By Dr Karen Coates
Our Western way of life has created a multitude of diseases never seen in Third World countries (the so-called primitive cultures). Osteoporosis is one of these conditions.
Osteoporosis is a loss of the support mineral matrix of bone which results in a brittleness and increased risk of fracture. The most debilitating and common sites of fracture are the spine and the femur (hip) bones. Delay in diagnosis is often due to a lack of awareness of risk factors for this debilitating insult on our quality of life, which may affect both men and women, particularly after the age of 50 years.
If you have a medical disorder such as inflammatory bowel disease (Crohns or Ulcerative Colitis), thyroid disturbance, or a history of anorexia you are at increased risk of bone fractures. Children with asthma who have been prescribed large doses of inhaled or oral cortisone (prednisone), may need to be screened as young adults at risk of early osteoporosis.
Early menopause also puts women at risk. The female hormone estrogen promotes bone building during our premenopausal years, and the progesterone hormone slows down the recycling of old bone, thus preserving bone density.
Using all of this information you should be able to do a quick calculation of your individual risk of osteoporosis.
Now the GOOD News!
Osteoporosis is reversible!
If you are concerned about this disorder, a baseline bone density scan is an extremely motivating tool to action lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of breaking a bone.
Many natural therapies, combined with a good diet, nutritional supplementation and regular weight bearing exercise can improve your bone strength and restore your bones to their youthful resilience.
A wonderful study comparing the effects of red clover with hormone replacement therapy, done at the Royal North Shore Hospital Menopause Clinic in Sydney, showed Red Clover to be superior to synthetic HRT in reversing osteoporosis, with a statistically significant increase in bone density of 4% over only six months in the Red Clover group.
The use of natural progesterone cream or troches can also slow the recycling of bone and encourage a reduction in the risk of breaking a bone.
Calcium is a well recognised ingredient for bone strength, but what most doctors and osteoporosis sufferers don’t know is the role of other essential micronutrients in the manufacture of good bones. Boron has been used for decades to ensure that elite racehorses have the best nutrition to prevent injury to their bones, as it is well recognised by vets that our Australian soils are deficient in this essential bone nutrient. Manganese, magnesium and silica are also part of the package deal of good bone health.
Pharmaceutical drugs, such as the bisphosphonates (‘fosamax’) have their role to play, but the long term benefit of this group of medications is yet to be determined. Endocrine specialists are seeing a worrying trend of continued bone loss after five years of treatment on these drugs, which may not be the longterm panacea they have promised.
Keeping strong bones throughout our life and avoiding fractures requires a package deal of good health options:
A diet adequate in nutrients (the ‘building blocks’) for a strong bone matrix
A healthy gastrointestinal tract able to absorb these nutrients
Good hormonal support for bone building.
Weight bearing exercise, or more correctly resistance exercise, both to accelerate good bone building and increase muscle strength which is the best insurance against falls which contribute to the breaking of those brittle bones.