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Osteoporosis: Debunking the Myths, Part 1 May 31, 2011

Filed under: bone health — novahealthnaturopathic @ 7:03 pm

This week we’re going to be doing a series of posts related to bone health, specifically osteoporosis. This topic is especially pertinent right now as people are becoming more active thanks to the nice weather. For those with weak bones, exertion can equal a recipe for a bad break. This post will talk about the types of osteoporosis, risk factors for developing it, as well as the conventional treatments (and why they aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be – no pun intended).

Osteoporosis: This is “the weakening of bones caused by an imbalance between bone building and bones destruction” (Harvard School of Public Health). The Merck Manual defines it as “a systemic skeletal disease characterized by low bone mass and micro architectural deterioration of bone tissue, with a consequent increase in bone fragility and susceptibility to fracture”.

Osteopenia: Translated from Latin meaning “bone” (osteon) “poverty” (penia) – it is a “mild thinning of the bone mass, but not as severe as osteoporosis. Osteopenia results when the formation of bone (osteoid synthesis) is not enough to offset normal bone loss (bone lyses). Osteopenia is generally considered the first step along the road to osteoporosis” (

Osteomalacia: Translated from Latin meaning “softening” (malacia) of the bone (osteon) – it is a “softening of bone, particularly in the sense of bone weakened by demineralization (the loss of mineral) and most notably by the depletion of calcium from bone (

  • Contrary to popular belief, as you will see in the above definitions, osteoporosis is not a disease of calcium deficiency. Osteomalacia, the softening of the bones, is greatly affected by calcium deficiencies, but osteoporosis is a decrease in bone mineral density, which results in fragile (not soft) bones. Several minerals are required to form the bone’s inner structure (or density) – calcium is only one.
  • Osteoporosis is a weakening of the ‘trabecular’ bone (the inner matrix) – most calcium deposit in ‘cortical’ bone (the outer shell).

Who is at Risk of Developing Osteoporosis?

In general, those who fail to attain sufficient bone mass within the first 30 to 35 years of life and those whose bone reabsorption is greater than their bone deposition during their adult life.

  • Post-menopausal women.
  • Individuals with a small frame and body mass index.
  • Individuals with a family history of osteoporosis.
  • Individuals with a sedentary, inactive lifestyle.
  • Women who have not had children.
  • Long term use of corticosteroids (Prednisone etc.) and glucocorticoids.
  • Smokers.
  • Those consuming alcohol.
  • Those consuming caffeine (cola as well as coffee) – the famed Framingham Osteoporosis Study found that older women who drink cola every day have lower bone mineral density (Am J Clin Nut 2006; 84: 936-42).

Conventional Options for Osteoporosis Treatment

Hormone Replacement Therapy: Despite the on-going suggestions that HRT will “treat” osteoporosis, consider the following:

  • HRT does not build new bone density – it only offers some benefit in slowing down bone loss – and numerous options can do the same, without the serious risks of breast cancer, stroke, heart attack and blood clotting.
  • The medical journal Bone (Sep. 29, 2001(3):216-222) stated “conventional HRT acts by preserving bone, but can not restore lost bone in women with established osteoporosis.
  • The medical journal Human Reproductive Update (Sep, 2000;6(5)) published a review of ALL trials on HRT and osteoporosis from 1995 – 2000 and concluded “the recommendation to use estrogen for postmenopausal osteoporosis … is not well supported.”
  • In 2002 the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health stopped an 8 year study on HRT after only 5 years because it was deemed too dangerous for the women to stay on HRT given their findings of risks. These risks included a 41 per cent increase in strokes, a 29 per cent increase in heart attacks and a 24 per cent increase in breast cancer” (Journal of the American Medical Association 2002;288:49-66).

Popular Pharmaceuticals: Remember that osteoporosis is an imbalance between new bone development and the breakdown (reabsorption) of existing bone? Well, ALL of the existing drugs for osteoporosis – including bisphosphonates (like Fosamax), S.E.R.M.s (like Evista) and calcitonin (Calcimar) – work only by slowing down the breakdown (reabsorption) of the bone. NONE of them actually increase the body’s ability to build new bone density.

Side Effects:

  • Bisphosphonates (Fosamax, Actonel, Didronel): bone and joint pain, flu-like symptoms, constipation / diarrhea, fatigue, kidney damage, osteonecrosis of the jaw.
  • S.E.R.M.s (Evista): hot flashes, leg cramps, blood clots.
  • Heartburn Medication: The popular drugs Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid were found, in a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (August, 2008), to almost double the risk of a hip fracture – because they decrease the stomach acid required to absorb the needed minerals.

Calcium Supplementation: The Harvard School of Medicine examined their own, as well as several other medical studies, and found no association between calcium intake and fracture risk (Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1780-90). Study has shown that only calcium supplements taken with a variety of trace minerals results in improvements in spinal bone loss in post-menopausal women. Calcium alone does not produce significant changes in bone density – it is only one of several minerals inside the bone.

The type of calcium dictates what you absorb and what is excreted Check your supplement label –most use calcium carbonate. This is the worst absorbed form of calcium at about 10% absorption. Calcium citrate has better absorption, but requires adequate stomach acid – and approximately 40% of post-menopausal women have low levels of stomach acid – others are taking antacids like Tums, Prilosec, Nexium, Losec etc. Calcium hydroxyapatite is a synthetic form of calcium and is very poorly absorbed, while ossein microcrystalline hydroxyapatite complex is VERY well absorbed and consider the best form of calcium by far.

The density of the inside of our bones is made up of several minerals – calcium is included, but is NOT the primary. If you want to provide your bones with minerals to slow, prevent and reverse bone loss, you need them all. They include:

  • Magnesium:  1/2 of the magnesium in your body is actually inside your bones. One study showed that while magnesium deficiencies were associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis fracture, calcium deficiencies were not (Int J Epidemiol 1995, Aug 24(4):771-82).
  • Vitamin D: Most have heard of the critical role this vitamin plays in bone health. The amount is key – 1000 IU per day is required to reduce fracture risks.
  • Vitamin K: Low levels are associated with low bone density. Studies show supplementation can reduce hip fractures by 30% to 50% (Nurses Health Study, Framingham Heart Study).
  • Zinc: Involved in the formation of osteoblasts (the cells inside bones that MAKE new bone) and enhances the activity of Vitamin D.
  • Manganese: Increases the production of mucopolysaccharides – which provide a structure for calcification.
  • Boron: Reduces the urinary excretion of calcium and magnesium, increases blood levels of estrogen and testosterone and helps activate Vitamin D.
  • Strontium: See below.

N.B.: A multivitamin and / or calcium-magnesium supplement will NOT give you these minerals in the dosages required. You need a specific formulation, for bone health, that focuses on these minerals and vitamins.


Weekend Round Up May 27, 2011

Filed under: cancer,herbs,research,round up,weight loss — novahealthnaturopathic @ 7:25 pm

Hey everyone! Hope you’ve had a fantastic week. Here are some of the health stories that caught our eye this month. Let us know what you think of them. We love feedback!

Tara Parker-Pope wrote in the NY Times about how diet and (lack of) exercise aren’t the only contributors to weight gain. The move to a more sedentary work life, a shift away from factories and toward office jobs, has corresponded with a steady population-wide weight gain. Here are some tips for combating desk-job related fatigue and weight gain. Have any of you tried these? Anyone use or know someone who uses a standing work station?

This article on the rising rate of childhood cancer hits it on the nose. It’s tragic and unfortunate that so many young people are getting sick. As an ND, it’s important to take age into consideration when treating patients. The young ones definitely have special needs (psychological and physiological) that must be addressed by the physician, but they are also often the most hopeful and inspiring patients of all.

This article on the health benefits of common herbs is making us consider planting an herb garden here at the clinic. Who knew sage was such an antioxidant?!

For those interested in osteoporosis, it’s always interesting when a research conflict like this emerges! I guess only time (and a lot of research dollars) will tell who was right.

That’s all for now! Hope to here some of your insights. Have a fun, healthy and productive weekend!


Fertility: Not Only “The Birds & The Bees” May 6, 2011

Filed under: infertility,prenatal — novahealthnaturopathic @ 4:13 pm

The Birds and the Bees sometimes aren’t enough to cut it.  In North America one in five to six couples are infertile.  Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after having regular unprotected intercourse for a full year.  If you have been having difficulties conceiving, natural therapies can be of help.

The first step is to figure out where the problem lies. Tests to determine the cause of infertility are imperative before treatment begins.

Are there nutritional deficiencies?

Adequate consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins are essential for fertility.  Sometimes it can be as easy as reviewing dietary intake for key essential nutrients to improve the overall health and set up the right environment for pregnancy to occur.   Nutritional deficiencies such as folic acid, iron, zinc, B vitamins, and iodine can cause infertility (Br J Obstet Gynacol. 1982; 89:678-80).  Having your diet reviewed by a practitioner specifically trained in nutrition and having appropriate blood work performed to determine if levels of specific vitamins and nutrients are low should be one of the first steps to determine the cause of infertility.

Is there a hormone imbalance?

An under-active thyroid is a common cause for infertility.  Blood work can be performed to determine thyroid function but must involve looking at the levels of the active thyroid hormones.  These in-depth tests are often not performed in conventional medicine and thus a mildly under-active thyroid conditions can be missed.  Blood work to determine prolactin, estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, testosterone, and DHEA levels also needs to also be preformed. Testing for these hormones can determine if polycystic ovarian syndrome (a condition where cysts develop on the ovaries making ovulation difficult), or amenorrhea (lack of menstration often due to hormonal disregulation) are the cause of infertility.  Salivary hormone testing is an excellent tool to check hormone levels and how they vary over the woman’s complete menstrual cycle and allows for appropriate balancing of hormones for fertility using nutraceuticals, botanical medicine, and natural hormone replacements.

Is there an elevated chemical or heavy metal body load?

Eliminating heavy metals and chemicals can improve fertility in previously infertile women.  One study showed that urine heavy metal excretion is linked to gynaecological conditions (uterine fibroids, miscarriages, hormonal disorders) and found that reducing heavy metal body load improved spontaneous conception changes of infertile women (J Toxicol Environ Health, 1998; 54: 593-611). Check your body burden of toxic chemicals by testing urine levels or heavy metals by provocative urine testing.  Further information regarding these lab tests can be obtained at and

Acupuncture – The clinical evidence

Acupuncture can be very effective in helping a woman to conceive.  One study showed that in 106 non-ovulating, infertile women, 41 conceived after a series of acupuncture sessions over a one-month period (Jilin Chinese Medicine & Medicinals, 5, 2004).  In another study acupuncture was compared to the frequently used medication to induce ovulation – Clomiphene (Clomid).  Results showed that after three menstrual cycles, acupuncture was equivalent to Clomid for inducing ovulation.  Furthermore the acupuncture group showed higher rates of pregnancy than the group receiving Clomid (Zhongguo Zhen Jiu, 2008;28:21-23).

Readers should note that medical research has identified safe tests and treatment options that are effective for infertility. Education is key – seek professional health care supervision to explore appropriate treatment options to increase changes of conception.  It seems that natural treatment options, proven by modern science, can help to reunite “the birds and the bees”.


Round-Up Post May 4, 2011

Filed under: heart health,menstruation,prenatal,round up,Uncategorized,weight loss — novahealthnaturopathic @ 6:53 pm

There have been a lot of great studies on health and wellness recently published. Just wanted to share the most important ones with all of you. Make sure to click on the links for more information!

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has confirmed that “waist circumference and hip-waist-ratio to be more reliable than body mass index in stratifying mortality risk in coronary artery disease patients.” In other words, it’s not how much you weight, but where you carry your weight, that is a greater determinant of health. Coronary artery disease is directly linked to an excess of fat tissue around the middle, rather than fat stored in the thighs or buttocks. (Source: CBC News)

We’re all familiar with the role that Vitamin D plays in regulating mood and bone health, but research is showing that a lack of Vitamin D is also linked with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, dementia and even some cancers. We recommend you get at least 1000IU of Vitamin D per day from food sources, exposure to sunshine and supplementation. The best way to supplement Vitamin D is with an emulsified (liquid) D3 (rather than D2).

The Healthy Skeptic (a great blog!) has published a post about the ways pre-natal health can influence your children’s lifelong health trajectories. This is a must-read for all of you moms-to-be!

And last but not least, for those female athletes out there, it might be a good idea to take it easy on the workouts during the first week of your cycle. Australian researchers have found that thanks to reduced levels of estrogen during menstruation, female athletes are more likely to get injured at the beginning of their cycles than during other times of their cycle. But of course, this doesn’t mean you should skip out on exercise during that week! Numerous studies have shown that exercising helps elevate mood, lessen cramps, reduce bloating and alleviate headaches.


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