In the United States, nearly 50 percent of all women between the ages of forty-ﬁve and seventy suffer from some degree of osteoporosis. This disorder, which translates literally as “porous bones,” is so common that we tend to think of its effects—frailty, broken bones, back pain, a stooped posture, and the so-called dowager’s hump—as the normal results of aging. In reality, osteoporosis is a condition brought on by faulty dietary and lifestyle habits. Studies of cultures that have more healthful lifestyles than Americans do ﬁnd that its occurrence is much more rare.
Childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood are the prime opportunities for building healthy bones. Bones reach their greatest mass and density at around age thirty; after that, they begin to weaken. Some bone loss is entirely normal and not ter- ribly worrisome, but when the process is accelerated, the bones turn frail and brittle. Unfortunately, the disorder rarely rings any warning bells until serious damage is already done. The ﬁrst sign may be a minor fall or an accident that results in a bro- ken bone or back pain caused by a collapsed vertebra.
Researchers have found that there is a connection between a dysfunctional immune system and osteoporosis. A group of immune cells known as cytokines can initiate a type of inﬂammatory response that leads to bone breakdown. Fortunately, a health- ful diet and lifestyle, hormone balance, and speciﬁc nutritional supplements, as described in this chapter, contribute to normal cytokine activity.
Hormone balance is critical for good bone density. A good example is a pre- menopausal woman who has her ovaries removed. Studies show that this can lead to a sudden drop in bone density, due to low estrogen and progesterone levels. Many hormones are important for bone cell (osteoblast) activity, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, growth hormone, and calcitonin. On the other hand, excessive levels of cortisol, thyroid, and parathyroid hormones can lead to bone loss.
Diet is important for strong bones. This should include foods that are rich in bone- building minerals, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, ﬂax, soy, and ﬁsh. On the other hand, soda pop, caffeine, salt, and alcohol all contribute to bone break- down when consumed in excess.
One of the best ways to prevent bone loss or halt its progress is to engage in a weight-bearing exercise. This stimulates bone cell formation.
Many vitamins and minerals are required for healthy bones. Calcium is the obvi- ous one, but several others, such as magnesium, vitamin D, boron, silicon, vitamin C, strontium, vitamin K, and others, play important roles in bone metabolism.
A combination of a good diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements is important for healthy bones. Exposure to sunlight is important as well. More severe cases of osteoporosis may require natural hormone therapy and, in some cases, drug therapy.
Osteoporosis is largely asymptomatic, but watch out for the following danger signs:
• A stooped posture
• Dowager’s hump
• Sleeves and hems that used to ﬁt
but that now are too long
• Easily broken bones
• Poor diet
• Long-term use of certain medica-
tions (anticonvulsants, prednisone,
heparin, methotrexate, lithium, iso- niazid, furosemide (Lasix), antacids, chemotherapy, thyroid, and others)
• Hormone deﬁciencies and
• Nutritional deﬁciencies
• Lack of sun exposure
• Eating disorders
• Prolonged stress
• Toxic metals
• Medical conditions (diabetes,
Cushing’s disease, kidney and liver
disease, homocystinemia, hyper- thyroidism, malabsorption, and others)
• Acidic pH balance
The gold standard for testing your bone density is an X-ray known as the
DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan. Yet by the time this test shows a decrease in bone den- sity, you may have
had a signiﬁcant loss of bone. A good test to monitor current bone metabolism is a urine test that measures bone breakdown. When bone (and car- tilage) breaks down,
Eat foods that are high in calcium and the other nutrients needed for its assimilation.
Sea vegetables, green leafy vegetables (except spinach), soybeans, nuts, molasses, salmon, oysters, sardines (with the bones), broccoli, and unsweetened cultured yogurt are all good sources.
Green vegetables such as collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, and others are important for their vitamin K content. Vitamin K1 is the form of vitamin K found in plants that is important for bone formation.
Fermented soy products, such as tofu and miso, are good for the bones.
Essential fatty acids found in walnuts, almonds, ﬂaxseeds, and ﬁsh are important for healthy bones.
The following tests help assess possible reasons for osteoporosis: Immune system imbalance or disease—blood
Hormone testing (thyroid, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, IGF-1, estrogen, progesterone)—saliva, blood, or urine
Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially magnesium, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin D)—blood, hair
Toxic metals—urine or hair
Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool analysis
Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal
Bone resorption (pyridinium and deoxypyridinium)—urine
deoxypyridinium and pyridinium, which are excreted in the urine. The rate of excretion parallels the degree of bone turnover. A high level signiﬁes that there is likely too much bone break- down, which is imbal- anced with bone building. This test is helpful as a way to assess the protocol currently being used
to prevent or treat your osteoporosis.
Wakame (sea vegetable), 1⁄2 cup—1,700 mg
Agar (sea vegetable), 1⁄4 cup—1,000 mg Nori (sea vegetable), 1⁄2 cup—600 mg Kombu (sea vegetable), 1⁄4 cup—500 mg Sardines with bones, 1⁄2 cup—500 mg Tempeh, 1 cup—340 mg
Collard greens, 1 cup—355 mg
Milk, 1 cup—300 mg
Calcium-enriched rice milk or soymilk, 1 cup—300 mg
Almonds, 1 cup—300 mg Spinach, 1 cup—280 mg Yogurt, 1 cup—270 mg
Sesame seeds, 1⁄2 cup—250 mg
Kale, 1 cup—200 mg Broccoli, 1 cup—180 mg Tofu, 1 cup—150 mg Walnuts, 1⁄4 cup—70 mg Black beans, 1 cup—60 mg Lentils, 1 cup—50 mg
12-year study of more than 77,000 women found that those who drank more than 14 glasses of milk a week had 45 percent more hip frac- tures, as compared to women who con- sumed 1 glass a week or less.
Food to Avoid
One reason Westerners have such a high rate of osteoporosis is their consumption of foods that are high in sugar. Eliminate sugar, reﬁned grains, and soda pop drinks from your diet.
Reduce your intake of red meat. A high intake may contribute to bone loss in some individuals.
A high salt intake is linked to bone loss. Do not eat processed foods, which are usu- ally loaded with salt, and never add conventional table salt to your meals.
Moderate your use of caffeine and alcohol, as they contribute to bone loss.
It may surprise you to learn that countries where people drink the most milk are also those with the highest rates of osteoporosis. This may be due to the fact that lac- tose intolerance and casein (protein found in cow’s milk) allergy are very common and lead to malabsorption. Also, calcium from cow’s milk is not well absorbed, at a rate of 25 percent. Milk products lead to other health problems as well, so don’t rely on them as a source of calcium. Unsweetened, cultured yogurt is an exception.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Osteoporosis
Super Prescription #1 Calcium
Take 500 to 600 mg twice daily in divided doses of well-absorbed calcium com- plexes, such as citrate, citrate-malate, chelate, or hydroxyappatite. Calcium is the main mineral that composes bone.
Super Prescription #2 Magnesium
Take 250 to 350 mg twice daily in divided doses. Magnesium is required for proper calcium metabolism, through parathyroid hormone production and vitamin D acti- vation. Some researchers feel that it is as important as calcium. Note: Reduce the dosage if loose stools occur.
Super Prescription #3 Vitamin D
Take 800 to 1,200 IU daily if you have osteoporosis and 400 IU daily if you are supplementing vitamin D for prevention. This vitamin improves intestinal calcium absorption and reduces the urinary excretion of calcium.
Super Prescription #4 Vitamin K
Take 2 to 10 mg daily and up to 500 mcg daily for preventative purposes. vitamin K is needed to form the protein osteocalcin, a substance that attracts calcium into the bone matrix. Low levels of vitamin K are associated with osteoporosis and frac- tures. Note: Do not use if you are taking blood-thinning medications.
Super Prescription #5 Ipriﬂavone
Take 600 mg daily with food. Some, but not all, studies have shown this supple- ment to increase bone density when combined with calcium, vitamin D, or hormone replacement. Note: Have your lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell) levels mon- itored by your doctor when using this supplement, as one study found that it low- ered the levels in 29 out of 132 women.
Super Prescription #6 Essential fatty acids
Take 4 grams of ﬁsh oil daily, along with 3,000 mg of evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis). Studies show that these essential fatty acids improve calcium absorption and deposition into the bone.
Super Prescription #7 Strontium
Take 680 mg daily. Studies show strontium improves bone density.
women. Studies have also shown that vita- min K supplementa- tion improves bone density.
High-potency multivitamin provides a base of nutrients required for healthy bones. Take as directed on the container.
Boron is a mineral that activates vitamin D and supports estro- gen levels for effective calcium metabolism. Take 3 to 5 mg daily.
Vitamin C is used to manufacture collagen, an important com- ponent of bones. Take 500 to 1,000 mg twice daily.
Silicon is a mineral that is involved in collagen and calciﬁcation. Take 50 to 20 mg daily.
Zinc is required for enzymatic reactions that build bone. Take a daily total of 30 mg, along with 2 to 3 mg of copper.
Manganese is involved with bone calciﬁcation. Take 15 to 30 mg daily.
Vitamins B12, B6, and folic acid prevent the buildup of homo- cysteine, a by-product of protein metabolism that can cause osteo- porosis. See the Cardiovascular Disease section.
Betaine hydrochloric acid improves stomach acid levels for digestion and absorption. Take 1 to 3 capsules with each meal. Note: Do not use if you have an active ulcer.
A greens formula that contains super green foods, such as chlorella, spirulina, and others, has an alkalinizing effect and is rich in minerals. Take as directed on the container.
Soy protein powder has been shown to protect against bone loss. Take 40 grams daily, containing 90 mg of isoﬂavones.
Strontium is a nutrient shown to be helpful in increasing bone density when combined with calcium. Take 340 to 680 mg daily.
study in the Journal of Aging found that the combination of the essential fatty acids EPA (ﬁsh oil) and GLA (evening primrose oil [Oenothera biennis]), along with 600 mg of cal- cium, improved bone density in senior women. During the ﬁrst 18 months,
the lumbar spine density remained the same with the treatment group but decreased 3.2 percent overall in the placebo group. Thigh bone density increased 1.3 percent in the treatment group, but decreased 2.1 percent in
the placebo group. During the second period of 18 months, with all patients receiving the essential fatty-acid com- bination, lumbar spine density increased 3.1 percent in patients who remained on active treatment, and 2.3 percent in patients who switched from placebo to active treatment. Thigh bone density in the latter group showed an increase of 4.7 percent.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C,12C, or 30C potency twice daily for four weeks to see if there are any positive results.
After you notice improvement, stop giving the remedy, unless symptoms return. Homeopathy is best used in conjunction with the diet, lifestyle changes, and other areas covered in this chapter. Although you cannot “feel” bone density improvement, symptoms such as bone aching or pain or the healing of fractures can be observed. Consultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Calcarea Carbonica is a remedy for people with signs of calcium imbalance, such as osteoporosis, aching bones, muscle cramps, and swollen joints. People who require this remedy are generally chilly and ﬂabby and feel worse in the cold and the dampness. They are easily fatigued and get overwhelmed. They crave sweets, milk, and eggs.
Calcarea Phosphorica is a good remedy for osteoporosis or fractures. This remedy stimulates bone building. Symptoms of neck and back pain and stiffness, which feel worse from cold drafts, are often present. Calcium deposits may occur, even with bone loss. People who require this remedy often have a feeling of discontent and a strong desire for travel or a change. Calcarea Phosphorica is a remedy that can be used for bone support even if you don’t have any particular symptoms.
Phosphorus is a remedy for weak bones or fractures that heal slowly. People who require this remedy tend to be tall, thin, and very social and suggestible. They have a strong craving for ice-cold drinks.
Silica (Silicea) is for people who have poor bone density and tend to be very thin. People who need this remedy are often nervous, easily fatigued, and chilly and have a low resistance to infection.
Symphytum is a speciﬁc remedy for healing fractures and reducing their pain more quickly.
• To increase your ability to absorb nutrients (including calcium), work Stomach
36. With regular practice, your digestion will improve, and you’ll ﬁnd that you
have more energy than before.
• To reduce stress, work Lung 1 on a daily basis.
• If you have pain, work Large Intestine 4. Do not use this point if you are
• For pain in the ankles, use Spleen 5 and Kidney 3.
• Governing Vessel 24.5 will help bring about hormonal balance.
Massage is a good wellness measure, especially for the elderly. Don’t let fear of pain or injury prevent you from receiving massage treatment; instead, ﬁnd a reputable ther- apist with experience in degenerative diseases.
If you have osteoporosis, reﬂexology can help ease pain. Be careful, however. Do not treat the foot or the hand roughly or with too much pressure.
Work the areas corresponding to the vertebrae; the hip, the back, and the sciatic areas; and the lower back.
Black pepper and rosemary both have warming qualities that soothe aching bones and joints. Use them in a massage, a lotion, or a bath.
If bone loss leads to stress, try any of several oils that have a relaxing, uplifting effect. You may want to start with lavender, geranium, or rose; use them in any prepa- ration that suits you.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
It can be difﬁcult to handle the restricted motion and the fear that often accompany osteoporosis. If you’re in the early or middle stages of the disorder, try taking a yoga or Pilates class from an experienced instructor. In addition to relieving your stress, you’ll strengthen your bone and muscle mass. You’ll also improve your balance, which reduces your chances of falling and breaking a bone.
Bach Flower Remedies
Bach remedy philosophy holds that osteoporosis, in which the spine compresses and the shoulders hunch, may be connected to an inability or unwillingness to “stand tall” emotionally. If you do not face the world with your chin up, either choose the most appropriate of the following remedies
. Once you’ve selected a remedy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Larch will instill self-conﬁdence in people who lack it. If you are timid and shy, take Mimulus.
If you often feel exploited, or if other people tend to take advantage of you, Cen- taury will help.
• Undertake a regular weight-bearing exercise. Although swimming and cycling are excellent for cardiovascular toning, they are not as aggressive for building bone mass. Instead, try an aerobic workout with gentle impact (walking is a good idea). Then supplement that exercise with weightlifting. You don’t have
to join a gym and pump heavy iron—even very small hand weights can make a real difference in bone strength. If you’ve never lifted weights before, you should make an appointment with a trainer to get yourself started.
• Don’t smoke or expose yourself to secondhand smoke. Smoking makes bones brittle and weak and is also a cause of many other “age-related” diseases.
• Natural hormone replacement should be considered if you have moderate to severe osteoporosis, especially if testing shows your levels to be deﬁcient.
Work with a doctor who is knowledgeable in natural hormones. Important ones include estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and growth hormone.