Osteoporosis: Natural Solutions You Need to Know
Osteoporosis derives its name from a combination of two Latin words 'osteo' and 'porous.' Osteo relates to bones and porous means many holes. Osteoporosis causes honeycomb holes to the bones from loss of bone tissue causing abnormal tissue structure. The disease then weakens the bones leading to fractures.
Although osteoporosis can affect anyone, it is most common with the aged of 50 years and above, especially women.
According to NCBI global statistics, one-third of women and one-fifth of men in their 50s and above may have osteoporosis.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that reduces bone density and tissue. The bones then become fragile and brittle, hence increasing the risk of fracture.
The reason the bones break so easily as we age is that the body has been in acid overload for a long time. The body must maintain a precise alkaline/base balance. The pH must be within exact limits for all reactions in the body to take place. When the body is overloaded with excess acid, it must work overtime. (Read our article Acidity and Alkalinity Explained)
The primary buffering system of the body is bone. An essential element in bone is a mineral called calcium. Because of its abundance and its excellent neutralizing qualities, the body draws out this alkaline material from bone to bring back the Alkaline/Base balance. In short, the bones leach calcium to neutralize the acids in the body.
This process leads to a condition called Osteoporosis, the dissolving of calcium and other minerals in bones to keep the Alkaline/Base balance in check. As this calcium solution circulates in the blood, it collects and builds up in the Kidneys. It then resolidifies forming Kidney Stones.
The bone mass begins forming from the day of birth throughout one's lifetime, although the formation rate reduces from puberty age.
The bone mass reaches its peak at puberty which is called PBM (peak bone mass). Though some other conditions can cause early bone loss, such as some medications and medical conditions, the average bone loss begins after puberty's peak bone mass.
As the bone tissue continuously forms, resorption (break down of bone tissue) continues at the same rate up to the age of 25 years. The rate then changes. The bone resorption then begins to exceed the formation.
To some people, resorption can be extremely high compared to bone formation due to health conditions. The first suspected health condition in such an occurrence is osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a common bone disease prevalent with the aged, 50 years and above.
Osteoporosis can develop slowly devoid of any symptoms, hence going for many years without being diagnosed. One possible osteoporosis sign that can lead to diagnosis can be a bone fracture due to a slight impact or a fall.
The most common bone fractures in osteoporosis are:
A bone disease almost similar to osteoporosis is osteopenia. Osteopenia is a disease of low bone density but not as extensive as osteoporosis. You can prevent osteopenia from developing into osteoporosis by getting proper nutrition and adequate minerals.
The high acid load comes from the rich western diet. Other acid forming foods are sugar, processed foods, grains, sodas and other sweetened drinks and high animal-protein foods.
The most common indicator of osteoporosis is hip fracture. Statistics reveal that in countries where they eat a low protein diet, the incidence of fractures is also low. The more a country consumes high acid foods, the higher the rate of osteoporosis related fractures.
The generation of new bones while absorbing the old bone tissue is a continuous body process. The two processes should almost balance to maintain healthy bones.
Osteoporosis occurs when the body remarkably fails to match the formation of new bone tissue to replace the resorption, hence weakening the bones.
Peak bone mass is attained at puberty or around 20 to 25 years old. After the age of 35 years, the bone absorption rate begins to rise compared to formation.
The level of peak bone mass at puberty would determine the bone density in your old age. Therefore, peak bone mass level can determine the risk of osteoporosis disease.
Risk Factors of Osteoporosis
The following are some of the risk factors of osteoporosis:
Age: Any male or female over 50 years with a history of bone fractures are at high risk of osteoporosis.
BMI (Body Mass Index): If you have a low weight of fewer than 125 pounds or a height of more than 5 ft and 7 inches, you are at risk of osteoporosis.
Calcium Deficiency: Calcium is one of the essential minerals that form bones. Calcium deficiency is calcium insufficiency in the blood. The deficiency can lead to calcium absorption from the bones to the blood for use by other body systems.
Calcium absorption from the bones can cause weak, brittle, and porous bones. Such bones are prone to break easily.
Hormones: Some hormonal imbalances can cause osteoporosis such as:
Thyroid hormones: Uncontrolled thyroid hormonal drugs or overactive thyroid can increase the level of thyroid hormones. Too much thyroid hormone in the body can wear out bones and hence cause osteoporosis. Also, the thyroid metabolic function must be active in order for the parathyroid to take the calcium to the bone site.
Sex hormones: Estrogen hormone deficiency in women and androgen in men can lead to osteoporosis. Women from 50 years and above undergoing menopause may experience low estrogen levels. Flax seed & flax oil are phytoestrogens: this type of estrogen absorbs the uptake of bad estrogen while helping to keep the estrogen balanced.
Genetics: A parent with osteoporosis could be a genetic risk factor. If you have a concern you might want to have your DNA tested and we can then discuss your next course of action.
Some medicines can contribute to causing osteoporosis by reducing bone density. Such medications may include:
- Thyroid hormone drugs
- Blood thinners such as Warfarin and Heparin
- Some antacids
- Some antidepressants
- Some diuretics
- Some Diabetes Type-2 medicines
- Some chemotherapy drugs
Some medical conditions are a risk of osteoporosis, such as:
- Adrenal gland disorder
- Celiac disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic metabolic acidosis
- Congestive heart failure
- Amyloid disease
Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits: Some lifestyle habits that can affect your health and others can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Such osteoporosis risk lifestyle practices include:
Alcoholism: Daily use of alcohol can increase your risk of osteoporosis.
Inactive Lifestyle: Sedentary lifestyles such as spending the better part of your time sitting can increase your risk of osteoporosis.
Smoking: Whether direct or passive, smoking can lead to osteoporosis.
What are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a 'silent' developing disease. The disease can inhabit your body for a long time unnoticed. You should suspect osteoporosis when you experience the following:
- A bone fracture sustained after a slight fall or incident
- You get a rib bone or vertebrae fracture from sneezing or coughing
- A spine curvature or a stoop can be an indication of broken spine vertebrae. The spinal vertebral fracture can lead to a change in posture or height decrease
- Persistent back pain
- Easy wrist or hip bone fracture
If you experience persistent pain in the common bones associated with osteoporosis such as lower back, neck, hip, or wrist, visit your doctor for a medical consultation or tests. Also, osteoporosis causes spine curvature or stoop. Once you notice any sudden change you should visit your doctor immediately for an examination.
If you have a history in your family of hip fracture or you experienced early menopause, you should consult your doctor to rule out any risk of osteoporosis.
If you are involved in any of the risks mentioned earlier on, you may consult your doctor for bone density assessment.
Osteoporosis can be challenging to diagnose due to its hidden symptoms. However, some risk factors can raise suspicion, leading to bone tests to aid in diagnosing osteoporosis.
Bone densitometry is one of the tests your doctor can prescribe. Other diagnostic tests may include:
Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Scan: The bone density scan uses DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) to reveal whether there are any signs of osteoporosis.
Ultrasound Scan: The doctor may perform an ultrasound scan of your heel bone. The scan is effective for osteoporosis assessment.
Bone X-Ray: A bone x-ray to view your bones images is necessary for osteoporosis diagnosis. Bones x-ray would include hand bones from the wrist to the shoulder, leg bones from the foot to the hip, and the pelvis. The x-ray can reveal images of any broken bones which might be a sign of osteoporosis.
Spine MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): The MRI of the spine evaluates the fracture on the vertebrae to determine whether it's osteoporosis or an accident. The process can also assess whether the breach is an old one or new for the sake of treatment.
Spine CT Scanning: The spine CT scanning reveals any vertebrae that are misaligned or have any fracture. The scan also measures vertebral bone density.
Various osteoporosis treatments are determined by the results of bone density tests and the extent of bone fracture risk. If the test results indicate osteoporosis, treatment should start immediately.
The treatments may vary depending on the test results. Therapies work to strengthen fragile bones, slow bone resorption, and stimulate new bone growth.
Estrogen: Estrogen replacement therapy is administered to women during and after menopause to stop bone loss. However, caution and closer medical attention during estrogen therapy are vital. Using Phyto Estrogen therapy is the safest, it will absorb the uptake of bad estrogen, while nourishing the body with healthy estrogen.
Estrogen Side effect – Some of estrogen side effects are heart disease due to high risk of blood clots, breast discomfort such as swelling, feet, and leg swelling, and some cancers
Raloxifene (Evista): Raloxifene (Evista) is classified as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). The drug acts like estrogen in treating osteoporosis and preventing bone loss. Using Raloxifene (Evista) can also decrease the risk of breast cancer.
Raloxifene (Evista) Side Effect: Some of Raloxifene (Evista) side effects are headaches, dizziness, hot flashes, joint pain, nausea, and leg cramps. Some rare but severe side effects are blood clots in the eyes, legs, or lungs, confusion, leg swelling, and trouble breathing.
Testosterone: Testosterone therapy in men can help to increase bone mass and strengthen fragile bones.
Testosterone Side effects: Testosterone therapy side effects have some conflicting results. Discuss with your doctor the impact of testosterone therapy for your osteoporosis treatment. Some of the suspected testosterone therapy side effects are: can cause sleep apnea, skin reactions such as acne, enlarged breasts, testicle shrinkage, and decrease of sperm production.
Some of the medications administered to treat osteoporosis include:
Bisphosphonates; Bisphosphonates area class of drugs that help to prevent bone loss. The medicines prevent bone material destruction by some destructive bone cells (osteoclasts). You can take the medication orally or intravenous (IV). Some bisphosphonates drugs include:
- Ibandronate (Boniva)
- Risedronate (Atelvia, Actonel)
- Alendronate (Fosamax, Binosto)
- Zoledronic Acid (Zoneta, Reclast)
Bisphosphonates Side effect: Bisphosphonates side effect for both oral and IV are: muscles or joint pain. Bisphosphonates oral side effects may include heartburn, nausea, gastric ulcer, difficulty swallowing, and irritation of the esophagus.
Denosumab (Xgeva, Prolia): Denosumab is similar to bisphosphonates but with better results in building bone mass and reduce the risk of bone fracture. If Denosumab is your prescription, you will receive it through an injection under the skin once every six months.
Once you begin using Denosumab, you may continue using it for the rest of your life. There is a high risk of having spinal column fractures if you stop using the drug.
Denosumab side effects: Include skin irritation, back pain, muscle or joint pain, and nausea. On rare occasions, Denosumab can cause delayed jawbone healing after tooth extraction.
Bone Growth Medication: Bone growth stimulation is another therapy your doctor might suggest for osteoporosis treatment when necessary. Such medications may include:
Tymlos (Abaloparatide): Tymlos is an injectable therapy for severe osteoporosis. Tymlos is in the likeness of natural parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) in the human body. The hormone protein in your body stimulates osteoblasts which are the useful bone cells that produce bone tissue.
Tymlos, which acts like the hormone protein, helps in the same process. However, Tymlos is only useful for only two years after which it stall stops working or ceases to be active. Your doctor will then prescribe another treatment such as bisphosphonates to continue strengthening the bones.
Tymlos Side Effect: Tymlos side effects include nausea, headache, dizziness, vertigo (spinning sensation), hypercalciuria (high calcium levels in the urine), palpitations, fatigue, and upper abdominal pain.
Teriparatide (Forteo): Teriparatide (Forteo) is a lab copy of human parathyroid hormone. It is essential in the regulation of calcium metabolism and rebuilds the weakened bones. It is a two-year therapy of daily under-the-skin injection.
After two years of therapy, your doctor can prescribe another drug to follow Teriparatide (Forteo) to maintain and rebuild new bone tissue.
Forteo Side Effects: Forteo side effects include depression, heartburn, leg cramps, and back spasms.
Evenity (Romosozumab): Evenity (Romosozumab) bone-building therapy is FDA-approved osteoporosis treatment for bone formation. It is a once-a-month injectable therapy limited to one-year treatment. Your doctor can then prescribe another medication after the one month Evenity therapy.
Evenity Side Effects: Evenity side effects include headache, muscle spasms, joint pain, neck pain, insomnia, weakness, and extremities swelling.
Natural Treatments for Osteoporosis
To avoid some of the adverse side effects of conventional medicines when treating osteoporosis, you can use natural or alternative treatments with fewer side effects.
Some natural alternative treatments can manage osteoporosis symptoms effectively, prevent osteoporosis progressing, and strengthen fragile bones.
Below are some natural and alternative osteoporosis treatments:
Some herbs can effectively prevent or reduce bone loss. Such herbs include:
Red Clover: Red clover contains estrogen-like isoflavones compound. One study of 2007 concluded that red clover is effective in slowing bone resorption for osteoporosis cases.
Black Seed (Nigella sativa): The oil from black seed can reverse osteoporosis. One study published in 2014 concluded that Nigella sativa (NS) is an effective and safe antiosteoporotic agent. The research associated with the successful use of NS due to the high content of antioxidants, unsaturated fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Black Cohosh: The presence of phytoestrogens, a substance similar to estrogen found in black cohosh is vital for preventing bone loss. Although still under more research for osteoporosis treatment, it is evident that it can relieve some menopause symptoms.
Horsetail: Horsetail plant is believed to contain medicinal properties such as silica which is essential for strengthening bones. The silicon in horsetail is necessary for integrating bone tissue to prevent fracture and aiding repair.
The compound also controls the absorption of calcium in the body. However, observe caution while using horsetail to avoid straining your kidney.
Kelp in TS II: TS II is a formula designed to support the glandular system, especially the thyroid gland. Kelp is seaweed useful for treating musculoskeletal disorders. Kelp is believed to be effective in treating osteoporosis for its high mineral content, including calcium.
Treating Osteoporosis with Supplements
Your body must have enough essential vitamins and minerals to absorb vital nutrients that build strong bones.
You can boost the body's intake of vitamins and minerals by using supplements. Some of the supplements that can help in managing osteoporosis and maintaining strong bones are:
Calcium, magnesium and phosphorus all work together for healthy bones. Calcium is the leading mineral you wouldn't want to miss if you need to keep your bones healthy and boost density. Your doctor would recommend calcium supplements if you have osteoporosis.
It might be difficult to get the right amount of calcium from your diet. With calcium supplements, you can know the exact calcium daily intake for your bone mass development.
Collatrim is a product containing bovine collagen—the fibrous protein in bones, tendons and connective tissues.
Skeletal Strength is a vitamin, mineral and herbal supplement formulated to nourish the structural system of the body.
EverFlex benefits the structural system and supports healthy joints.
Magnesium Complex provides two types of the best-absorbed forms of this important mineral. Magnesium is also a vital mineral for retaining healthy bones. You can get magnesium mineral from food you eat, such as dark green vegetables, seafood, legumes, and nuts. Some fruits are also rich in magnesium such as avocados, bananas, and figs.
If you are unsure of your daily magnesium intake, you can supplement the mineral. Magnesium works closely together with calcium for the health of your bones. You can either use magnesium solely or use calcium/magnesium for the right balance.
Vitamin D is vital to the health of your skeletal and immune systems. Vitamin D is essential for body calcium absorption for maintaining healthy bones. The primary source of vitamin D is the sun. In the winter season, there is not enough sunlight for your vitamin D. Supplementing vitamin D would be ideal for your sufficient daily intake.
Tai Chi Therapy for Osteoporosis
According to the CEO of Osteoporosis Australia, Judy Stenmark, "Tai Chi may help people with osteoporosis to improve their muscular strength, coordination, and balance."
Tai Chi, often described as 'meditation in motion' is an exercise that improves quality bone health by slowing bone tissue break down or bone loss. Tai Chi therapy can also improve your body balance and hence reduce falls.
Acupuncture Therapy for Osteoporosis
Acupuncture is a Chinese therapy popular globally for various treatments. Acupuncture therapy for osteoporosis involves inserting therapeutic thin needles in the body. The acupuncturist administers treatment following TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) principles.
The therapy is known to strengthen the kidneys, liver, and spleen. The dysfunction of the body organs is believed to associate with the cause of osteoporosis.Acutherapy
Acutherapy differs from Acupuncture. It simultaneously produces mechanical, thermal and electrical stimuli which work together to create a chain of electro-chemical reactions. This sets off a chain of electro-chemical reactions that stimulates the production of neuro-transmitters. Then, messages are sent to the brain to organize the proper peptides to restore the body to its homeostatic (physical and chemical) state.
Bones in children continue growing up to the peak bone mass (PBM) age of puberty. Building your child's PBM can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and bone complications in adult age.
The following can help in developing bones of a child:
Calcium-rich diet and enough vitamin D supply
Proper nutrition with enough protein
Exercises and physical activity to strengthen bones
Protect your child from passive smoking
While some osteoporosis risk factors are beyond your control, you have a responsibility to prevent or reduce the osteoporosis effect. Observe the following to achieve excellent results:
- Adhere to osteoporosis diet which comprises of adequate calcium and magnesium for strong bones
- Use vitamin D supplements if you can't get enough sunlight
- Avoid eating-disorders which can cause malnutrition or severe weight loss
- Discuss your hormone estrogen level with your doctor
- Keep exercising, especially in weight-bearing
- Avoid direct or passive smoking
- Control your alcohol intake
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the first sign of osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis does not reveal any signs at its onset stage.
One of the characteristics of osteoporosis is weak bones. With osteoporosis, a vertebra fracture can cause back pain or a broken rib from sneezing or coughing can cause ribs to ache. When you experience consistent pain on those areas, visit your doctor for consultation.
What is the main cause of osteoporosis?
Hormonal imbalance is the leading cause of osteoporosis. Low levels of estrogen in women and androgen in men can cause osteoporosis. Women at the age of menopause are at high risk of osteoporosis due to estrogen imbalance.
Osteoporosis is a serious bone condition. The effects of the disease can lead to other severe conditions such as immobility or even death from severe bone fractures. It is essential to adhere to your health practitioner's instructions when dealing with osteoporosis, such as observing your prescribed therapy.
In addition to your treatment plan, eat a healthy diet which consists of adequate calcium and magnesium to improve and maintain your bone health.
When planning your osteoporosis diet, prioritize using organic foods to avoid ingesting chemical toxins from herbicide-treated food. Selecting herbs and supplements can also be challenging due to many different compromised brands in the market.
At Island Healthworks, we recommend using Quality Controlled Herbs and Supplements which are prepared in high-quality and standards in line with government-controlled health agencies. The products are derived from selected natural sources and free from all toxins.
Editor: Yvonne Dollard Perc
Research Assistant: Elizabeth Njuguna
Designer: Sherry Robb