Our bones are truly amazing. When bones are healthy they can stay strong for your full lifetime. Bones are living tissue and their cells are totally recreated about every 10 years -when you are healthy. Not only do they provide structure and your height but are also involved in the production of blood cells. This article is mostly about Osteoporosis but is also a good general guide to your bone health.
Women and men are both at risk of Osteoporosis but the incidence in women is higher. Approximately 44 million people over age 50 have it. It takes approximately 10 years of lessening bone density to get full blown osteoporosis. If you are near 40 or above, menopausal and are female you might need to be concerned as it an epidemic in the US.
We have all seen women with the dowager hump and maybe you have experienced shrinking in height. This is all attributed to osteoporosis. It is a silent disease progressively degenerating until it is advanced and you break a bone. Compression fractures of the spine can occur really without any injury. It then becomes very painful and is often debilitating, affecting mobility and quality of life. One of the myths of osteoporosis is that if you take enough calcium you can repair the damaged bone but it’s not so simple! Often I hear people comment that it is part of getting older yet, it does not need to be!
What goes wrong?
Osteoporosis develops when something goes wrong. It could be the result of another disease like rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, lupus, or an infection in the bone or as a side effect of many commonly prescribed medications.
The primary causes of this disease are the Western diet and sedentary lifestyle. These 2 factors cause so many health issues in the US. We have grown to expect if we have a health issue , we can just take a medication to take care of it. We have gotten away from the basics of good nutrition, healthy and regular activity and plain old hard physical work.
There are a variety of factors that affect our bones. Hormones such as estrogen which is the key hormone involved in bone tissue balance. As estrogen drops, so does bone density.
Dietary factors that affect the bone tissue balance are too much salt ( processed foods), excessive caffeine ( lose fluid and calcium through the urine with no time to absorb). Additionally we eat much more meat than we really need to and it has phosphorus which blocks the calcium absorption. Of course we need enough calcium but most of us get plenty of calcium. Absorption often is the issue in the gastrointestinal tract.
We need more of the right foods to increase our minerals like boron and magnesium ( nuts, seeds, vegetables). Very low levels of these nutrients are found in the American diet. Only small to moderate amounts of foods like spinach and greens are needed. Though these are full of nutrients they also contain Oxalic Acid which can interrupt calcium absorption and can also cause kidney stones.
The human body was made to move. We used to walk, run, carry water, farm the fields, and had a lot of natural activity. Technology and the modern lifestyle has made life so easy it is killing us. We need to start moving more. Any activity that causes significant pressure on the bones is a benefit. Examples are using resistance bands, walking, lifting weights, dancing, climbing. jumping rope.
Diagnosing is done through risk factors, medical history , and testing such as a DEXA scan. Thyroid tests should be done to look at TSH level, estrogen levels (estradial), Vitamin D levels and calcium levels.
You are at higher risk if you are diabetic as there is indication in the studies that a high glucose level seems to shut down the bone building mechanism.
In the picture on the Left is normal bone magnified. On the Right is osteoporosis. Obviously bone is not being built properly.
Unfortunately the medications used to prevent and treat osteoporosis such as Fosamax have limited affect on fractures of the bones (except spinal) and have some pretty nasty side effects.
There are natural solutions that can be implemented by a holistic physician or Natural Health Care Professional to set up a lifestyle and nutritional plan specific for your needs and risks. One size does not fit all in this complex yet fascinating process. However, we can all move more, eat more vegetables, seeds and nuts (high in Calcium), consume less sugar and processed foods. We can limit caffeine and salt consumption. Simple steps to keep us young and vibrant even into our later years!
Jean Cornell RN, Ph.D, Health Coach. Certified Natural Health Professional. Owner of the Natural Health and Wellbeing Network in Shelby Twp. 888-217-3174 (Currently accepting new clients) www.jeancornell.com