Osteoporosis means porous bones, literally. Consequently, being diagnosed with the disease means that the bones’ interior has lost so much density that there is not much support holding them together. That is why people with osteoporosis have a much greater risk for suffering broken bones than others. While some risks of osteoporosis are unavoidable, there are natural treatments everyone can do to reduce their risk and strengthen bones.
The Reality and Risks
Everyone will lose some bone density beginning around their 30 th birthday. The inside of bones has a honeycomb-like material called trabecular bone, which is typically where people lose critical density. The hard outer part of the bone is called cortical, which is about 80 percent of the bone mass. The cortical density declines too, but much slower.
Many women – and men – are unaware of their loss of bone density until a concerned doctor orders a test. Another unfortunate way many find out is when a fall or bump surprisingly results in a fracture because of brittle bones. There are several risk factors that people cannot do anything about:
- Women are vastly more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men.
- Caucasians and Asians are more likely to develop osteoporosis than Blacks.
- Small or petite people are at greater risk because of they have smaller bones.
- Women who experience an early menopause (naturally or surgically) have a greater risk of osteoporosis.
- A family history of osteoporosis.
Good lifestyle habits provide the best remedies for osteoporosis. For people with strong bones, a healthy lifestyle can help keep them that way. For those who already have declining bone mass, there are natural treatments to reduce the likelihood the osteoporosis will get worse. Here are some things proven to mitigate density loss and some bone boosters in most kitchens:
- Exercise Regularly. Getting regular exercise, particularly weight-bearing exercise, is one of the most important ways to fight osteoporosis. Forcing a bone to carry a load or work against gravity signals the body to produce more bone cells, which will increase the bone mass and making it stronger. Walking, dancing, jogging, strength training and aerobics are some exercise modes that fit the bill.
- Drink Some Alcohol. Yes, that is right. It has actually been shown that small amounts of alcohol, about three to six drinks per week, helps the body retain calcium and prevent osteoporosis by raising estrogen levels. But do not go overboard; too much alcohol damages a person’s overall health.
- Limit Caffeine Consumption. The caffeine found in coffee or other caffeinated drinks can lead to some calcium loss. The amount lost is not that high — the caffeine in a cup of coffee reportedly cancels the calcium in about one tablespoon of milk. So, enjoy some caffeine, but keep it in moderation.
- One Can Be Too Thin. Osteoporosis may be one of the few conditions where being overweight actually offers some protection. One theory is that walking about with extra weight does strengthen bones. While carrying too much extra weight causes other health issues, studies suggest that it is equally important to avoid being model thin as it is to avoid being obese.
- Limit Protein Consumption. Americans generally eat more protein than needed to maintain good health. Too much protein causes calcium to be excreted. Over time, if not compensated for with a greater calcium intake, this loss will affect the bones.
- Consume magnesium. Studies show that magnesium, a mineral present in relatively large amounts in the body, is vital for strengthening, preserving, and rebuilding bones. In fact, half of the magnesium in the body is in the bones. However, many people, particularly women, do not get enough magnesium in their diet. Nuts (especially almonds), whole grains and broccoli have magnesium, but an easy way to add some is peanut butter (in many brands 50 mg in 2 tablespoons).
- Soak up some sunshine. Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium from the intestines, but production of Vitamin D by the skin depends on exposure to sunlight. An estimated 50 percent of elderly women consume far less vitamin D in their diet than is recommended. In colder areas, it is even worse because production of vitamin D is markedly diminished in the winter, especially for the elderly. In that population, dietary vitamin D becomes very important. For everyone else, getting outside when the sun is shining really helps.
- Add vinegar to dishes. Vinegar helps draw calcium out of food when it is cooked or consumed. Add a splash of vinegar when cooking a soup with meat to help pull calcium out of the bones. It does the same thing for salad greens and other foods.
- An apple a day … Apples contain boron, which is a trace mineral that helps the body hold onto calcium. It also acts as a mild estrogen replacement. Both estrogen and calcium are important for bone strength. Other foods with boron are pears, dates, grapes, raisins, peaches and many nuts.
- Get more calcium (but not too much). Calcium consumption is the most familiar recommendation people make for bone building. Yet, most people do not come close to consuming the recommended amounts. Milk and yogurt are good sources of calcium, so are figs. Many people take calcium supplements. Just make sure to avoid taking in more non-dietary calcium than needed. Excess calcium from supplements is excreted through the kidneys can increase the risk of kidney stones. To play it safe, only supplement what is not obtained through foods.
While everyone experiences some loss of bone density, it behooves people to try and mitigate the long-term implications. Try these natural treatments to reduce the risks of developing potentially crippling osteoporosis.
By Dyanne Weiss