In the past, the usual recommendation for preventing and treating osteoporosis has been hormone replacement therapy (HRT). In the USA, pre-menopausal women can still use HRT (or HT, hormone therapy) to prevent osteoporosis. However, the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend that, because of the side effects of HRT, women should, where possible, use other medications to prevent osteoporosis. It also states that doctors should not prescribe estrogen as a preventative, unless the patient can’t take osteoporotic drugs. In the UK, the Committee on the Safety of Medicines has stated that women who are undergoing a normal, natural menopause should use HRT for a maximum of only five years, and only for the relief of symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. They don’t advocate it to prevent osteoporosis, unless you can’t tolerate osteoporotic medication.
Although HRT is effective in most cases against osteoporosis, as soon as you stop taking the medication, your bones break down as before. This means that you would have to be on HRT for the rest of your life to permanently prevent bone loss. Prolonged use of HRT poses considerable health risks, and so now there are several other medications for osteoporosis.
Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMS) These drugs aim to stimulate the estrogen receptors in your bones and brain – but not your breasts and uterus because doing so may increase your risk of cancer in these areas. In other words, the drugs make certain parts of your body more sensitive to estrogen; and other parts less sensitive.
Bone-saving medications You may be offered one of two drugs that help preserve your bones. Biphosphonates work by stopping bone breakdown: you won’t lose “old” bone, so your bone density will increase. However, there are concerns about the usefulness of keeping old bone. Strontium ranelate is a newer drug that has a dual action, stopping the breakdown of old bone and helping to build new bone, too. Both drugs carry side-effects: The bisphosphonates cause digestive problems and strontium ranelate can cause nausea, skin irritation, and blood clots.
A healthy, balanced diet helps ensure strong, healthy bones. Reduce those foods and drinks that are known to increase your risk of osteoporosis but also watch the amount of dairy products you eat. Although cheese is a good source of calcium, it also encourages the excretion of calcium (cheese is more acidic than milk). And remember that tea contains caffeine – and tannin, which can hamper calcium absorption. Increase your intake boron-rich foods, too, by eating soy beans, apples, pears, raisins, broccoli, hazelnuts, and almonds.
Avoid bran Avoid adding bran to your food or having it as a breakfast cereal. Bran is a refined food, which means that the best part of the grain has been stripped away. It also contains phytates, which have a binding effect on crucial minerals, including calcium, and can stop your body absorbing them.
Sweeten naturally Try using a natural sweetener called xylitol in place of sugar. Found in fruits and berries, especially raspberries and strawberries, plums, and cauliflower, xylitol has a low glycemic index and does not cause blood sugar swings. It may also directly benefit osteoporosis. Incredibly, studies on animals show that xylitol can increase bone calcium and bone density and prevent bone loss. Xylitol should be available in health-food stores and you use it in exactly the same way that you would sugar.
See the light Try to boost your intake of vitamin D, which is essential for your body’s absorption of calcium. Eat plenty of oily fish and eggs, which contain this vital nutrient, and spend time outdoors. Sunlight encourages your body to manufacture vitamin D.
Vitamins and Supplements
• B-complex and Folic Acid Vitamins B6 and B12 help reduce levels of homocysteine, a hormone that may increase the risk of osteoporosis.
• Vitamin C with bioflavonoid This vitamin is essential for the formation of healthy collagen, the cement that holds your obne structure together. Take it in the form of ascorbate (such as magnesium ascorbate) rather than ascorbic acid, which is too acidic for bone health.
• Boron (daily intake in multi-vitamins and minerals) This mineral is concentrated in bone and improves calcium absorption. It’s also found in a number of different foods.
• Calcium and Magnesium (combine supplement containing calcium citrate and magnesium citrate) The most difficult form of calcium for your body to absorb is calcium carbonate, so it is advised that to supplement with calcium in the form of citrate, which is 30 percent more absorbable. For the best effects combine it with magnesium, which is just as important for your bone health: Magnesium deficiencies can make your bones more fragile.
• Zinc This vital nutrient is often found to be deficient in women with osteoporosis, and we know that it’s important for healthy bone metabolism. Take a supplement to make sure you keep your levels up.
Use herbs that provide you with valuable bone strengthening minerals or those that help improve your absorption of these nutrients. Blend equal parts of the dried herbs to make an herbal tea infusion and drink it up to three times a day.
• Alfalfa Herb (Medicago sativa) and OAT STRAW (Avena sativa) Both these herbs are thought to help with osteoporosis because of their high calcium content.
• Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) This help contains the highest amount of silica of any herb. Silica is important for healthy skin, ligaments, and bones. It helps with the formation of collagen, which is part of your bone structure, and it’s thought that it can help keep bones flexible.
• Nettles (Urica spp) Nettle contains good amounts of the minerals calcium and boron, but it can also help improve the general absorption of nutrients form your food.
Other Natural Treatments
Homeopathy Constitutional homeopathic treatments are best, but if you can’t visit a homeopath, Calccarb and Calc phos can help your body to absorb calcium. Take both in a 30c potency, twice daily.
Increase the demand on your bones Do some weight-bearing exercise; for example, walking, jogging, dancing, aerobics, and racket sports. Aim for 30 minuts to an hour of activity, five times a week.
Watch your stress levels When stress levels are high, your adrenal glands have to work overtime, exhausting them so they can’t produce the replacement estrogen your body needs at menopause. Also, when you’re stressed, your digestion suffers, which will affect your nutrient intake.
Balance your weight Make sure you’re not underweight, which can reduce estrogen levels in your body, contributing to bone loss.
Bone-Strengthening Yoga Pose
The Camel pose works on strengthening the bones in your spine and pelvis. It’s a deep stretch that may take time to perfect –only go as far as is comfortable. Practice daily.
1. Kneel, legs hip-width apart, toes pointing behind you. Keep your back straight, your tailbone lifted, and your head erect. Imagine a cord is pulling you up from the top of your head, gently lengthening your spine. Place your hands at the tops of your buttocks, fingers pointing downward. Keep your thighs at right angles to the floor. Move your shoulder blades towards each other, feeling a stretch across your chest.
2. Breathe in through your nose. As you breathe out through your mouth, bend backward. Keep your thighs upright, arch your lower back, and slide your hands down your legs until they reach your ankles, heels, or soles of your feet. (Turn your toes under if it helps). Drop your head backward; keep your throat soft. Lift your pelvis to relieve pressure from your lower spine. Hold the pose for 30 seconds; release and repeat.