Reverse Osteoporosis Naturally
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones get weak, leading to an increased risk of fracture, particularly in the hip and spine. It usually occurs with aging, and is more common in women. In women it becomes more common above the age of 50, when about one half will experience an osteoporosis related fracture. For men, the risk becomes greater above the age of 70, when about 1 in 5 men develop osteoporosis. It is sometimes confused with osteoarthritis, an unrelated condition that leads to joint pain.
Osteoporosis is diagnosed by measuring bone mass, usually with a special type of x-ray called a DEXA scan. A T-score (which compares your bone mass to that of a young adult) of -2.5 or lower is diagnostic of osteoporosis. A T-score of -1 to -2.5 is considered osteopenia, a low bone mass condition that hasn’t progressed to osteoporosis. A T-score higher than -1.0 is considered normal.
The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends osteoporosis screening for all women age 65 or older and earlier for high risk individuals. The World Health Organization has also developed a great tool to assess 10 year fracture risk called the FRAX. It doesn’t replace a DEXA scan ordered by a physician, but it is free, non-invasive, and is available online at www.shef.ac.uk/FRAX/.
The primary modifiable risk factors for osteoporosis are physical inactivity, vitamin D deficiency, calcium deficiency, excessive alcohol intake, low body weight, smoking and certain medications (including corticosteroids and some anti-convulsants).
Risk factors that can’t be modified include a family history of osteoporosis and amenorrhea in women (absence of menstrual periods for a long time).
Natural treatments for osteoporosis and osteopenia include the following:
Physical activity – In addition to osteoporosis, physical inactivity tends to cause weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other chronic diseases. The minimum guideline for physical activity is 30 minutes daily of moderate intensity exercise. Optimal is 45-60 minutes per day.
Vitamin D – Vitamin D influences how much calcium is absorbed the intestines and has been found to be a better predictor of osteoporosis risk than calcium intake in many studies. The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU per day, but I recommend 2000-4000 IU daily for most people. Those with osteopenia or osteoporosis may need more and should have their blood levels of vitamin D checked annually.
Strontium – Strontium is a mineral that gets incorporated into the bony matrix along with calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Numerous studies have shown an increase in bone mass and/or reduction in fracture risk with strontium supplementation.
Vitamin K – There are different forms of vitamin K including K1 and K2. The best evidence for osteoporosis is with the K2 form. A recent meta-analysis, which pooled the results from 13 trials on vitamin K2 found a dramatic 77%, 60%, and 81% reduction in fracture risk (hip, spine, and non-vertebral fractures, respectively).
Calcium – Taking extra calcium won’t help if you are already getting enough, but it may if you are deficient. The RDA for most adults is 1000 mg/day (women over 50 and men over 70 should get 1200 mg/day).
Reduce alcohol – While alcohol in moderation may lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, alcohol in excess can promote osteoporosis. In general, men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks per day or less and women to 1 per day or less. Those with osteopenia or osteoporosis may benefit from further reductions.
Stop smoking – In addition to osteoporosis, tobacco raises the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and other diseases. For help with tobacco cessation, call the Quitline at 1-877-YES-QUIT.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – HRT does have potential risks, including an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer. Natural/bio-identical forms of HRT may have less risk and can be an option for those with a high risk for osteoporosis and a low risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.
For those who don’t have osteoporosis or osteopenia but want to prevent it, it is important to address as many of the modifiable risk factors listed above as possible.
Naturopathic doctors are physician experts in treating the underlying cause of disease and using natural medicines to help people get and stay well. To see a naturopathic doctor for assistance with osteoporosis or any other health concerns, please make a selection below.