Your Plan Of Action: The Natural Approach to Osteoporosis
- Make changes to your diet to slow further bone loss and in some cases, reverse the condition
- Take appropriate supplements to maintain critical nutrients for bone health
- Test your levels of nutrients and assess your digestion to ensure you are absorbing well from your food
- Ensure you are following a good exercise plan to strengthen your bones
What Is Osteoporosis?
The word osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bones’; in other words, bones that are filled with tiny pores, or holes. Our bones change constantly – breaking down and being rebuilt as part of the living process. Two kinds of cells are important for this process, and they are known as osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Osteoclasts renew old bone by dissolving or resorbing it, leaving an empty space. The osteoblasts then fill this empty space with new bone. If the rate of renewal does not equal the rate of breakdown, bone loss occurs. If this continues over years, the result is osteoporosis. This rate of breakdown can be measured easily with a bone turnover urine test.
While traditionally considered to be a women’s disease, osteoporosis is also found in men, although normally to a lesser degree. Lifestyle is one of the main factors that is within your control and adopting a few simple changes can go a long way towards protecting the health of your bones.
Are There Any Symptoms?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question may be no. Osteoporosis is often called a ‘silent disease’ because the first sign of the condition can be a fracture resulting from a minor accident. One patient told me that she discovered she had osteoporosis after breaking her ribs while sneezing. It has even been suggested that the majority of osteoporosis-related accidents are the result of the bone breaking, causing a fall, rather than the reverse.
This one of the reasons why testing – and prevention – are so important.
What Is The Cause of Osteoporosis?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of osteoporosis. These include:
- premature menopause
- lack of exercise
- certain medication
- irregular menstrual cycles
- digestive problems
- poor diet
- certain foods and drinks
Can Nutrition Help?
A good diet and exercise are key to maintaining bone health. If you have established osteoporosis, you will need to discuss medical treatment with your consultant. The natural approach can also help you to reduce the progression of the condition. If you have been told that you do not have osteoporosis and that your bones are normal, or just below (osteopenia), it is worth looking at your diet and lifestyle in order to either maintain that good bone density or to prevent a minor problem from becoming a major one. Progression of osteoporosis can have a major impact on your quality of life, so it is ideal to become aware of your diet and your bone health from a young age.
As well as eating a healthy diet, supplementation can be beneficial. You need to add in certain vitamins and minerals to make sure that you are ‘feeding’ your bones. The first nutrient that comes to mind is calcium. But many other nutrients are equally crucial for healthy bones:
Calcium – is essential for bone health and not only improves bone density but also reduces the risk of fractures. Choose supplements that contain calcium citrate rather than calcium carbonate for maximum absorption.
Magnesium – helps to metabolise calcium and converts vitamin D to the active form necessary to ensure that calcium is efficiently absorbed.
Vitamin D – without good levels of vitamin D you cannot absorb calcium from your food or your supplements.
Vitamin C – important in the manufacture of collagen, the ‘cement’ that holds the bone matrix together. Choose vitamin C as ascorbate rather than the acidic form – ascorbic acid.
Boron – an important mineral in relation to osteoporosis as it plays a crucial part in the conversion of vitamin D into its active form, which, in turn, is necessary for calcium absorption.
Vitamin K – low levels of circulating vitamin K have been linked with low bone density. Several studies have now shown that supplementation with vitamin K may slow down bone loss in postmenopausal women, improve bone strength and reduce the risk of fractures.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – having good levels of omega-3 fatty acids can have a beneficial effect on calcium absorption and bone density. These fatty acids increase the absorption of calcium from the digestive system and reduce the excretion of calcium in urine. They can slow the loss of bone that happens around the menopause and it has been found that a diet which contains adequate amounts of calcium but not of essential fatty acids can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Tests for Osteoporosis
A bone density scan is important which we can organise for you in our Harley Street clinic. But a follow-up scan is not usually repeated until two years later. So you could increase your exercise, change your diet, take supplements and even be taking osteoporosis medication but how would you know that they are working until two years later when you repeat the scan. This is where the measurement of Osteoporosis Bone Turnover (urine) is so useful.
In your urine, you excrete biochemical markers which show how fast or slow your bone is breaking down. The higher the levels of these markers in the urine, the faster you are losing bone, so measuring bone turnover can be a useful way of monitoring the effectiveness of treatment and it can be measured again after three months.
Research has shown that in postmenopausal women levels of bone turnover that are too high are associated with an increased risk of hip, vertebral (spinal) and non-vertebral fractures, independent of bone density.
Nutritional Profile MGL4 (blood) will measure your levels of important minerals like calcium and magnesium and also omega 3 and omega 6 and vitamin D so that we can tailor your supplements appropriately. If you are generally low in vitamins and minerals or have digestive issues, it may be worth looking at digestive tests as malabsorption is an important issue to address for your bone health. We use a very comprehensive Digestive Stool Test.
Where To Start?
Make sure you are eating well to support your bone health. If you would like personalised advice on what to do next and which test to take then request a consultation with one of our qualified nutritionists.