thyroid hormone resistance and slowed metabolism. The cells become starved for glucose and you have increased sweet cravings.
This goes on and on but the end result of an excess in calcium is multiple metabolic malfunctions:
- plaque in arteries, leading to heart disease,
- kidney and gall stones.
- bone spurs,
- type 2 diabetes, and
- last but not least, osteoporosis.
How do you know if you have excess calcium or mineral deficiency?
The most accurate test is a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA). Blood test only shows what’s outside the cells and it can differ greatly from what’s inside. By analyzing new hair growth, you get an accurate picture of the mineral profile inside the cells of the entire body. One of the most reputable HTMA labs in the U.S. is Trace Elements Inc. (TEI). Contact me for getting this test.
A Natural Approach To Preventing Osteoporosis
To summarize, osteoporosis is not necessarily a disease of calcium deficiency. It can also be caused by excess calcium and a mineral imbalance in the body.
Food is still the foundation of bone health
- Therefore, before you consume large amounts of calcium, either in food or supplement form, get a HTMA test to see if you have any calcium deficiency or mineral imbalance.
- Do not use table salt, which has essentially zero nutrition. Use unrefined, unprocessed sea salt instead. Sea salt is 85% sodium chloride and 15% minerals, the exact proportion needed by your body.
- Eat as many vegetables (not potatoes) as possible every day and vary the types of vegetables you eat. Minimize the amounts of fruits but maximize the green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. Try to eat organic or at least local as they are higher in nutritional value.
- Vegetable juicing is an easy way to get a proper balance of essential vitamins and minerals for bone health. However, do bear in mind that vegetable juice contains zero fiber.
- Vitamin K2 is produced by bacteria in the large intestine. It works to deposit calcium into your bone matrix, instead of becoming calcified in blood vessels and soft tissues or forming bone spurs. Consume fermented foods regularly, such as nato, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kim-chee, cheese, and unsweetened yogurt and kefir.
- Omega-3 fats is essential for strong, healthy bones. Make sure you get these good fats from wild-caught, cold water fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon. Eat several times a week.
- Eat a nutrient-dense diet by avoiding nutrient-deficient fast foods, processed foods, microwaveable meals, sodas (regular and diet), and sweets.
Prevent Bone Loss With Appropriate Sunshine Exposure
- Vitamin D deficiency can result in lower bone mineral density and altered mineral metabolism in the body.
- Just 15-20 minutes of sunshine per day can help to maintain your vitamin D levels within the optimal range of 50-70 ng/ml.
- The next best option is to take an oral vitamin D3 supplement. Get a blood test and check with your healthcare professional to determine the appropriate supplement dosage.
Exercise To Build Strong Bones
- Bone is a living tissue and requires regular physical activity to renew and rebuild itself. Peak bone mass is achieved in adulthood and then it begins a slow decline.
- If you are inactive, your bones can become porous, soft, and brittle as you get older.
- Weight bearing exercises can combat this effect because when you put more tension on your muscles, you put more pressure on your bones, which then respond by continuously creating fresh, new bone.
- Walking, jogging, hiking, dancing, jumping rope, jumping jacks, step aerobics, stair climbing, squats, walking lunges, and weight lifting are examples of good weight bearing exercises.
Stay Away From Cortisone
High-dose cortisone is a common cause of osteoporosis as it interferes with the process of building and remodeling in bones.
Gluten Intolerance Leads To Bone Loss
- If you have chronic gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, brain fog, these can be signs of undiagnosed gluten intolerance.
- Undiagnosed gluten intolerance can lead to intestinal damage and malabsorption of nutrients, and eventually osteoporosis.
- People with gluten intolerance should go on a gluten-free diet.
Progesterone Deficiency Leads To Bone Loss
- Pre- and post-menopausal women usually experience declined levels of progesterone, which is a sex hormone that helps to increase bone building.
- Consult with your healthcare professional regarding supplementation with bio-identical progesterone.
Remember, osteoporosis is not a malady that merely strikes the elderly. What you do and eat from the teenager years onwards have a tremendous effect on the health of your bones for the rest of your life. So, start early and start soon.