Prevent Osteoporosis Naturally

December 9, 2016
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

Osteoporosis—weakening of the bones—comes with some unhappy lose-lose scenarios. The disease can cripple you—but so can the conventional treatments. Fortunately, you can safely reduce your risk of osteoporosis and its severity and symptoms, with simple yet powerful lifestyle and diet changes.

Breaking down osteoporosis

Big Pharma has a LOT of people to sell drugs to. Just look at the numbers; osteoporosis:

  • Affects 54 million Americans
  • Results in 2 million broken bones annually
  • Causes $19 billion in costs annually
  • Caused an estimated 27,000 fatal falls, the leading cause of injuries among older adults, in 2014
  • Sent 2.8 million adults to the ER…
  • …about 800,000 of whom were later hospitalized

The problem, as usual, is that Big Pharma’s billion-dollar babies often do more harm than good.

Choose your nightmare

Osteoporosis develops when our body’s natural bone loss exceeds our ability to replace it.  Bones gradually weaken, so severely that falling can kill you…and what once would have been a bruising bump, or even a sneeze, can break a bone.

That’s a frightening way to live, especially as our balance and agility decline as we age.

Talk about walking on eggshells—your bones can be as fragile as eggshells.

That’s one nightmare.

Next up—Big Pharma’s drugs, and an increased risk of rare but nightmarish side effects:

  • Osteonecrosis of the jaw—when the jawbone fails to heal after a minor injury, like a tooth extraction. The jawbone literally crumbles.
  • A progressive fracture in the upper thigh bone (femur), can begin unnoticed and get worse over time—to the point where a complete fracture of the femur occurs, sometimes in both legs, making walking impossible, and reconstructive surgery the only recourse.

The drugs known as bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax and Binosto, have been linked to osteonecrosis of the jaw and femoral fractures.

Pretty damning and ironic, considering the femur is the single strongest bone in our bodies, and the purpose of those drugs is to prevent bone fractures.

Don’t wake up yet—more nightmare to come

These Big Pharma drugs are also associated with increased risk of esophageal cancer.   Studies of one in particular, Fosamax, concluded that around 75 percent of all bisphosphonate-caused esophageal cancers were found in Fosamax users.

Another study found that oral bisphosphonate osteoporosis drugs could nearly double your risk of cancer.

Other side effects of commonly prescribed osteo meds include:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Nausea
  • Flatulence
  • Blurred vision
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Abdominal cramps

Are women increasingly at risk?

There’s a troubling trend among American women, who are considerably more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.

Between 2002 and 2012, the annual rate of hip fractures among American women older than 65 declined.

But since 2012, the decline has not continued.

It could be that a reasonable fear of Big Pharma’s meds is a factor. If you know your jaw might fall off, do you really want to go there?

It’s also likely that Medicare cuts have played a role.

  • Average 2006 Medicare reimbursement for office-based imaging services was $139
  • Average reimbursement today: $42—not nearly enough to cover costs.

For a doctor saddled with mountainous med school debt plus high-tech office costs—losing money isn’t an option.

What’s declining now is the number of physicians who continue testing.

So who suffers from the significant decrease in the number of physicians who provide office-based tests?

Mostly women.

What should you do?

I promised you safe, natural ways to conquer osteoporosis.

We start with tests—how is your bone health today? How is the health of other systems that affect bone health?

Make sure your doctor covers all of these bases.

A bone density test determines if you have osteoporosis. It used to be, we’d only know after you’d broken a bone. Today’s tests can determine your future risk, so you can take preventive measures before trouble begins.

A urine calcium test measures how much calcium is passed out of the body through urine.  When calcium levels in the blood get too low, the bones release enough calcium to bring the blood level back to normal.

Too much of this balancing act, however, can take too much calcium from our bones, weakening them over time. The urine calcium test will tell whether that’s the case.

You want your test results to be zero.

Vitamin D blood test

Every cell needs vitamin D. Your doctor should test your level—and will probably find, as I do in almost every patient, a vitamin D deficiency.

If the test results don’t show a level of 50-70 you need to know that.  It’s fixable.

Vitamin K2 blood test

K2 helps build as much new bone as old bone that’s been lost. It also helps keep cardiovascular arteries healthy by keeping calcium from adhering to arterial walls, calcifying (or hardening) them.

Parathyroid hormone (PTH) blood test

The parathyroid glands produce a hormone that helps regulate calcium in the bloodstream. When calcium levels are low, the parathyroid glands increase hormone production. When they’re high, production slows down.

Every cell in our bodies needs calcium, so too much or too little can create a host of problems, including osteoporosis.  You want your PTH test results to come in at 30-70.

What you must do—lifestyle

Nothing could be more important, or simpler, than regular weight-bearing exercise. It tells your body to deposit minerals in the bones, especially in the hips, spine, and legs. ,

What counts as weight-bearing exercise?

How about walking? Just 30 minutes a day is a huge help. Even better if you can add weight to the exercise. Adding 1-2 pounds to your wrists as you walk, or carrying a backpack with something heavy in it, greatly increases the health benefit.

If you belong to a gym that has access to weight machines, talk to a trainer about adding weight bearing exercise to your routine.

What you must do—diet

Two words: leafy greens.  Just add several servings of leafy greens and calcium-rich veggies, like broccoli and kale, to your daily diet. A super-easy way to increase your intake of green foods is with a supplement that contains nutrients from vegetables and greens.

Seafood is also a great source of calcium, but make sure it’s sourced from clean, fresh waters to reduce risk of pollutants and contaminants.

Of course, dairy products also have calcium, but they aren’t necessarily high in vitamins D or K or the mineral magnesium, which your body also needs to absorb calcium. That’s why leafy greens and seafood are better sources of calcium. Also, vegetables and fish don’t get a lot of unnecessary, unhealthy sugar and flavorings added.

Bone up on supplements

It’s difficult to get the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium from food alone. Supplements can ensure we’re on target.

Here are current calcium RDAs:

  • Adult men and women up to age 50—1,000 milligrams (mg) daily
  • After age 50—women need 1,200 mg daily, men remain at 1,000 mg
  • After age 71—men and women should aim for 1,200 mg each day

The best way to take calcium supplements is in divided doses throughout the day. So if your goal is 900 mg of calcium from supplements, you should take 300 mg with each meal (calcium is best absorbed when taken with food), rather than 900 mg all at once.

But calcium alone can’t do the job. For healthy bones, you’ll also need:

Vitamin D3: Stimulates the absorption of calcium from food and decreases the amount of urinary calcium excreted from the body.  Base your intake on the tests I’ve recommended, with your doctor’s advice.

Vitamin K2: I recommend a daily dose of 1,000 mcg. Raw cheese, lettuce, and dark, leafy greens are good sources of vitamin K2, along with broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. If you eat plenty of greens, supplements may not be necessary.

Curcumin: Studies show that curcumin plays a significant role in healthy bone development, and has a dazzling list of other benefits. Recommended for adults:

  • Raw turmeric root (which contains curcumin)—1.5 to 3 g per day
  • Dried, powdered root—1 to 3 g per day
  • Standardized powder (minimum 14% curcuminoids)—400 to 600 mg, 3 times per day

Hydrochloric acid (HCL): HCL helps people with low stomach acid—common among older individuals—better absorb calcium and other nutrients. I recommend discussing HCL with your physician as a possible preventive step.

Magnesium:  A potent partner with calcium in building healthy bones, seafood and meat are good sources of magnesium, along with brown rice, leafy greens, and whole grains.

Manganese: A trace mineral essential to bone growth. Whole grains, nuts, seeds, avocados, leafy greens, and legumes are all rich in manganese.  If you’re taking a good multi-mineral product and eat manganese-rich foods, you might not need a supplement.

Progesterone: The hormone estrogen was once considered essential for women’s bones. Now, it seems that the hormone progesterone does a better job of stimulating new bone growth in women. Talk to your physician about where your levels are at and if you should look into bioidentical hormones for proper hormone balance.

Keep your body moving, and your diet improving.

That’s taking good care.

References

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