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naturopathy for osteoporosis

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a gradual reduction in bone mass and bone density which leads to fragile bones and an increased risk of fracture or breaks.

What causes osteoporosis?

There are different causes, ranging from consuming a diet that is too acidic from a high intake of alcohol, tea, coffee or high sugar food and drinks; an inability to absorb calcium because of gut malabsorption; a chronic lack of vitamin D; Omega 3 deficiency; a high carbohydrate and low protein diet.

Gluten has also been shown to decrease bone density (grains are very acidic).  Further causes could be smoking cigarettes; low levels of physical activity (weight bearing exercise) and a sedentary lifestyle.1 

Other contributing factors include low oestrogen levels, such as during menopause, an overactive thyroid or too much thyroid medication, and an overactive parathyroid or adrenal glands (adrenal burnout). 

When your body becomes too acidic it pulls alkaline minerals from your body to buffer the excess acidity.  The largest store of alkaline minerals is in your bones, which then become depleted.  Acidity encourages the breakdown of your bones and inhibits the cells that build your bones back up.

Certain medicines can inhibit your body`s ability to absorb calcium and may cause your bones to weaken. These include cortisone/corticosteroids, anticoagulants, antacids, chemotherapy, lithium, antibiotics, thyroid supplements, hormonal contraception, HRT, and some anti-convulsive drugs.1

Signs + Symptoms of Osteoporosis

Unfortunately, you usually only find out you have osteoporosis when you suffer a fracture..

  • You may have back pain caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
  • You might lose height over time.  Women tend to lose their waist
  • Your posture becomes more stooped
  • You might suffer from fractures, especially if you fall (hip/wrist/forearm)

A lack of calcium is not the cause of osteoporosis.  Osteoporosis is caused by a loss of minerals from your bones.

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How can diet improve your bone density?

Firstly, your body needs protein, because amino acids are part of the bone matrix. If you don’t consume enough your body can’t form strong, dense bones. You want to ensure you eat sufficient high quality (organic) meat, fish and eggs.   Mark Sisson of Primal Blueprint recommends 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily. 

Dehydration contributes to osteoporosis.  Your body is 70% water.  Even slight dehydration triggers biochemical changes similar to the stress response.  This raises cortisol, which leads to accelerated bone loss.2 The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is approx. 3 litres and for women 2.2 litres daily.3

Trace minerals, which most of us are deficient in due to our mineral depleted soils, are necessary for the transport and absorption of calcium.  As Dr Thompson, author of The Calcium Lie explains, calcium does not treat osteoporosis.  Giving calcium and vitamin D alone will cause a worsening of osteoporosis and a cascade of health issues leading eventually to auto-immune disease.  Why?  Because bone is made up of at least 12 minerals, all of which are required if you want to restore bone density.  See Dr. Thompson’s diagram of the “Calcium Cascade” in his book The Calcium Lie.6

In a nutshell, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K2, magnesium and at least another eleven minerals work synergistically together to promote strong, healthy bones.  Your sodium to potassium ratio also plays an important role in maintaining your bone mass. Getting sufficient amounts of omega-3 fats is another factor for building healthy bone.

Weight-bearing exercises are essential in avoiding and treating osteoporosis. Remember, bone-building is a dynamic process, so you need to exert enough force on your bones to stimulate the growth of new bone via the osteoblasts.4 This is why the orthodox treatment using Bisphosphonates (Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel) which block the breakdown of bone via the osteoclasts causes bones to become more brittle and more likely to break, because if your bone doesn’t break down, it won’t get the signal to build itself back up.

New links between Your Gut and Microbiota

Chris Kresser in his blog of 28 September 2016 links your microbiota to your bone health – click here to read further.

Chris maintains that people with Gut problems often have bone complications.  Those suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) have increased risk of osteopenia, osteoporosis and bone fracture. 

The subsequent malabsorption of calcium and reduced levels of Vitamins D and K affect your bone density, as does taking corticosteroids. 

Leaky gut causes inflammation which in turn directly affects bone remodelling. 

Also, since a compromised gut equals a compromised immune system and our immune system in closely involved in the regulation of bone health, it is essential to keep our internal microbiota population healthy.7

How Do You Test Your Bone Density?

The bone resorption test by Genova Labs measures how fast your bone is breaking down, which is a good indicator of bone health:


How could functional medicine help you?

Get in touch to set up a time to discuss your situation on Skype.  I offer a free 20 minute chat so you can find out more about naturopathy and whether it might be the right approach for you.

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