There are so many factors that increase our risk of osteoporosis. Despite various new drugs to treat it, increases in calcium supplementation and exercise, osteoporosis is still on the rise. This begs the question - outside of these standard treatment methods, is there a missing link when it comes to our understanding and treatment of osteoporosis? What are the best ways to prevent and treat it?
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis, the depleting condition of both loss of bone mass and fragility of bone, is a growing epidemic in our modern day society, especially in women. In fact, one third of all American women will develop osteoporosis in their lifetimes.
There are many factors that increase one's chances for osteoporosis. Simply being a woman increases your chances, being thin or having a thinner frame, if you have a family history of osteoporosis, history of an eating disorder, if you are postmenopausal, consume a diet low in calcium, live an inactive lifestyle, smoke, drink alcohol, or have a history of using medications, especially steroids, for long periods of time - these may all increase your risk for osteoporosis. Despite various new drugs to treat it, increases in calcium supplementation and exercise, osteoporosis is still on the rise. This begs the question – outside of these standard treatment methods, is there a missing link when it comes to our understanding and treatment of osteoporosis? What are the best ways to prevent and treat it?
Our Bones Change Daily
Part of the issue may be our understanding of osteoporosis and bone health in general. While our bones are certainly the most dense and structured components of our bodies, they are not unchanging or static. Our bones are comprised of living tissues and are always changing and regenerating on a daily basis, as well as throughout the course of our lives. Much of our bone density and development is determined by the time we are 30. By 40 we may start to experience changes or depletion in our bone mineral reserves. While our bones are always regenerating, they are influenced by a multitude of factors. Calcium, the mineral we correlate with bone strength, while the most plentiful, works synergistically with other vitamins and minerals, collagen and proteins to form and maintain healthy, strong bones. As Dr. Alan R. Gaby, author of Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis stresses, the health of our bones extends much further than its basic components. It is determined not just by what we eat, but by what we assimilate, metabolize and maintain. He owes much of the core issues with osteoporosis and other degenerative diseases of today as a factor of nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, and hormonal imbalances. The “cure”, may not be a pill, estrogen therapy, exercise, or calcium, but a combination of many lifestyle and dietary factors.
So what can we do? Here are 5 ways to prevent and treat osteoporosis naturally:
1. Hormonal Connection
For women, there is a deep rooted hormonal component. As we mature, have children, and age, our bodies go through different hormonal changes. Fluctuations of estrogen affect the the amount of calcium deposited to and pulled from the bone. While estrogen therapies help to delay osteoporosis, at least short term, they will not reverse it, and these therapies are not without side effects either - mainly endometrial cancer, gallbladder and liver disease, and breast and ovarian cancers. It is progesterone therapy, however, that is showing promise in clinical studies to help reverse signs of osteoporosis.
Another promising supplementation is using DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, which is a hormone produced by your body's adrenal glands. As we age, our levels of DHEA decline. In addition to immune and adrenal support, overall anti-aging and energy benefits, it has been safely used to reverse bone loss.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays an essential role in calcium metabolism and therefore is a necessary nutrient for bone health. It can be synthesized by the body through sun exposure, though the conversion of vitamin D is dependent on the season and time of day, as well as length of exposure. In addition, as we age our ability to synthesize Vitamin D in the skin also decreases, so it is essential to supplement through the diet with foods such as fatty fish, fish oils, or egg yolks, or with vitamin supplementation.
While it may sound a bit too basic, physical activity, aerobic fitness, and strength training have all been connected with bone density. Regular physical exercise, especially resistance and higher-impact activities, contribute to higher bone mass and reduced fracture risk in elderly people. In addition, elderly that have maintained a physical regimen also show less bone loss.
Overall, an acidic diet will pull minerals from the body and bones in an effort to buffer the body. Alcohol, smoking, sugary beverages and candy, processed foods, high sodium, caffeine, and animal protein all produce acidic byproducts, increasing inflammation and potentially leaching minerals from the bones over time.
In addition to removing or reducing these acidic factors, it should come as no surprise that an anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense, and alkalizing diet is necessary to provide essential vitamins and minerals to both replenish bone nutrients, and keep the body from relying on the bones to buffer acidity.
Bioavailable forms of calcium from raw cultured dairy like kefirs, yogurts, and raw cheeses for calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K - which helps to attract calcium to the bone - and vitamin D, along with fatty fish and fish oils for anti-inflammatory omega-3s are recommended. Sea vegetables, and high quality pasture-raised and grass-fed bone broths provide minerals and collagen for bone strength and formation. An abundance of leafy greens, fruits and vegetables provide a range of essential alkaline nutrition.
Supporting your body through osteoporosis is as much about what you avoid as what you consume. Toxic minerals, acids, lead, cadmium, and aluminums negatively impact the body with toxins, influencing the hormones and disrupting balance. Remove any potential sources of these toxins from your everyday contacts such as water, cooking-ware, containers, and even clothing and furniture.
As always, consult with your doctor as to your best treatment options.
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