• Jasmine Blake Hollywood, MS, HHP

How to Manage Osteoporosis Naturally: Strengthening Bones & Prevention

Updated: Jan 30



What is Osteoporosis?


Osteoporosis is one of the most common diseases among populations today. It is a disease characterized by the thinning of bones and decreased bone mass. In other words, bone density and quality are basically affected. Part of the problem is, bones become very porous and very fragile. This means that holes begin to form in the bones that allow a passageway to other areas that are filled with liquids or air. For this reason, porous bones increase the risk of fracture or break. Furthermore, this porousness causes pain to occur.


Prevalence and Risk Factors

The prevalence of this condition is massive. It literally affects around 1.5 million Americans yearly, and 250,000 of the fractures that happen yearly are hip fractures. After sustaining a hip fracture 20% die within 6 months! [6].

The big reason the health industry focuses on osteoporosis is that this disease is extremely common among the elderly population. However, statistics say that it actually affects more women than men. Therefore, elderly women are at an increased risk. In fact, nearly 20% of women over the age of 50 are affected and don't even know it. [5].


The bone growth and deterioration timeline is essential in the prevention or delaying of this disease. For example, bone maturation begins during childhood and increases during adolescence. [6]. Between the ages of 28 and 30 years old, bone mass is at its peak. [6]. After this period in our lives, bone mass slowly begins to decrease. Now, no one is for certain as to why this happens. However, it is most often thought that because we do less exercise at this time in our lives, and because we are eating quite poorly by this age, our bones begin to lose essential nutrients.

Also, bone loss decreases by an additional 2% after menopause begins. [6]. This reason is due to the fluctuation in estrogen and other hormones during menopause. Therefore, when women turn 35 years of age, it is imperative that they begin to focus on bone health.


An additional factor is that if women have a thyroid condition, this can also affect bone loss. Too much T4 can cause bone loss.

Risk factors for race and ethnicity are important as genetics play a huge role in bone loss. [6].

  • African Americans have the least risk.

  • Hispanic are at the highest risk.

  • Caucasians range mid risk.

Dr. Alan Gaby states that the risk for osteoporosis doubled from 1729 to 1950. [3].


Osteoporosis and Gut Health


According to Dr. Lipski, it is reported in many clinical studies that celiac disease clients have a higher risk of osteoporosis.[5]. In fact, one study showed 60% of people with celiac disease tested positive for loss in bone density. [5]. Also, 10% of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis are said to also have celiac disease. [3]. The reason for the loss in bone density is due to the poor absorption of nutrients in the gut, which comes from poor gut health. [3]. Hence, the bones are not getting the essential nutrients.


Studies have shown that maintaining a gluten-free diet increases bone mineral density. [3]. Also, maintaining this type of diet over a period of 10 years can actually normalize bone mineral density. [3]. Dr. Alan Gaby also notes that clients with gluten intolerance also are associated with lowers levels of magnesium, which can also lead to bone loss. [3]. Therefore, a gluten-free diet is essential for repairing gut health, to begin repairing bone.

Poor gut health leads to poor hormone creation. Studies have reported that when there is high serotonin in the gut and not enough is getting to the brain, lower bone density follows. [5].

What is Bone Made of?


So, what are bones made of? These are some technical terms but, it will all make sense in the end.

  • Osteo means the combining of bones.

  • Osteoblasts are responsible for bone formation. They make the bone tissue and collagen fibers.

  • Osteoclasts remove bone structure by dissolving. When bones dissolve, the minerals from them are released back into the blood. They are able to regulate calcium through body fluids this way. They also help combine the collagen fibers together to strengthen the bone matrix. [4].

  • They do this by using Osteocytes, which are able to rebuild the bone structure by recycling the minerals back through.


How to Prevent Osteoporosis


There are many conventional ways to treat osteoporosis. However, alternative methods have proven to minimize the risk of this disease and reduce symptoms. As well, because it is often seen in clients that have a deficit in certain minerals and vitamins that support bone health, an alternative treatment would be to supplement these nutrients or get them through the diet.


A commonly recommended supportive intervention for osteoporosis would be to supplement calcium. However, it is also highly recommended that vitamin D3 be taken. It can be a little confusing not knowing which to take. In the long run, it is just best to supplement both calcium and vitamin D3. The reason behind why vitamin D3 is advised to be taken in combination with calcium is because calcium is essential for building bones and maintaining their structure, and vitamin D3 is necessary for calcium absorption. [6]. Additionally, most clients with osteoporosis are losing calcium through urination and this loss is another reason why these two nutrients should be supplemented together. [6].


Why Vitamin D3?

  1. First, clients who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis are often reported as having vitamin D deficiency.

  2. Second, it has been well studied that vitamin D3 is directly correlated with the disease.

  3. Third, when vitamin D3 is supplemented, results such as poor bone health are improved. [4].

Through the utilization of the parathyroid, the conversion of bone cells and formation becomes easier, especially when vitamin D3 is present in the correct amounts. [4]. Also, with the addition of vitamin D3 in combination with calcium, the kidneys will be able to help increase the conversion of D3. This help will allow the turnover of bone to run more smoothly. [6].


How do I Strengthen my Bones?


Since fractures are the main area of concern when considering the disease, we not only want to gain bone health through nutrition, but we also want to strengthen bones. This is so that cells can be initiated to begin growing again because it takes up to about 7 years to begin to grow bone back to a healthy state.


Exercise is the best way to build bones. [5,6,8]. Essentially exercise builds muscle and heavier muscles build better bones. It also stimulates osteoblasts that will increase bone mass. [6]. Having higher bone mass delays weaken bones states, decreases the risk of fracture, which decreases the risk of serious breaks. This ultimately will decrease the chances of bed or chair confinement.

It is often that many elderly people look to doing pool exercises for ease of pain during workouts. However, according to researchers, not just any way of exercising will do. [8]. For example, researchers claim that pool exercises do not increase bone mass or bone density. [8]. This could be due to the positioning of the body, as people are normally isolated in one area of the pool. It should be noted that a new study did find that adhering to a long-term swimming protocol continuously could increase bone mass, but more evidence is needed. [8]. Therefore, this topic is controversial.


Nonetheless, the best way to build bone is through weight-bearing or resistance bearing exercises, such as balance exercises and at-home exercises. Balance exercise intensity does vary depending on age range. Although it is good to remember that it doesn't matter which age you are, people should work their way up from their weakest point in exercising to much stronger exercises to obtain strong bones for balance.


Light Balance Exercises

  • Side Leg Raises

  • Back Leg Raises

  • Walking Heel to Toe

  • Single Limb Stance

  • Chair Sit to Stand

Medium Balance Exercises

  • Squats

  • Lunges

  • Side Lunges

  • Curtsey Squats

  • Push-ups

Advanced Balance Exercises

  • Skating

  • Dancing

  • Balance Beam

Nutrition and Osteoporosis


There are a number of nutritional factors that come into play when discussing how to repair and build new bones. For starters, people often just revert to taking calcium and vitamin D3, but there are more nutrients that have a role in this condition. Other nutrients that come into play are vitamin K2 and magnesium. [3,6]. The building of calcium in bones is vitamin K2 dependent and bone remineralization is dependent on magnesium. [3,6].


Additional nutrients that can be tested for are:

  • The homocysteine panel of B vitamins 6-9-12. [3]. High homocysteine levels have also been associated with low bone mineral density. [3].

  • Heavy metal panel of Zinc, Manganese, and Copper. These have been noted in case studies to be the cause of bone loss. [3].

  • Strontium is a mineral often not spoken of, but it is heavily prevalent in our bone mass more than anywhere in our bodies. There have been reports of deficiencies in strontium in cases that present with low bone mineral density. [3].


Cautions with Supplementation


Many people find information on the internet from blogs that have recommendations of how much of a certain supplement should be taken for certain diagnoses. Although these are the recommended daily values, each person has their own bio-individual fingerprint and therefore should have a professional assessment conducted prior to taking supplementation. The best way to do this is to see a physician or nutritionist. The reason why this is imperative is that the amount that people take when supplementing can be not enough or too much. This can make the condition far worse. As well, most of these bloggers are not licensed practitioners and have no training. Their information is also not cited and copied from other meaningless blog posts.


Some Dangers of Suppmentation without Proper Assessment

When supplementing vitamin D3, one should take caution. Calcitriol (D3), interacts with drugs like Lipitor, which is a statin. [2]. It also interacts with blood pressure medicine. [2]. Remember high homocysteine levels are noted in many cases of osteoporosis. This means that people with high cholesterol or blood pressure should speak with their physician before using supplementation for osteoporosis to ensure it is okay to use. [2]. Calcitriol also can enhance the absorption of aluminum (heavy metal), which in large doses can eventually lead to aluminum toxicity. [2]. Furthermore, excessive doses of D3 can lead to the risk of getting hypercalcemia. [2].


Diets and Bone Health


The Alkaline Diet is the best way to get all the additional nutrients. It is also a way to not have to suffer the consequences of overdosing on supplements or wasting money on underdosing. The alkaline diet has been noted in tons of clinical research and the reason for this is the variety of nutrients that it provides to improve bone mass. So the question we all have is, "How does the alkaline diet work?"


Basically, how it works is a high acid diet causes bone loss, along with a buffet of other disease states. A high acid diet puts our bodies in a state of acidosis. This happens because the body pulls nutrients from the bones to help maintain the balance of the acidic environment in the body by trying to neutralize it. Acidosis eventually leads to osteopenia, which is a condition that causes lower bone density. Then, after doing this for so long, it eventually leads to osteoporosis. A high alkaline diet full of essential nutrients can help buffer out the acidic load within the body and reduce the risk of the development of osteoporosis. [1]. In some cases, it can also reverse the disease state. [1].


Treating Osteoporosis Naturally with Lifestyle Behavior Changes


Adopting an Alkaline Diet is the best way to reduce the development and risk of osteoporosis. Nonetheless, other imperative lifestyle changes need to be made to build stronger bones. [3,5,6].

  • Eliminate refined sugar

  • Eliminate alcohol

  • Eliminate smoking

  • Reduce protein intake

  • Reduce or eliminate carbonated beverages

  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine

  • Reduce or eliminate dairy

Adopt a plant-based dietary protocol like the alkaline diet, vegetarian diet, or vegan diet!

References:

  1. Brown, S.E. & Jaffe, R. (2000). Acid-alkaline balance and it's effect on bone health. International Journal of Medicine, 2(6). Retrieved from http://www.genesisnmc.com/uploads/3/8/3/6/38360929/joy_in_living_thealkalineway.pdf 

  2. Calcitriol. (2019). Natural Medicines [Interaction CheckerTool]. Therapeutic Research Center.  Retrieved from https://0-naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearch-com.sclcatalog.muih.edu/tools/interaction-checker.aspx#

  3. Gaby, A. (2017). Nutritional Medicine, (2nd Ed.). Fritz Perlberg.

  4. Mahan, L.K. and Raymond, J.L. (2017). Krause’s food & the nutrition care process (14th Ed.). Elsevier.

  5. Lipski, E. (2012). Digestive wellness: Strengthen the immune system and prevent disease through healthy digestion, (4th Ed.). McGraw Hill.

  6. Pizzorno, J. E., Murray, M. T., & Joiner-Bey, H. (2016). The clinician's handbook of natural medicine (3rd Ed.). Elsevier.

  7. Van Lare, S. (2019). NUTR 636: Module 1[Acid-Alkaline Perque PDF]. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Web site: https://learn.muih.edu

  8. Yanlin Su, Zhe Chen, Wei Xie,"Swimming as Treatment for Osteoporosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis",BioMed Research International,vol. 2020,Article ID 6210201,8pages,2020.https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/6210201

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