Osteoporosis, much like Social Security, retirement, and greying hair, is a topic that typically goes unaddressed until later in life. Although osteoporosis mostly afflicts senior citizens, it’s vital to learn about this disease, no matter what your age may be. Proper health and nutrition tips can help prevent osteoporosis, and even be an excellent osteoporosis treatment, reversing symptoms before osteoporosis or low bone mass density sets in.
Not only can certain lifestyle changes keep your bones from becoming brittle, it is important to understand the truth about osteoporosis since it has become increasingly more prevalent. Diagnosis of osteoporosis in the U.S. is anticipated to climb by approximately 17 percent by 2020, due in large part to the pharmaceutical drugs that are promised to heal low bone mass density and other signs of osteoporosis. The sad truth is that these drugs can cause more damage than good to the bones they are supposed to help.
The Big Bone Business
As osteoporosis drugs have become nearly a $9 million a year global industry, doctors push them both as preventatives and osteoporosis treatments. Many of these drugs, such as Fosamax by Merck, have a long list of side effects like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, eye pain, severe pain, and skin blisters, just to name a few.
According to Dr. Craig A. Maxwell, these osteoporosis drugs are actually “poison to your system” and can cause more damage than benefit to your bones. Drugs like Fosamax and Boniva, as well as other “bisphosphonates,” do strengthen bone, but at the expense of the body’s natural ability to rebuild itself, by killing off the cells that destroy bones rather than strengthening the cells that rebuild it. Patients are left with dependency on the drug and unavoidable side effects that could last a lifetime.
Whether treating osteoporosis or preventing it, you don’t have to turn to pharmaceuticals to save your bones. Lifestyle changes, preventative tips, and the natural osteoporosis treatment options listed below will help you to keep the Rx out of your wallet and out of your body.
The Bear Bones About Osteoporosis
The term osteoporosis comes from Greek and literally means “porous bone.” The condition takes place when bones become brittle and fragile from tissue loss, resulting in broken bones and limited mobility. About 54 million Americans currently either suffer from osteoporosis or low bone mass density, which means they’re at increased risk for osteoporosis.
“Osteoporosis is a decrease in formation, relative to resorption; meaning the breakdown of bone exceeds the body’s formation of bone,” says Dr. Ayanna Quamina, Naturopathic Doctor at Indigo Wellness and Wellness Minneapolis. “Osteopenia comes first, as an early diagnosis, then it progresses to osteoporosis as breakdown continues.”
This condition is hereditary; if your parents broke bones as adults, you may be at greater risk for weakened and broken bones yourself. However, it is not necessary to become a victim to your genes. Epigenetics, the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression, shows a link between individual genetic aspects and environmental influences, which are strongly suspected to be involved in bone biology. Many factors play into why or how we could develop osteoporosis. Causes of osteoporosis include:
- Autoimmune Disorders
- Hematologic/Blood Disorders
- Digestive and Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Neurological Nervous System Disorders
- Mental Illness
- Blood/Bone Marrow Disorders
- Endocrine Hormonal Disorders
- Certain Prescription Medications
- Sedentary Lifestyles
Why Women Are More Prone To Osteoporosis
Women are at greater risk to develop osteoporosis — about 80 percent of affected Americans are women. This is largely because women tend to have smaller, thinner bones, and their bone density is affected due to drops in estrogen levels after menopause. Young women who miss periods may also be at greater risk to develop osteoporosis. A lack of menstruation indicates low levels of estrogen, eventually affecting your bones in a similar way as postmenopausal estrogen levels.
Although the connection between estrogen and osteoporosis is not fully understood, a study by The University of New York Buffalo found that one way:
Eestradiol, (the primary estrogen in humans), helps to maintain bone density is by stopping the activation of an enzyme known as caspase-3, (which is) the central player in initiating the process of apoptosis, or programmed cell death of osteoblasts, the bone cells that aid in the growth and development of new bone and teeth.
Essentially, if estrogen levels drop for whatever reason, your body could begin to develop substances which prevent bone growth and ultimately support deterioration. For this reason and many more, women who miss periods and women post-menopause specifically should pay close attention to bone health and their risk for developing osteoporosis.
With that in mind, these eight natural remedies and preventative tips will help you care for your precious bones now and in the long run.
Tips For Osteoporosis Treatment And Prevention:
1. Keep Your Bones In Mind
Maintaining a steady awareness of your bone density status is the key to preventing breaks, fractures, and bone loss related to osteoporosis. Since our bones aren’t exactly something we can “keep an eye on” ourselves, utilizing outside resources to track our health is vital. Check out this Bone Health tool to see how your skeleton measures up, or bring it up with your primary care physician at your next physical.
2. Uses Of Cannabidiol (CBD)
Cannabidiol is an excelllent osteoporsis treatment. Cannabidiol (CBD) is an anti-inflammatory component extracted from the cannabis plant, which, unlike the more widely-known component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), provides no euphoric properties whatsoever. Typically administered orally, CBD has been used in the treatment of ailments such as depression, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, anxiety, and weakened bones and in osteoporosis treatment as well.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research by Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University showed the administration of CBD significantly helps heal bone fractures. The researchers found that the use of CBD to activate cannabinoid receptors within our bodies not only stimulated bone formation, it also inhibited future bone loss.
According to Dr. Yankel Gabet, who jointly led the study at Tel Aviv University, CBD makes bones stronger during healing. “We found CBD alone (without THC) to be sufficiently effective in enhancing fracture healing,” said Dr. Gabet.
Introducing CBD into your health care routine can make a tremendous difference in your bone health. Since CBD research for osteoporosis in humans is ongoing, standard dosing recommendations haven’t been set. Individuals 18 or older should start with the minimum suggested dosage on the bottle, and increase as needed. CBD has proven safe to use, however, it is important to understand the safety measures set by The Mayo Clinic associated with THC and CBD before use.
3. Maintain A Healthy, Calcium-Rich, Alkalizing Diet
A healthy diet is key to maintaining long-term bone health and is a great osteoporosis treatment. Low stomach acid makes it hard for your body to absorb calcium, so adopting an alkalizing diet and incorporating fermented food and probiotics into your diet, along with other pH balancing keys, helps create an environment which can more fully absorb the nutrients needed for strong bones.
You may be surprised to hear that the calcium found in cow’s milk does not absorb properly in the human body, and can actually deprive bones of calcium when consumed. When cow’s milk is digested, your body tries to balance out its pH by using calcium, which is pulled from your bones for this purpose. So think twice before reaching for a carton, unless you’re a calf, since consuming cow’s milk has been shown to have negative effects on human bones.
Dr. Quamina stresses, “It is essential to familiarize oneself with non-dairy sources, such as turnip greens, sardines, collard greens, rhubarb, and spinach, and begin to implement them into a daily diet.”
Calcium-rich foods such dairy, nuts, and leafy greens are essential to a bone-minded diet. Just make sure you pace your calcium intake. “Careful with taking too much calcium, as it can be damaging to the kidneys. Check with your primary care physician for dosage suggestions,” adds Dr. Quamina.
Dr. Quamina suggests watching caffeine intake in regards to osteoporosis, since caffeine can increase urinary calcium excretion, ridding your body from essential stores of calcium. Paying attention to the quality of the coffee you drink, such as how acidic it is, whether it contains any mold, and if it is treated with chemicals at any time during processing are important factors to address — and there are other ways to optimize your coffee, as well.
4. Utilize Dietary Supplements
The Standard American Diet (SAD) typically results in deficiency of three important nutrients, which results in weakened bone density: calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. Reinforcing your diet with these nutrients will ensure your bones have the tools they need to heal and stay strong.
Make sure you are buying high-quality, additive-free supplements and always consult your doctor before beginning a new supplement regimen.
5. Get Weekly Exercise
“Maintaining healthy bones is similar to maintaining overall health – it’s a multi-pronged approach including diet, activity, stress management, sleep, genetics, and supplementation, if necessary,” says Dr. Quamina. “Consistent activity – of all types — including walking, stretching, cardio, and weights, can be invaluable in keeping bone density stronger for longer.”
While any type of increased physical activity is working toward overall health, weight-bearing exercises such as weight training, hiking, yoga, and tai chi are especially important in preventing osteoporosis as they force bones to work against gravity and help to increase bone mass.
How often you should exercise? Well, it depends on various factors such as age, gender, and health. If you are afflicted by low bone mass density issues, ask your doctor or physical therapist the type and duration of exercise best for you.
6. Snub The Cigarettes
We all know smoking isn’t good for you, but quitting may also useful in an osteoporosis treatment plan. A smoking habit is likely to contribute to a loss of bone density, and is a risk factor for osteoporosis and fractures. A report in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research concluded that cigarette smoke produces excessive amounts of two proteins in the body that trigger a natural body process that breaks down bones. Once you stop smoking, however, these damaging effects can be minimized or even reversed — depending on your specific health — so the sooner you quit, the better.
7. Keep Up Melatonin Levels
The use of melatonin has shown to promote healthy bone cell growth. Bone is a dynamic tissue undergoing remodeling throughout life, which is mediated by hormones, one of which being melatonin. Along with promoting necessary bone growth in healthy cells, studies have also indicated that melatonin may play an important role in the healing process of fractured bones.
Increasing your intake of magnesium can assist your body’s natural production of melatonin, which is found in foods like organic almonds, avocados, and spinach. The best way to supplement melatonin through diet is by eating pineapple, oats, bananas, and tart cherries, which will help your body regulate sleep as well.
8. Try Acupuncture (And De-Stress!)
Acupuncture is the ancient practice of inserting needles into the skin at specific points on the body, used as a tool to relieve symptoms related to stress. When your body is in a state of stress, it produces the hormone cortisol. If you remain in a state of stress for long periods of time cortisol levels will become too high, blocking essential bone growth and potentially pulling calcium from the bones in the process.
Acupuncture allows the body’s “rest and digest,” or parasympathetic nervous system, to kick in and normalize cortisol levels, decreasing the risk of detrimentally low calcium levels in bones.
Osteoporosis Treatment: The Skeleton Key To Health
Although many people don’t experience the negative effects of osteoporosis until later in life, it’s important to take advantage of one’s younger years to prevent the development of this disease. The first three decades of one’s life are crucial to this process, but you can start taking care of your bones at any stage in life.
“Every process in the body involves a variety of components, and it’s important to support all of them, not just the end result,” advises Dr. Quamina. “Lifestyle factors can also play a major role in health – maintaining exercise, getting quality sleep, and consistent self-care can be just as essential in strengthening overall vitality and wellbeing.”
If you are past prevention and looking to osteoporosis treatment, remember that the effects of osteoporosis can be reversed with the right plan for you and your bones.
Chelsea Nolan is a freelance marketing professional and writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. As an avid traveler, her 9-5 is from wherever she has an internet connection. After living in Italy, Chelsea became interested in food, health, and well-being; and the cultural implications which are placed on them. Outside of marketing and writing, Chelsea works in public relations, event planning, and fundraising for nonprofits. She currently resides in Rome, Italy.
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