Heal osteoporosis the naturopathic way

how to prevent and reverse osteoporosis

Let that sink in for a moment: Osteoporosis is a major public health issue affecting more than 10 million Americans.

Osteoporosis is a disease of the skeletal system that is characterized by deterioration of bone tissue, along with a decrease in bone mass. It can strike anyone at any age, although it is most prevalent in Caucasian and Asian, small-boned women over 50.

The term osteoporosis describes a condition inside the bones in which large porous areas develop, weakening the bone structure. Bone is a living tissue that maintains a balance through the bone-building activity of osteoblasts, with the re-absorptive activity of osteoclasts. When factors such as advancing age cause a change in this balance toward reabsorption, bone mass decreases. After reaching a fracture threshold, bone that was normally able to withstand a minor stress, such as a fall or blow, becomes subject to break or fracture more easily. 

Several risk factors increase the chance of developing osteoporosis: family history, gender (women are 6 to 8 times more likely than men), being postmenopausal, advanced age, race (Caucasians are the most likely), low calcium intake, smoking, alcohol consumption, a sedentary lifestyle and soft drink consumption.

The Importance of Exercise

Exercise has an important impact on bone health. Several studies have increased awareness on how exercise can most constructively be used to prevent the development of osteoporosis.13

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Starting to exercise at a young age is best to achieve long-term positive effects, since maximum bone mass is usually achieved during the first third of the life cycle. However, exercise at any age can improve bone health. Weight-bearing exercises, including weight training, hiking, climbing stairs, and walking, force the bones to work against gravity and are effective at increasing bone mass.

3 factors are the most important in predicting the best exercise outcome: strain magnitude (how much impact the exercise has on the bones and muscles), strain rate (how often maximum vs. minimum strain is applied), and strain frequency (how often strain occurs in a given amount of time).

Effective Dietary Interventions

The best approach to getting sufficient nutrients to build and maintain strong bones is to consistently make healthy food choices. As we discuss each nutrient below, food sources will be included, along with suggestions for possible supplementation, which is secondary to whole-food ingestion.

Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. It is well recognized for its importance in the development of bones and teeth and has many other functions as well. The ability of calcium supplements to “maintain good bone health and reduce the high risk of osteoporosis later in life” is one of the few health label claims allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The best food sources of calcium, other than dairy, include whole grains, beans, almonds and other nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables like kale.

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Magnesium

Magnesium is the second most common mineral in the body, after calcium. Magnesium is important for many metabolic processes, including building bone, forming adenosine triphosphate, and absorbing calcium. Dietary sources of magnesium include nuts, whole grains, dark green vegetables, fish, meat, and legumes. Magnesium is often deficient in the standard American diet, due to low consumption of foods containing this nutrient, as well as soil depletion from commercial farming practices such as overcropping.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for the formation and maintenance of bone tissue, due to its involvement in several complex mechanisms, including the regulation of calcium and phosphorous absorption. If vitamin D levels are low, parathyroid hormone (PTH) increases and triggers osteoclasts to release calcium into the blood via bone re-adsorption. If this process continues over time, it weakens bone and leads to osteoporosis. In addition, vitamin D stimulates intestinal epithelial cells to synthesize calcium-binding proteins that support the absorption of calcium in the blood.

Boron

Boron is ubiquitous throughout the human body, with the highest concentrations found in the bones and dental enamel. Although there is currently no RDA for it, boron appears to be indispensable for healthy bone function, possibly because of its effects on reducing the excretion and absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

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Strontium

The mineral strontium is a powerful agent in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. Strontium is a naturally occurring mineral present in water and food. Trace amounts of strontium are found in the human skeleton, where it is adsorbed at the matrix crystal surface of bones. 

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble substance; however the body does not store a significant amount at any given time. The need to constantly replenish vitamin K through dietary intake is decreased due to the vitamin K cycle, which allows a small amount that is present to be used by the body several times. Vitamin K deficiency is rare, due to reuse via the vitamin K cycle and wide availability in the diet. Vitamin K is found in dark green vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard, parsley, and spinach, and to some extent in olive and soybean oils. 

Conclusion

With so much information, ask your doctor to be instrumental in educating you as a patient about the fact that, with intelligent dietary and lifestyle choices, osteoporosis is largely preventable and can be controlled for most people.