What causes 2 million bone fractures every year?
Osteoporosis and low bone density affects 54 million Americans alone. About one in two women and up to one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. (Source)
What is Osteoporosis?
Literally meaning “porous bone,” osteoporosis is a disease where the density and quality of bone are reduced. (Source)
Our bones are living tissue, meaning some bone cells dissolve as others are formed, constantly renewing itself—a process known as remodeling.
When osteoporosis occurs, the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both.
Normal, healthy bones have a honeycomb structure when looked at under a microscope. As pictured above, when osteoporosis is present, the holes become larger.
How to Tell if You Have Osteoporosis
Most disturbingly, osteoporosis often isn’t discovered until the first fracture because it is the “silent disease.” There is no sensation or feeling signaling that you have it.
In addition to fractures, some other signs that you may have osteoporosis are loss of height, upper back curving forward, limited mobility and bone pain.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
Many diseases, conditions and medical procedures put you at a greater risk for osteoporosis, including:
- Some endocrine/hormonal disorders
- Some autoimmune diseases
- Some neurological/nervous system disorders
- Malnutrition (sometimes the result of heavy dieting or eating disorders)
- Organ transplants
- Breast and prostate cancer
- Liver disease
- Some digestive and gastrointestinal disorders, like celiac and IBD
- Blood disorders
(see full list here)
Many medicines also increase risk for bone loss. It is critical to speak with your practitioner and do your own research when considering any new medication to discover all potential side effects.
The most common risk factor for osteoporosis is simply being a woman over the age of 50. (Source)
To determine whether bone density loss is occuring, bone mineral density (BMD) tests are performed most commonly using a DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan, in addition to a comprehensive look at lifestyle and health history.
If you think you may have osteoporosis, reach out to your health practitioner immediately.
Natural Prevention and Management of Osteoporosis
While there are many medications out there for osteoporosis treatment that may be prescribed based on health history and causes of osteoporosis, there are also some steps that can be taken without a prescription needed.
As this study noted, “The majority of adults in North America have insufficient intake of vitamin D and calcium along with inadequate exercise.”
Thankfully these are things that are within our power to change!
One study concluded that just 20 minutes of modest impact activity or resistance training three times a week can improve bone mineral density! (Source)
As an added benefit, improving muscle tone and coordination can reduce fall risk which often results in broken bones.
Well-rounded, healthy diet
The best way to get sufficient nutrients to build and maintain strong bones is to consistently make healthy food choices. (Source)
Eating a well-rounded diet high in leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, legumes and lean protein is crucial for maintaining bone health.
You’ll receive most micronutrients you need to help prevent osteoporosis by prioritizing whole foods. Some of these nutrients include:
- Magnesium: Important for the body’s metabolic processes like rebuilding bone; helps absorb calcium
- Silicon: Deficiency is associated with poor skeletal development
Vitamin K: Crucial in the formation of new bone
As I discussed above, it is ideal to get all the needed micronutrients from a well-rounded, whole foods diet with minimal processed foods, simple carbs, and sugar.
That is in an ideal world however—so in the reality we live in, sometimes it is beneficial to add in supplements to boost micronutrient intake, or include an herb or supplement that isn’t usually included in the American diet.
As one study noted, herbal treatment is supportive and slow. It offers prevention and maintenance, versus being a quick fix. (Source)
Boron is a trace mineral that, among many other things, is essential for the growth and maintenance of bone. (Source)
This wonder-mineral not only helps prevent osteoporosis, it also
- reduces levels of inflammatory biomarkers
- raises levels of antioxidant enzymes
- protects against pesticide-induced oxidative stress and heavy-metal toxicity
- improves cognitive performance
- has demonstrated preventive and therapeutic effects in a number of cancers…
- And more…
Are you convinced you need this in your diet yet?
Studies support the use boron supplementation of 3 mg/d as the lowest active dose that has beneficial effects for any individual who is at risk for or has osteopenia, osteoporosis, or osteoarthritis (OA). The tolerable upper limit (UL) for adults aged 18 years or older is approximately 20 mg/d.
Amount of boron present in different foods is difficult to determine because it varies widely based on boron concentrations in the soil.
Some food sources thought to be high in boron include:
- Peanut butter
- Red wine
In general, foods of plant origin, especially fruits, leafy vegetables, nuts, and legumes, are rich in boron as are plant-derived fermented beverages.
Interestingly, and perhaps sadly, coffee and milk are low in boron but provide 12% of intake in the U.S. due to the high volume that is consumed!
Did you know that approximately 70% of children in the USA are insufficient or deficient in Vitamin D? (Source)
The recommended dietary allowance is 600-800 IU daily, but even more may be optimal, while the average American diet contains only 150-300 IU per day.
It is difficult to get this much Vitamin D through diet alone, although increasing intake of oily fish such as salmon and swordfish can help.
A meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 700-800 IU per day of Vitamin D supplementation decreased the risk of fractures.
My very favorite Vitamin D/K2 is from Systemic Formulas. Not only does it help me to keep my Vitamin D in a healthy range (between 60-80), it tastes good too! If you’d like to try some, feel free to drop me a line and we can pop one in the mail for you!
The benefits of calcium for bone health are well known, as is its most common source—milk. While I’m not a big fan of cow’s milk, if you do drink milk, I recommend opting for raw milk or better yet, raw camel milk! Camel milk is fantastic for healing the gut. Give it a try and let me know how you like it! You can find it online here.
Other food sources are salmon, almonds, and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and turnip greens.
Daily dietary intake of calcium is recommended at 1,200 mg/day, but the most women over 40 (those at most risk for osteoporosis!) get less than 600 mg/day in the U.S.
Supplementation can help raise calcium to optimum levels. Be aware that excessive intake does have its risks, like kidney stones, for example.
There you have it! As with many diseases, an overall healthy lifestyle is key to helping prevent and manage osteoporosis.
If you’d like to talk further about what you could be doing to prevent or manage osteoporosis, please contact me here!