Our skeletal system consists of bones of a variety of different shapes and sizes. It serves many different functions, including providing a framework for the body in which to support the tissues and protect the vital organs. It acts as levers, working with the muscles to produce body movement. It also works to produce red blood cells within the marrow and serves as a reservoir for calcium and phosphorus.
Calcium is one of the primary minerals required for normal bone formation, as well as for many of our biological functions. As we grow, the body uses calcium to create new bone. At around the age of around 35, we achieve peak bone mass. After that, bone mass gradually and steadily declines and which, if left unchecked, can cause our bone tissue to become weak and brittle. Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to form enough new bone or when too much calcium is reabsorbed back into the body to support its necessary biological functions or both.
Often thought of as a women’s disorder, osteoporosis is the most common type of bone disease, a disease in which the bones become fragile and more likely to break. Many times individuals who have decreased bone density don’t even know it. Progressing gradually over many years, oftentimes the first indication of a problem is when a bone suddenly breaks such as in the hips, wrists or spine. The truth is, any bone can be affected and activities as insignificant as laughing, coughing or light lifting can cause a fracture.
There are two different kinds of osteoporosis – Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 Osteoporosis is only found in post-menopausal women and is directly related to estrogen deficiency. Type 2 osteoporosis can be found in both men and women and is due to both aging and a prolonged calcium deficiency. Other causes of osteoporosis can include Cushing syndrome, hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, being confined to bed, bone cancer and a family history of osteoporosis.
If you smoke, have an eating disorder, have low body weight, consume a low calcium diet, consume alcohol in excess, experienced early menopause or are taking certain medications, including steroids and anticonvulsants, you may also be at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is not a new health disorder and there are a large number of tried and true natural and alternative health remedies that can be used to prevent or minimize bone loss.
Recommendations for wellness
If you are concerned about your bone health, talk to your doctor about having a bone density test done, especially if you are a woman over the age of 50.
Consume a diet of calcium rich foods. Calcium can be found in all milk products as well as in tofu, salmon, sardines (with the bones) and dark leafy green vegetables.
Supplement your daily food intake with supplemental calcium to ensure you are getting the recommended amount of calcium daily.
Go outside and get some sun. Exposure to the sun causes our body to produce vitamin D, a vitamin that aids in calcium absorption. If that’s not possible, add a vitamin D supplement to your daily health routine.
Start an exercise program. The best exercises for bone health are weight-bearing exercises, which force you to work against gravity. Activities such as lifting weights, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs and dancing are all excellent for your bones.
Quit smoking, eliminate caffeine and carbonated soft drinks and reduce your salt intake, each of which enhances calcium loss from the body.
Limit alcohol consumption. Heavy alcohol use can lead to decreased bone formation.
Talk to your doctor or health care practitioner about Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy. Hormone replacement therapy has been shown to help prevent bone loss and increase bone density.
Some studies indicate that foods such as spinach, chard, beet greens and chocolate contain substances that can prevent calcium absorption.
Herbs such as horsetail, oat straw and alfalfa have been traditionally used in North America as effective remedies for osteoporosis.
Studies suggest that magnesium may help to improve bone density and assist in calcium absorption. If blood levels are low, magnesium supplementation may be helpful.
The mineral zinc is required in a number of biological processes that include the formation of a strong bone structure. Scientists have discovered that individuals with osteoporosis often have low zinc levels.