Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones have weakened and are more likely to break. Fractures from osteoporosis can result in pain, disability, and sometimes death. No matter what your age, you need to be thinking about prevention.
Osteoporosis affects 44 million Americans, striking 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men. Osteoporosis is a “silent” disease: it can progress for many years without symptoms until a fracture occurs. It has been called “a pediatric (childhood) disease with geriatric (old age) consequences,” because building healthy bones in youth helps prevent osteoporosis and fractures later in life.
The numbers are different in different countries: reported incidences of hip fractures are highest in the US and Northern Europe, intermediate in Mediterranean and Asian countries, and lowest in South Africa, particularly in the areas where people follow traditional ways of life. There are more fractures among city dwellers than country folk.
Osteoporosis is a very common cause of death today, although indirectly. Twenty five percent of people over the age of 50 die within a year of fracturing their hip. A hip fracture can cause a blood clot to form that goes to the lungs, the heart or the brain. Other complications involve the surgery to repair the hip leaving the person bedridden for weeks. They lose strength and have trouble caring for themselves. In an older person, this can be a death sentence.
How likely you are to develop osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass you attained in your early 20’s. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in the bank” and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age. However, it is never too late to adopt new habits for healthy bones.
Once bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you may have osteoporosis signs and symptoms that include:
- Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height over time
- A stooped posture
- A bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected
Risk Factors and Causes
Risk factors for developing osteoporosis include:
- Your Sex. Females are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
- Small Frame. Being thin or having a small frame increases risk because you have less bone mass to draw from as you age.
- Family History. Having a family history of the disease or of fractures after the age of 50.
- Race. You’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent.
- Hormones. The reduction in estrogen after menopause is a risk factor in developing osteoporosis. In men, osteoporosis may be linked with a gradual age-related decline in testosterone levels.
- Amenorrhea. Having an abnormal absence of menstrual periods.
- Lack of Physical Activity. When bone is not subject to physical stress or weight bearing exercise, it starts to lose minerals and becomes less dense and more fragile.
- Heavy Metal Toxicity. Doctors typically overlook this significant cause of osteoporosis. Toxic metals such as lead, cadmium, aluminum and others accumulate in the bones, weakening them. Everyone today has heavy metal toxicity; it’s just a matter to what degree.
- Alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Smoking. Tobacco use increases bone loss, perhaps by decreasing the amount of estrogen a woman’s body makes and by reducing the absorption of calcium in the intestines.
- Eating Disorders. Low food intake reduces calcium, mineral and protein intake, weakening bones.
- Vegan Diets. Vegan diets, because they do not provide collagen (found only in animal foods) needed to keep bones flexible, increase risk of fractures, even if calcium intake is adequate. Saturated fats, many kinds of which are not in the vegan diet, are also required to absorb the minerals needed to keep bones strong. Additionally, the calcium from greens and other vegan sources is not as easily absorbed due to phytates. The calcium in eggs and raw dairy is far more plentiful and absorbable.
- Weight-loss Surgery. A reduction in the size of your stomach or a bypass of part of the intestine limits the amount of surface area available to absorb nutrients, including calcium.
- Medications. Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone and cortisone, interferes with the bone-rebuilding process. Other drugs that can contribute to osteoporosis include antacids, proton pump inhibitors, pain killers (aspirin, NSAIDS such as ibuprophen and most others), but the list goes on and on. Anything that upsets digestion, for example, can worsen osteoporosis by interfering with nutrient absorption. For instance, antibiotics adversely affect intestinal flora. Other drugs such as birth control pills and patches deplete zinc, magnesium and other micronutrients. Osteoporosis has also been associated with medications used to combat or prevent:
- Gastric reflux
- Transplant rejection
- Adrenal Fatigue. While the alarm or fight-flight reaction is normal and healthy for short periods of time, if it persists due to chronic stress or other imbalances in body chemistry, calcium, magnesium and zinc reserves become depleted. Calcium is then withdrawn from the bones to replenish blood calcium reserves. For more information, see my article Epidemic Adrenal Fatigue.The adrenals help to retain sodium and potassium in the blood. Once fatigued, the adrenals do not perform this job as well. When the tissue or even the blood levels of sodium and potassium are so low that the body cannot maintain enough calcium in an ionized or soluble form in the blood. Sodium and potassium are solvent minerals that keep calcium and magnesium in solution. As the levels of the solvents decrease, calcium and magnesium begin to precipitate into the soft tissues, where calcium calcifies the tissues, brain, organs, arteries, etc.This creates a calcium deficiency in the blood, even if one eats enough bioavailable calcium, which is rare today. Eventually, it can lead to osteoporosis in most older people as the body robs the bones of some calcium to replenish the blood or serum calcium.
- Acidity. Many people today have a very acidic diet, too high in meats (without the alkaline balance of vegetables), flour, and sugar. Increased acidity increases urinary excretion of calcium, contributing to osteoporosis. Presumably this leads to osteoporosis because acidity leads to greater solubility of calcium. Fast oxidizers (or people with a fast metabolism) tend toward an acidic condition because their rapid rate of metabolism generates increased acidic metabolic end-products such as lactic acid.
- Fast Metabolism. In fast oxidation, the body excretes excessive calcium, magnesium and zinc. The purpose for this action is that lowering the calcium and magnesium levels enhances reflexes and increases brain activity in preparation for what is called a fight-flight reaction. This response is due to overactive adrenal and thyroid glands and results in the person having tons of energy and burning off all the food they eat with ease. These individuals lose calcium and magnesium in larger than ideal amounts as part of the fight-or-flight response. Their calcium may also be deficient due to overactive thyroid glandular activity, which tends to lower calcium in the body. For those with a fast metabolism, supplementation with calcium, magnesium, zinc, and copper are all essential to prevent and possibly reverse osteoporosis.
- Slow Metabolism. In a slow oxidizer, the adrenal and thyroid glands are underactive. In this situation, calcium is not adequately retained in the blood. A low tissue sodium level causes calcium to precipitate out of the blood and deposit in the soft tissues. As calcium leaves the blood, the body draws calcium out of storage from the bones to replace that which was lost from the blood. This process goes on slowly and unnoticed for years. Eventually the bones become demineralized and osteopenia (the beginnings of osteoporosis) and osteoporosis are the result. This is one of the most common causes of osteoporosis.
- Copper Dysregulation. Copper is essential for calcium retention in the bones. For this reason, replenishing calcium without giving copper will not be sufficient to prevent osteoporosis. It is known that estrogens will help stop osteoporosis. Estrogen levels correlate directly with copper levels. When estrogen goes up, so does copper. It may be the copper that produces the beneficial effect of estrogen therapy. However, most older women do not regulate copper properly or have a deficiency. The only way to tell if you need to supplement copper is with a hair mineral analysis, which reveals your metabolic rate and copper levels. I would NEVER supplement copper unless I did a test of this nature. Learn more in this podcast about Copper Dysregulation.
- Hyperparathyroidism. The underactive thyroid activity in the slow metabolizer often results in overactive parathyroid glands. Hyperparathyroidism causes calcium to be mobilized from the bones into the blood.
Calcium is mentioned frequently in regard to osteoporosis. We are repeatedly told to eat more dairy or take 1000-1500mg a day of calcium. But you cannot simply take a cheap supplement or eat conventional dairy and think you’re bones miraculously start to heal. If this were true, then the countries with the highest dairy intakes in the world would not have the highest osteoporosis rates in the world as well.
Many say that consumption of dairy may be the wrong approach to obtain calcium: there are more fractures in regions that consume milk products (US, Great Britain, Canada, Northern Europe), than in those that don’t (Africa, China). The extensive Nurses Study at Harvard, which followed 78,000 nurses for more than 12 years, found that those who drank two or more glasses of milk per day had twice the risk of hip fracture than those who drank a glass a week or less. In fact, the authors of the study concluded that, “It is unlikely that high consumption of milk or other food sources of calcium during mid-life will confer substantial protective effects against hip or forearm fractures.”
Annamarie Colbin, in her wonderful book, The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones, explains very clearly why calcium is not exactly the answer:
Physiologically, bones are composed of calcium phosphate salts (65%) for hardness, and a collagen matrix (35%), for flexibility. If a bone is placed in an acid bath and all the calcium is removed from it, leaving just the collagen matrix, when subjected to stress it will bend, not break. Conversely, if the collagen matrix is removed and all that remains are the calcium salts, when subjected to stress it will shatter. In other words: a bone with zero calcium will bend, not break, whereas a high calcium/low collagen-matrix bone would break easily. This is why excess calcium can indeed increase the risk of fracture.
Calcium supplements pose a lot of problems because they are poor quality, the form is not absorbable, or the supplement does not contain the needed cofactors to facilitate absorption into the bones. Let’s explore these further:
- Magnesium. Magnesium instructs calcium in the body. You cannot have proper calcium regulation and deposition in the body without proper magnesium supplementation. If you take calcium without magnesium or too much calcium in proportion to magnesium, you will not get the desired effect – the rebuild your bones. And since dairy contains no magnesium, you get the picture.
- Mislabeling. The product may not contain what is on the label. This is especially true with cheaper brands of supplements. Please do not buy calcium supplements from your drug store or warehouse club store — you are wasting your money and possibly even harming your health. I urge you to only buy high quality calcium supplements from a company that only carries the highest quality brands like Pureformulas.com.
- Poor absorbability. Tums and other calcium carbonate products are suggested as good sources of calcium. They are too alkaline making them difficult to absorb for many people. Calcium chelate, calcium citrate or calcium ascorbate are better because they are better absorbed by more people. Another fantastic calcium form is called MCHC or microcrystalline hydroxy apatite crystals.
- Differing calcium needs. Some people need twice or three times as much as other people. Hair mineral analysis is a great way to assess calcium needs. Most people need about 750 mg of calcium daily coupled with 450 mg of magnesium, however some need as much as 2000 mg of calcium and 1350 mg of magnesium daily, depending upon their hair test results.
- Missing cofactors. Calcium cofactors such as magnesium and vitamin D are deficient in the diet. Magnesium is heavily involved in calcium metabolism and bone health. It is so commonly deficient in modern diets that few people get enough each day to replenish and maintain adequate levels in the body tissues. Most people must supplement magnesium and take about five times their body weight in pounds in mg of chelated or another quality magnesium daily. I like Jigsaw Magnesium.
While some may get plenty of calcium, they are usually deficient in other nutrients needed to retain calcium and form strong bones, like K2, vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, boron, copper, manganese, vanadium, selenium, zinc, plus vitamins, C, K, B6 and folate, and saturated fats (yes, these are healthy). Saturated fats and other fats are needed to absorb these minerals. In addition, we need sufficient amounts of protein for the collagen matrix. These nutrients all must be supplied in the diet so that calcium and phosphorus and other major minerals will deposit and remain in the bones.
Studies show that countries, like the US and Finland, that have the highest calcium intakes also have the highest osteoporosis rates. How could this be? It’s due to getting too much calcium in the diet, but not having the cofactors, listed above, to utilize and absorb the calcium. You cannot just take or eat calcium and have it magically infiltrate your bones.
Strength vs. Flexibility
Everyone is always talking about the importance of strong bones, but you need FLEXIBLE bones if you are to avoid fractures. Bones have a proteinaceous structure or matrix into which the calcium and phosphorus are deposited. This protein structure requires many nutrients for its health. You need to consume collagen in the diet, which can easily be found in bone broths. Bone broths contain gelatin and collagen, supplying all you need for flexible bones. Of course, protein is found in meats as well. One of the problems with strict vegetarian and vegan diets is the lack or complete absence of collagen in the diet. This makes people eating these diets more susceptible to osteoporosis and fractures, even if they have an adequate intake of calcium.
A major contributor to osteoporosis that is overlooked by many doctors is heavy metal toxicity. Toxic metals such as lead, cadmium and aluminum contribute to osteoporosis, but others may also accumulate in the bones. Dr. Lawrence Wilson, an expert on toxic metals and Nutritional Balancing Science states on his site DrLWilson.com:
Toxic metals replace vital minerals in the bones, causing them to be more brittle in the case of cadmium, or weaker in the case of lead and fluoride. These metals are actually incorporated into the structure of the bones, and so will not be revealed on tests like urine challenge tests with EDTA, blood, hair, stool or any other tests.
Most people today have weakened bones from the time they are children. In addition to calcium deficiencies, another critical reason for this is the widespread distribution of too much aluminum and lead, primarily. When the body is deficient in calcium, these toxic metals, as well as others, appear able to replace calcium in the bones to some degree. Other toxic metals that can affect the bone range from cadmium, copper, mercury and perhaps others as well.
For example, in most cases of osteoporosis, we find the bones contain too much lead. This will not be revealed on x-rays or bone scans, however. It only becomes apparent as it is eliminated, when it is often eventually revealed on hair mineral analyses. This usually will only occur when a person is diligently following a Nutritional balancing program. Chelation, for example, will often not be able to penetrate into the bones to remove the lead. The body will remove it all by itself, however, as the body becomes better nourished and comes into a better overall biochemical balance. This may take several years to accomplish, however.
If you hope to reverse your osteoporosis or have a family history and several risk factors, I would give serious consideration to doing a heavy metals detoxification and remineralizing program like Myers Detox with Hair Mineral Analysis (formerly called Nutritional Balancing) to reduce your risk of fragile bones. This program heals the adrenals, which contribute greatly to calcium loss. It is safe, very effective and will heal not only your bones, but heal your entire body.
Smoking and Osteoporosis
Cigarette smoking was first identified as a risk factor for osteoporosis a mere 20 years ago. Recent studies show a direct relationship between tobacco use and decreased bone density. Meta-analyses (where numerous study results are analyzed simultaneously) on the effects of smoking on the bone revealed that current smokers sustained decreased bone mass and increased fracture risk at age 50 years and older. In addition, smoking has been identified as a predictor of ten-year fracture risk in men and women, largely independent of an individual’s bone mineral density.
In addition, most studies on the effects of smoking suggest that smoking increases the risk of having a fracture. For example:
- The longer you smoke and the more cigarettes you consume, the greater your risk of fracture in old age.
- Smokers who fracture may take longer to heal than nonsmokers and may experience more complications during the healing process.
- Significant bone loss has been found in older women and men who smoke.
- At least one study suggests that exposure to second-hand smoke during youth and early adulthood may increase the risk of developing low bone mass.
- Women who smoke often produce less estrogen (a sex hormone) and tend to experience menopause earlier than nonsmokers, which may lead to increased bone loss.
- Quitting smoking appears to reduce the risk of low bone mass and fractures. However, it may take several years to lower a former smoker’s risk.
The most common test to measure bone density is dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). It accurately measures the density of bones in your spine, hip and wrist — on. I elected not to do one for this reason. I am not going to needlessly expose myself to carcinogenic radiation simply to find out how dense my bones are. I elected instead to live a lifestyle and eat a diet that builds strong bones.
Bone density tests only measure the thickness or density of the bones; they do not address flexibility. Bones can be dense but brittle; they can be dense and break, or thin and flexible. It all depends. If bones are flexible, they are less likely to break.
Should you get a bone density test? If a person takes one of these tests, doesn’t like the results, and is then motivated to take better care of herself, eating more vegetables and doing more exercise, then I think it would be a good idea to take the test. If a person takes a test, but is not likely to make the necessary lifestyle changes and take an osteoporosis drug instead, I would vote against doing the test for this reason.
For both men and women, the most widely prescribed osteoporosis medications are bisphosphonates. The bisphosphonates commonly prescribed for osteoporosis are not as effective as we have been led to believe and, as more and more research data has come out about the long-term risks of these medications, we are finding out that they are more dangerous than we had previously thought. Listen to this amazing podcast that explains exactly how bisphosphonates not only do not heal osteoporosis but contribute to fragile bones: The Truth about Bone Disease and Osteo Drugs with Dr. Kim.
Side effects of Bisphosphonates
Irregular heart beat
Swollen ankles and feet
Osteonecrosis of jaw or dead jaw syndrome
Boniva and Fosamax are very heavily pushed today by doctors as the only way to stop osteoporosis. I would NEVER take these medications. If they even do work for you, they lose their effectiveness after a couple years. Additionally, they are usually prescribed without needed supplementation of calcium, D3, fatty acids, or other needed nutrients required to cure the disease. Long-term bisphosphonate therapy has been linked to a rare problem in which the upper thighbone cracks, but doesn’t usually break completely. It can even happen in both legs at once!
Listen to this amazing podcast I did with Dr. Kim Millman, who specializes in osteoporosis. She clearly explains how bisphosphinates lead to weaker bones.
Bisphosphonates also have the potential to affect the jawbone. Osteonecrosis of the jaw is a rare condition — a bone disease that causes pain, swelling or infection, and even death of the jaw. Osteonecrosis can occur following a tooth extraction in which a section of jawbone dies and deteriorates. In fact, many dentists won’t perform dental work on people taking these medications for liability reasons. Be sure to ask your dentist if you need to stop your bisphosphonate before you have major dental work.
Osteopenia is when bone mineral density is lower than normal, but not severe enough to be labeled osteoporosis. This is not a disease but merely a measurement of bone strength, set one standard deviation below that of an average 30 year old. It does not mean that person has a medical problem. Medications are even more inappropriate when a person is given a diagnosis of osteopenia, yet this is the event that triggers the majority of prescriptions for biphosphonates.If you have osteopenia and your loss in bone density is not so severe, bisphosphonate medications like Fosamax should be avoided, as these medications increase the risk of suffering a fracture. The risk of hip fracture increased 84 percent and the risk of wrist fracture increased 50 percent in studies of women with osteopenia (See J. Abramson’s book Overdosed America).
Estrogen Replacement Therapy
Since a reduction in estrogen after menopause is a risk factor in developing osteoporosis, doctor’s surmise that you should replace estrogen to prevent osteoporosis. The reasoning goes as follows: estrogen is a sex hormone that is essential to female bone health because it promotes the activity of osteoblasts, which are cells that produce bone. When estrogen levels drop during menopause, the osteoblasts aren’t able to effectively produce bone.
I do not recommend this treatment due to the fact that estrogen replacement therapy, be it conventional or ‘natural’ (50% natural and 50% synthetic hormones), is shown to increase risks of uterine cancer, breast cancer, stroke, heart attacks, blood clots, and even mental decline. Additionally, if your hormone replacement therapy does not also include progesterone, you’re running the risk of estrogen dominance, which many women already suffer. See my article Estrogen Dominance Syndrome for more information. However, there are many doctors that are able to do hormone replacement successfully and women experience a great relief of many symptoms, including osteoporosis with this therapy. You must weigh the benefits with the risks and decide what works for you personally. Time to do your homework!
Wendy’s Recommendations for Natural Treatment
There are so many things you can do to increase bone health. It will involve intense lifestyle and diet changes and will absolutely require supplementation as food today is deficient in minerals – one of the causes of our society’s rise in cases of osteoporosis. This disease is lifestyle related, so you must get determined and make some changes.
- Exercise. Exercise can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss. Exercise will benefit your bones no matter when you start, but you’ll gain the most benefits if you start exercising regularly when you’re young and continue to exercise throughout your life. Combine strength training exercises with weight-bearing exercises. Strength training helps strengthen muscles and bones in your arms and upper spine, and weight-bearing exercises — such as walking, jogging, running, stair climbing, skipping rope, skiing and impact-producing sports — mainly affect the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine. Biking and swimming will not build bone. You need to do both aerobic and strength training. You’ll also want to learn which exercises or weight machines you should avoid to help prevent injury. For example, machines or exercises that cause you to twist your torso may actually increase your risk of fracturing vertebrae.
- Avoid Fluoride. Fluoride weakens bones. It is associated with increased risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis. You MUST drink spring water or filtered water that is specifically filtering out fluoride. For more information on water, see my article What Kind of Water Should I Drink? Note that sodas, teas, beer, and any other commercially prepared beverage can be made with fluoridated tap water. Also, throw out your fluoride toothpaste in favor of a natural fluoride-free toothpaste. Ideally, you want a whole house filter or use well water to take showers and baths. You absorb a significant amount of fluoride through your skin when you take baths and showers. Additionally, many medications use fluoride as their base, like the anti-depressant Prozac and the antibiotic, Cipro. Read labels and avoid drugs containing fluoride.
- Avoid Bone Strength Suckers. Reduce caffeine, alcohol, and smoking.
I recommend purchasing your supplements from companies that only carry the highest quality supplements like the ones found in the Myers Detox Store. Cheap supplements are a waste of money because they may actually be detrimental to your health!
- Calcium. You cannot just take calcium and have it magically make your bones strong. Many who supplement calcium may be taking the government recommended 1000-1500 mg a day of calcium, but this is way too much for many people. Most people actually do not need to take calcium at all. They need more magnesium so the calcium they eat will deposit into their bones. I caution against calcium supplementation unless someone shows in their body’s biochemistry that they need it. Otherwise, calcium can cause a whole host of problems in the body, including slowing the metabolism. A good way to figure out how much you need is to do a hair mineral analysis. Many forms of calcium are not bioavailable and you may be wasting your money buying cheap calcium supplements in other forms. The best forms of calcium that I recommend are:
- Calcium amino acid chelate. The supplement I like is from Paramin by Endomet. Chelates are better absorbed by people, especially if they have digestive issues.
- Calcium lactate by Standard Process is very absorbable and inexpensive.
- Calcium Malate Chelate. Calcium Malate Chelate by Designs for Health combines two unique forms of calcium for exceptional absorption and utilization. Calcium glycinate chelate provides calcium that is fully chelated to glycine for superior absorption while it also contains calcium malate chelate.
- For you vegetarians, you’ll like Kind Garden of Life Organics algae-derived plant-based calcium.
- Magnesium. Calcium MUST be taken with magnesium. You should take two servings of magnesium to one serving of calcium. Most sites get it wrong and have the ratio the other way around. Everyone needs magnesium, but not everyone needs calcium. You need to take five times your body weight in pounds in mg. So, if you weight 200lbs. You need 1000mg daily of magnesium. Here are the forms I love:
- Microcrystalline Hydroxyapatite Crystals or MCHC. MCHC is a bone extract that contains the most absorbable form of calcium and trace minerals, which can help restore and maintain bones. It contains calcium, manganese, zinc, copper and other trace minerals such as boron and vanadium that today are often deficient or biounavailable. I like MCHC by Metagenics.
- Kelp. Kelp and other sea vegetables contain tons of calcium and many other minerals. Everyone should be taking kelp. It is a great source of 20-30 trace minerals missing from soils. It also contains iodine. Oregon’s Wild Harvest Kelp is the only organic kelp I have found that also is tested for heavy metals. I take it every day.
- Vitamin D3. A lot of sites recommend 5000IU of vitamin D a day. I think this is devastating to health and dead wrong. Vitamin D is a hormone that retains calcium in the intestines. However, if you don’t have enough magnesium to tell that calcium where to go, you are in trouble. I recommend that people ONLY supplement vitamin D if their Magnesium RBC is below 5 and the active form of Vitamin D 1, 25 (OH)2 D3 (Calcitriol) is blow 22 pg/dl. Then and ONLY then do you need Vitamin D! Learn more about why you may want to Stop Taking Vitamin D. If you want vitamin D, eat grass fed butter, fatty fish, or take low levels in Green Pastures Cod Liver Oil. But please do not supplement D on it’s own.
- Vitamin K2. If you take oral vitamin D, you need to also consume in your food or take supplemental vitamin K2. When you take vitamin D, your body creates more vitamin K2-dependent proteins — the proteins that help move the calcium around in your body. But you need vitamin K2 to activate those proteins. If they’re not activated, the calcium in your body will not be properly distributed and can lead to weaker bones and hardened arteries. In short, vitamin K2 ensures the calcium is deposited and removed from the appropriate areas. By taking vitamin D, you’re creating an increased demand for K2. Eat foods rich in K2 like grass-fed organic animal products (i.e. eggs, butter, dairy). Certain cheeses such as Brie and Gouda are particularly high in K2, containing about 75 mcg per ounce. You can also try goose liver paté. Yum.
- Silicone. Silicone (orthosilicic acid) makes new bone. You can take calcium but it won’t get in your bones without silicone and other minerals like magnesium. It will just calcify your arteries and tissues. I recommend Activated Silica.
- Lysine. Lysine helps in the production of collagen, a protein that is the basic building block of bones, cartilage and tendons. Lysine helps the body absorb calcium and decreases the amount of calcium that is lost in urine. The richest source of lysine is protein-rich food, such as meat, poultry, Parmesan cheese, legumes, eggs and soybeans (only eat fermented soy).
- Eat Healthy Fats. For calcium to be incorporated into the skeletal structure, 50% of dietary fats must be saturated. This means eat as much RAW pastured grass fed organic butter as you like. Eat red grass fed meat once a week. No, red meat is not bad for you!
- RAW Dairy. RAW organic grass fed dairy that has not been pasteurized or homogenized has tons of bioavailable calcium. Find a local farm where you can purchase raw dairy at Realmilk.com.
- Cooked Vegetables. Raw foods are all the rage right now, but vegetables need to be cooked in order for your body to extract the minerals within the tough plant cell walls. Most people’s digestion systems are not capable of extracting nutrients from raw plants. There’s a reason people do raw food cleanses. Many raw foods pass into the feces whole and undigested, especially lettuces and kale.
- Bone Broth. Bone broths are full of healthy fats and minerals. They also contain gelatin and collagen needed to form your collagen matrix for flexibility. When making bone broth, use a spoonful of vinegar to liberate the minerals. I also like to throw in a stalk of dried Kombu seaweed to add minerals and salty flavor. See my recipe and a video on how to make bone broth.
- Carrot Juice. Carrot juice has more calcium than leafy greens. It is one of the best sources of calcium. Juice must be fresh and drank within 30 minutes of pressing. For more information on Juicing, see my article The Juice on Juicing. I recommend limiting juice to 10-12 ounces a day. You can get too much of a good thing!
- Sardines. Sardines with bones have tons of calcium. They taste like tuna. So good! Learn more about sardines here!
- Root Vegetables. Turnips, parsnips and other root vegetables are great sources of calcium.
- Leafy Greens. All green vegetables are high in calcium. Dark green vegetables such as spinach and chard are good sources of calcium, but not as good as carrots, roots and RAW dairy products. Greens must be cooked, however, as the plant’s tough cell wall must be broken down if you are to maximally absorb the plant’s calcium.
- Onions. A compound in onions inhibits the activity of the cells (osteoclasts) that break down bones. Onion-fed rats (the equivalent of a quarter cup a day for humans) increased their total bone mineral content by more than 17 percent.
- Prunes. Prunes contain many bone building nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and boron. Boron prevents excretion of calcium and magnesium, which allows these minerals to be deposited in bone tissue. They also promote the formation of levels of two compounds, the hormone IGF-1 and the enzyme BSAP, that are associated with greater rates of bone formation.
- Fennel. This plant is a treasure trove of nutrients, including vitamin C, folate (the natural form of folic acid), calcium, magnesium, and many nutrients that help build strong bones.
- Almonds. Almonds are very high in calcium. I suggest eating almond butter, as it is far easier to digest than nuts. Even better is sprouted nut butter. Sprouting exponentially increases nutrient availability and reduces phytates in the nuts that prevent mineral absorption. I love Blue Mountain Organics Sprouted Nut Butters.
- Sesame Seeds. You can sprinkle these on your salad, grind them to use as paste in your hummus, or use tahini (ground sesame seed) paste in a wrap.
- Fermented Vegetables. Fermented foods contain Vitamin K2, also called menaquinone, made by the bacteria that line your gastrointestinal tract. Because K2 is made by gut bacteria it is important to have good gut health to have strong bones. Read more about this in my article Probiotics – The Foundation of Health. Fermented foods contain lots of probiotics that help to maintain these important bacteria in your gut. The biological role of vitamin K2 is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, such as your bones and teeth. It’s critical for keeping your bones strong and works in conjunction with a number of other nutrients, most important of which are vitamin D, calcium and magnesium. Learn how to make them on Bodyecology.com.
- Avoid Sodas. Researchers at Tufts University, studying several thousand men and women, found that women who regularly drank cola-based sodas — three or more a day — had almost 4% lower bone mineral density in the hip, even though researchers controlled for calcium and vitamin D intake. Phosphoric acid, a major component in most sodas, may be to blame. Phosphorus itself is an important bone mineral. But if you’re getting a disproportionate amount of phosphorus compared to the amount of calcium you’re getting, that could lead to bone loss.
- Caffeine. Another possible culprit is caffeine, which experts have long known can interfere with calcium absorption and increases calcium excretion. In a Tufts University study, both caffeinated and non-caffeinated colas were associated with lower bone density. But the caffeinated drinks appeared to do more damage. One cup a day is fine if you’re healthy, but if you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, it’s time to skip the java.
- Avoid Flour and Sugar. Minerals are robbed in alarming amounts from the body when you eat sugar and flour (even whole wheat flour). These foods must be avoided.
- Avoid or Reduce Grains. It is a good idea to avoid grains as well, but eat whole grains if you feel compelled to eat them. All grains contain phytic acid, which blocks minerals from being absorbed. Soaking grains for 24 hours with vinegar prior to cooking can mitigate phytic acid content. Additionally, cavemen only had limited access to grains — they were only eaten seasonally if at all. Our bodies are evolutionarily designed to only properly metabolize meat, fish, eggs, veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds — the diet the caveman ate for millions of years. Many people have adapted to grains today, but I still advise avoiding gluten-containing grains. Read more about what grains you should eat – and which to avoid – here.
- Myers Detox with Hair Mineral Analysis is a program I have developed to improve your overall health and rid you of the underlying causes of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can almost always be prevented and reversed by following a Myers Detox Protocol. The only way to get rid of deep-seated heavy metal toxicity (other programs like chelation do not go as deep) that often contributes to stubborn cases of osteoporosis is with this program. Based on your hair test results, you will be given supplements to remineralize your bones, balance your minerals and detox heavy metals, in addition to a detox plan and a diet tailored specifically to your metabolic needs. Once you provide the exact nutrients your body needs, in the exact combinations to properly balance your body chemistry, your body starts to heal itself.
- Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields. For a full explanation on this technology, see Pemfglobal.com. Pulsed electromagnetic fields heal the body in a profound way, increasing bone density by 6% per year. It is simply a mat you lay on for 8 minutes twice a day that feeds your body pulsed electromagnetic energy that promotes healing and bone density. It also aids in healing injury and broken bones that are having difficulty healing. Listen to this podcast I did with Allie Ochs, an expert in Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields.
- Whole Body Vibrational Training. WBVT, also known as Acceleration Training, is ideally done using a platform that vibrates in three planes: vertical, horizontal and sagittal (front to back). It has been shown to be a safe, natural way to ward off osteoporosis, and can also help the elderly maintain postural control and balance. In one six month long study, WBVT was found to produce a significant increase in hip area bone density in postmenopausal women, while conventional weight training was only able to slow the rate of deterioration.
- Physical Therapy. Both the diagnosis of osteoporosis and a bone fracture can have a paralyzing effect: You might find that you are scared to engage in activities that could potentially cause a new fracture or injury. Fortunately, following a rehabilitation treatment plan outlined and supervised by a physical therapist can not only get you back on your feet, but also help you feel confident about doing so. After a fracture, rehabilitation focuses on pain management immediately after the fracture, and then on returning to an active lifestyle as the fracture heals.
- Weighted Vest. Weighted vests can be worn for hours each day and are the most effective prescription a doctor can order to prevent and treat osteoporosis. The weight should be felt primarily over the shoulders to stimulate bone growth in the spine. It is advisable to start with 6 – 8 pounds in the vest and gradually increase the weight to ten percent of your body weight. Wear the vest for a few hours each day if possible, not only during exercise, but during your everyday activities around the house, especially shopping, cooking and cleaning. Wearing a weight vest has other benefits as well, such as burning more calories, increasing core strength and improving balance. It should not be used if a person has significant bone disease or structural back problems.
There is hope for osteoporosis without drugs. While a diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis is frightening, you have control. You can adopt a bone-healthy lifestyle and prevent fractures. All it takes is some dedication and hard work. In the meantime, you’ll be adopting healthy habits that will help you. You can do it!
Have I left anything out of this article? If you think of something let me know! Have you improved your bone density or osteoporosis diagnosis naturally? I want to know! Tell me your story by leaving a comment below.
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Click here for References+
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4. Camacho, Pauline, MD, FACE, Rehan, Kelly. Estrogen Replacement Therapy for Osteoporosis: Benefits and Risks of Estrogen Treatment. November 5, 2012. http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/osteoporosis/estrogen-replacement-therapy-osteoporosis
5. Colbin, Anne-Marie.The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones. New Harbinger Publications, 2009.
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7.Fuhrman, Joel, MD. Protect Yourself Against Osteoporosis – Drugs Don’t Do It. http://www.drfuhrman.com/disease/Osteoporosis.aspx
8. Greendale GA, Salem GJ, Young JT, et al. A randomized trial of weighted vest use in ambulatory older adults: strength, performance, and quality of life outcomes. J Am Geriatr Soc 2000 48(3):305-11. Greendale, GA, Hirsh SH, Hahn TJ. The effect of a weighted vest on perceived health status and bone density in older persons. Qual Life Res 1993 2(2):141-52. Shaw JM, Snow CM. Weighted vest exercise improves indices of fall risk in older women. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 1998 53(1):M53-8. Long-term exercise using weighted vests prevents hip bone loss in postmenopausal women. J Gerontol A Bio Sci Med 2000;55(9):M489-91.
9. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Vol. 19(3), pp: 352-359. 2004.
10. Huff, Ethan. Chemist declares fluoride to be ‘one of the greatest public health threats of modern times.’ May 3, 2012.
11. Mayo Clinic. Osteoporosis. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoporosis/DS00128
12. Mercola, Joseph. What You Need to Know About Vitamin K2, D and Calcium.
December 16, 2012.
13. **The Power Plate — A Valuable Exercise Tool for Prevention and Treatment of Fibromyalgia and Brittle Bones. November 23, 2012.
14. **Specially Fermented Vegetables and Fennel are More Effective Than Calcium to Prevent Bone Loss. November 19, 2012.
15. Rogers, Sherry, MD. The High Blood Pressure Hoax. Prestige Publishing, 2005.
16. ** Detoxify or Die. Prestige Publishing, 2002.
17. ** Pain Free in Six Weeks. Prestige Publishing, 2008.
18. Shaw, Gina. Soda and Osteoporosis. Is There a Connection? http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/soda-osteoporosis
19. Wilson, Lawrence, MD. Osteporosis and Would Healing. March 2013. http://drlwilson.com/Articles/OSTEOPOROSIS.htm