Learn to Thrive After a Diagnosis of Osteoporosis

By on November 11, 2011

Women are more at risk than men for osteoporosis. After receiving a diagnosis of osteoporosis or osteopenia it is important to keep moving and exercise in a safe manner. This means not putting compression on the spine, especially the thoracic area of the spine. Walking, dancing, strength training, and swimming are often suggested.

Perhaps osteoporosis runs in your family. Or, you are reaching menopause and wonder how you can prevent it since reaching menopause is one of the risk factors. In fact, several risk factors increase your chances of developing osteoporosis or having a fracture, including:

  • a thin, small-boned frame
  • previous fracture or family history of osteoporotic fracture
  • estrogen deficiency from early menopause (before age 45) whether naturally, or from surgically removing the ovaries, or as a result of prolonged amenorrhea (abnormal absence of menstruation) in younger women (often from anorexia or extremely low body fat such as in athletes
  • advanced age
  • a diet low in calcium
  • Caucasian or Asian ancestry (African Americans and Hispanics are at slightly lower risk)
  • cigarette smoking
  • excessive use of alcohol
  • prolonged use of certain medications or recreational drugs.

Women lose bone rapidly following menopause, making them more susceptible to osteoporosis especially in the first 4-8 years.

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Often the first inkling that you might be at risk for osteoporosis begins with decreased blood calcium when you have blood work done. Sometimes this is accompanied by a thyroid imbalance, a Vitamin D deficiency and/or a magnesium deficiency.

Corticosteroid medications. Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone or cortisone is damaging to bones. These and other corticosteroid medications are common treatments for chronic conditions, such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, to name a few.

You may not be able to stop taking them to lessen your risk of osteoporosis unless you find a way to deal with the underlying cause of the chronic condition. Ask your doctor to monitor your bone density if you need to take a steroid medication for long periods. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are other drugs they might recommend instead of the corticosteroid medications that won’t have the same impact on your bones.

Other medications associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis include aromatize inhibitors to treat breast cancer; the antidepressant medications are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs); another cancer treatment drug named methotrexate; some anti-seizure medications; stomach acid-blockers called proton pump inhibitors and antacids containing aluminum.

Lab tests may be performed on blood and urine. The test results can help your doctor identify conditions that might contribute to bone loss.

These are the most common blood tests:

  • blood calcium levels
  • blood vitamin D levels
  • thyroid function
  • parathyroid hormone levels
  • estradiol levels to measure estrogen
  • follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) test to establish menopause status
  • testosterone levels (in men)
  • osteocalcin levels measure bone formation

Common urine tests are:

  • 24-hour urine collection to measure calcium metabolism
  • tests measuring the rate at which bone is breaking down

Once you learn if there is a deficiency or imbalance of nutrients in your body, then supporting your health by increasing your levels of missing nutrients and correcting a thyroid imbalance, for example, can do wonders for increasing calcium in the blood again and therefore in the bones themselves.

Other markers that indicate a need to correct a body imbalance show up long before low blood calcium or a diagnosis of osteoporosis. Poor digestion, high stress that affects the adrenal glands, and problems with the parathyroid gland can all lead to osteoporosis.

There are several predisposing factors to osteoporosis that you can control, sometimes on your own or with the help of a healthcare professional.

  • Poor diet over a long period of time
  • Excessive use of alcohol and recreational drugs
  • Hormone dysfunction or dysregulation
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Drugs – recreational or prescription or over the counter
  • Prolonged bed rest
  • Anorexia and other eating disorders

It might be a good idea to look at the cells that make up our bones, in order to better understand the process of building up and breaking down of bone in the body.

  1. Osteoblasts build bone by converting cartilage to bone.
  2. Osteoclasts break down bone to help buffer the pH of the blood.
  3. Osteocytes maintain bone tissue. These are the primary bone cells.

Calcium plays a role in homeostasis. When the blood becomes too acidic, calcium is the buffer. Think of it as Tums for your blood.

When the pH of blood drops, which means the blood becomes more acidic, calcium is used to buffer that acid, making the blood more alkaline. Less calcium is then deposited in bone. When the blood returns to its proper pH, calcium is then stored in the bones again. Calcium can also be deposited in other tissues.

Regulating the pH of the blood and calcium in the body is the role of the small parathyroid gland, located behind the thyroid gland in the throat area. Parathyroid hormone (PTH) is a regulator in the exchange of calcium between bone and blood.

How does this work?

  1. PTH increases the osteoclast activity within the bones to free up calcium to buffer blood pH. Remember – osteoclasts break down bone.
  2. This hormone also reduces calcium excreted in urine by having a direct effect on the kidneys.
  3. PTH also pulls the calcium made available from digestion into the blood.

If you eat a diet rich in calcium then lots of calcium can be available for all the different needs of the body. Some suggestions for calcium-rich foods are, in alphabetical order:

  • Alfalfa sprouts, which are easy to make at home
  • Almonds, almond butter, and almond meal or flour
  • Avocados which contain healthy fat too
  • Coconut
  • Dairy foods: particularly raw milk hard cheeses, goat’s milk
  • Gelatin
  • Greens, including kale, turnip, beet tops, cabbage, and romaine lettuce
  • Seaweed and sea vegetables: agar, dulse, kelp and nori
  • Sesame seeds

In addition to calcium, all the foods listed above are high in additional nutrients. That’s important because simply taking more and more calcium supplements will not necessarily translate into absorption and the utilization of this nutrient. Calcium needs co-factors to be available for its many roles in the body, including its use in bones.

After you have determined calcium-rich foods, then assess if you are actually digesting and utilizing your foods. If you have the classic signs of indigestion: gas, bloating, excessive fullness after a meal, cramping and general discomfort in the abdomen shortly after eating, then you may need to give some attention to your digestion.

Since calcium is absorbed in an acid environment, you may need hydrochloric acid supplementation with your meals to acidify the stomach. This may seem counter-intuitive, especially if you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux. However, as we age our hydrochloric acid levels decline. We can actually suffer more from lack of acid in our stomach than from too much, despite what you might hear on the TV.

As mentioned, calcium needs co-factors to be effectively utilized. That means other minerals need to be present, along with Vitamin D and healthy fats. Eating a variety of foods, real whole foods help to ensure that most of these co-factors are present.

EFAs, essential fatty acids, are needed for transporting nutrients across the cell’s membrane:

  • flax seed oil, black currant seed oil, fish oils (EPA & DHA), mixed fatty acids from walnut, hazelnut, sesame, apricot kernel
  • all these healthy fats help increase calcium tissue levels

Don’t forget hormonal support may be needed, so check for any thyroid, estrogens, testosterone or parathyroid dysfunction (PTH).

Other co-factors that support the bones are Vitamin D which works with PTH to increase calcium in the blood and increases absorption in the GI tract. Vitamin A, from bright orange and yellow fruits or vegetables, and iodine are needed because iodine supports thyroid function. The seaweeds and sea vegetables mentioned earlier are rich sources of iodine.

Kidney function is important and directly connected to blood calcium levels. One of the best things that you can do is support good hydration by drinking adequate amounts of pure, filtered water. Cutting out soda is also a good idea. It has detrimental effects on digestion.

Other minerals that are important as co-factors to calcium utilization are potassium, manganese, boron, copper, and zinc. Zinc is particularly important for good digestion.

Steps for the steady support of healthy bones and the possible, slow reversal of osteoporosis:

  1. Improve digestion
  2. Take good bone mineralizing supplements or make and utilize bone broths from organic chicken bones.
  3. Increase essential fatty acids (EFAs).
  4. Add vitamins A, D, E, and K (unless on blood thinners, avoid K).
  5. Eat good high-quality proteins.
  6. Eliminate processed foods, artificial foods, sodas, and caffeinated food and drink.
  7. Weight-bearing exercise is imperative.

Now that you know the risk factors, take the steps to help your bones stay healthy before a diagnosis of osteoporosis or osteopenia. You also have the seven steps to possibly put the brakes on the further deterioration of your bones once you receive a diagnosis. It may even be possible to start rebuilding bone and lose that diagnosis as your overall health improves.

Sandi Thompson, NTP, Certified Wellness Coach, Expert Weight Management, at Solutions Through Nutrition specializes in weight management and lifestyle changes for better, lasting health. Eliminate the barriers to eating healthy in a toxic world. Discover your individual nutritional needs and learn the steps to keep moving forward along the path to exceptional wellness. The vision of Solutions Through Nutrition is, “Improving the way America eats, one dining room table at a time.” Find more free health tips at http://www.solutionthroughnutrition.com/.


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Learn to Thrive After a Diagnosis of Osteoporosis