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January 18, 2018  |  Login
 
Osteoporosis
 
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

In the United States, nearly 50 percent of all women between the ages of forty-five and seventy suffer from some degree of osteoporosis. This disorder, which translates literally as "porous bones," is so common that we tend to think of its effects-frailty, broken bones, back pain, a stooped posture, and the so-called dowager's hump-as the normal results of aging. In reality, osteoporosis is a condition brought on by faulty dietary and lifestyle habits. Studies of cultures that have more healthful lifestyles than Americans do find that its occurrence is much more rare.

Childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood are the prime opportunities for building healthy bones. Bones reach their greatest mass and density at around age thirty; after that, they begin to weaken. Some bone loss is entirely normal and not terribly worrisome, but when the process is accelerated, the bones turn frail and brittle. Unfortunately, the disorder rarely rings any warning bells until serious damage is already done. The first sign may be a minor fall or an accident that results in a broken bone or back pain caused by a collapsed vertebra.

Researchers have found that there is a connection between a dysfunctional immune system and osteoporosis. A group of immune cells known as cytokines can initiate a type of inflammatory response that leads to bone breakdown. Fortunately, a healthful diet and lifestyle, hormone balance, and specific nutritional supplements, as described in this chapter, contribute to normal cytokine activity.

Hormone balance is critical for good bone density. A good example is a premenopausal woman who has her ovaries removed. Studies show that this can lead to a sudden drop in bone density, due to low estrogen and progesterone levels.
Many hormones are important for bone cell (osteoblast) activity, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, growth hormone, and calcitonin. On the other hand, excessive levels of cortisol, thyroid, and parathyroid hormones can lead to bone loss.

Diet is important for strong bones. This should include foods that are rich in bone-building minerals, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, flax, soy, and fish. On the other hand, soda pop, caffeine, salt, and alcohol all contribute to bone breakdown when consumed in excess.

One of the best ways to prevent bone loss or halt its progress is to engage in a weight-bearing exercise. This stimulates bone cell formation.

Many vitamins and minerals are required for healthy bones. Calcium is the obvious one, but several others, such as magnesium, vitamin D, boron, silicon, vitamin C, strontium, vitamin K, and others, play important roles in bone metabolism.

A combination of a good diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements is important for healthy bones. Exposure to sunlight is important as well. More severe cases of osteoporosis may require natural hormone therapy and, in some cases, drug therapy.

 
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Next: What are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis
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