According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation: “Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures, especially of the hip, spine and wrist, although any bone can be affected. In simpler terms, osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become weak and can break from a minor fall or, in serious cases, from a simple action such as a sneeze or bumping into furniture.”
In this article I’m going to discuss osteoporosis prevention and nutritional management as it relates to peri- and post-menopausal women. You may be shocked to find out that calcium intake in this population might be the least important measure one can address when dealing with osteoporosis naturally.The first thing that comes to mind when most people think of osteoporosis is calcium. And yes, calcium intake is extremely important when it comes to pre-menopausal females looking to build strong bones to prevent osteoporosis. However, the main driver of poor bone quality during peri- and post-menopause that needs to be addressed is inflammation.
In order to do this, we obviously need to identify and extinguish the cause(s) of inflammation. Common causes include hormone imbalance, essential fatty imbalance, faulty blood sugar stabilization, poor diet and infections. I will discuss each of these individually, but do understand that because the systems of the body are so inter-related, one driving factor can perpetuate another leading to a vicious cycle of inflammation. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to have to address multiple areas at the same time in order to break the cycle.
Hormone balance is something that’s always considered the biggest health culprit in peri- and post-menopausal women. It’s natural for estrogen levels in this population to fall. That’s a normal progression and part of a woman’s life cycle. Health issues arise when estrogen levels drop too much and too quickly. This occurs mainly when the adrenal glands (or stress glands) aren’t efficient enough to supply the body with the needed estrogen that’s not being produced by the ovaries. When estrogen drops, there is an increase in inflammatory messengers that cause bone destruction. So again, it’s the rapid dropping of estrogen that causes inflammation and results in the stimulation of cells that increase bone breakdown. In addition to ensuring healthy adrenal gland function, natural supplements like soy isoflavones have been shown to help modulate estrogen receptor sites and therefore assist in maintaining healthy bones.
There are many compounds that people supplement with in order to address inflammation and some of the most important are essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acid intake and metabolism will determine if our body makes pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory biochemicals. In particular, it’s the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 intake and utilization. A higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is associated with an increase in pro-inflammatory mediators that will cause bone destruction. One way to help prevent this is to consume more omega-3’s in the form of fish (and krill) oil, and less omega-6s, generally in the form of vegetable oils. For more information on omega-3 fatty acids, click here.
Another important step to take in order to enhance bone health is maintaining blood sugar stabilization. If you’ve read my site before, you know how adamant I am about blood sugar stabilization being of prime importance in any health issue. For more of my thoughts on that click here. When blood sugar imbalances occur over a period of time, the hormones cortisol, insulin, and leptin get released too frequently and in too high amounts. This can lead to adrenal burnout, insulin resistance, and eventually leptin resistance. High leptin levels eventually result in high levels of inflammatory chemicals that increase bone breakdown which can lead to osteoporosis. Also, because fat cells are a major producer of leptin, obesity can also contribute to poor bone health.
In addition to eating properly to maintain blood sugar stabilization, we need to consider individual foods. Aside from eating sugary, processed, nutrient-depleted food, some so-called healthy foods can contribute to inflammation and eventually osteoporosis as a result. I’m referring to foods that a person is sensitive or allergic to. The most common foods that people are sensitive to are wheat (and/or gluten), dairy, soy, and corn. Other common sensitivities include nightshades (especially tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers), citrus fruits, yeast, eggs, and tree nuts. However, people can be sensitive to any food and that needs to be determined on an individual basis. Consuming foods that one is sensitive to is by far one of the most common causes of chronic, systemic inflammation.
Apart from the inflammatory triggers mentioned above that contribute to osteoporosis, we also have to consider chronic infections. This can include any type, such as bacterial, viral, fungal/yeast, and/or parasitic/protozoal infections. Very often people have a chronic infection without the obvious symptoms that occur with an acute infection. And these microbes commonly reside in the digestive system. Infections in the mouth, stomach, and intestinal tract can contribute to systemic inflammation leading to bone destruction. Again, please remember that there aren’t always obvious symptoms, so you should work with an experienced healthcare provider to determine if you have a chronic infection. Often, but not always, this can be seen on a routine blood test even if the values lie within the lab’s normal reference range.
There are many reasons for chronic, systemic inflammation to be present in the body. But if you address the five causes mentioned above, you should be well on your way to maintaining healthy bone mass.
Check back or subscribe to this site to read the next article I publish discussing one of the best non-invasive lab tests to run for determining bone health.
Source: lectures from Dr. Datis Kharrazian
Dr. Rob D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Diplomate of the International Board of Applied Kinesiology