Patients often come to my practice for help with natural treatment of osteoporosis and osteopenia, usually after their physician has recommended medications such as Fosamax or Actonel. These medications block the body’s breakdown of bone. Our bone is living tissue, in need of this process of renewal where new bone is built and old bone is broken down. This process is essential to keep the skeleton strong. Although medications that block bone breakdown make the bones appear more dense on x-ray, they do not build healthy bone. Instead these medications create unhealthy bone that over time becomes more prone to fracture. These medications can also cause irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn and sometimes can lead to ulcers of the esophagus.
The most effective way to reverse bone loss is to provide our body with adequate building blocks for new bone. Although the primary element of the bones is calcium, it is NOT all about getting more calcium. There are at least 20 key nutrients that your bones need to stay healthy (see below). Eating foods rich in these nutrients is the most important component of preventing bone loss. Vitamin D (which is a hormone not a vitamin) is essential to bone health. We get Vitamin D primarily from sunshine, not food. We also need movement to stimulate the bone building process, both weight bearing exercise such as walking as well as resistance training. Stress and lack of sleep also disrupt the bone building process because the stress hormone cortisol pushes the balance towards bone loss. Therefore, relaxing activities and adequate sleep (7-8 hours) are also essential to keeping our bones strong.
- Get baseline lab tests to include 25-OH Vitamin D level, urine N-Telopeptide/Creatinine ratio (NTX) and Dexascan (bone density test).
- The NTX urine test measures bone loss in real-time so that you can monitor whether bone loss improves with changes in diet, exercise and stress reduction.
- Take enough Vitamin D to get your blood levels of 25-OH Vitamin D between 50-70.
- Get your calcium from plants, which are rich in many of the additional vitamins, minerals and trace elements that feed your bones. These should include lots of leafy greens, broccoli, nuts, seeds and non-dairy milk.
- Exercise at least 20 minutes daily to include walking and resistance training which stimulates your bones to stay strong.
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep and engage in relaxing activity at least 30 minutes per day.
- If you urine NTX is high, try taking a supplement with Choline Stablized Orthosilic Acid which helps create the collagen framework of your bones.
- Monitor blood levels of 25-OH Vitamin D and urine NTX every 3 months until optimal and check bone density tests (dexascans) every 2 years.
- If you are peri-menopausal or post-menopausal, consider bio-identical hormones which can help prevent further bone loss.
- For more information, I would recommend reading The Whole Foods Guide to Strong Bones.