Here is the last installment of our series on bone health. This post branches off from the last one, which was all about the truth about dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium. This post details effective, non-pharmaceutical ways to keep your bones in tip-top shape.
As mentioned, the prescription drugs on the marker, as well as Vitamin D and calcium, do NOT actually build bone at all. What they do is slow the destruction, or breakdown, of the old bone.
Contrast this with a natural mineral, essential to bone health and absolutely safe:
99 % of strontium in the human body is in the bones.
A lack of strontium in the body will cause defective mineralization of bones.
Studies at McGill University showed that Strontium supplementation increased osteoblasts (bone making cells) by 120.8% and increased the rate of new bone formation by 172.4% (Trace Subst Environ Health 1985;19:193-208). The New England Journal of Medicine published data on Strontium in 2004 (Jan 29; 350(5):459-68) on 1,640 women with postmenopausal osteoporosis. The study showed that strontium supplementation increased bone mass by 14.4% over three years – as compared to Fosamax (the most powerful of the bisphosphonate drugs) which yielded only a 5.5.% increase in bone mass. In the same New England Journal of Medicine study, strontium accounted for a 41% reduction in new vertebral fractures – with no side effects. Strontium does what no prescription drug does – it both increases the activity of bone forming osteoblasts and decreases the activity of bone-dissolving osteoclasts (Metabolism 2002;51(7):906-11).
In an era when everyone wants to continue to put hormones into their body, one hormonal substance stands out regarding its safety and its role in bone health. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is not a ‘real’ hormone and it certainly is not an anabolic steroid – it is a ‘pro-hormone’, made by your adrenal glands and used to make estrogen or testosterone only as your body requires it. As you age, you produce less of it. As such, you have less of the hormones needed to keep your bones strong.
- The medical journal Treatment Endocrinology stated “emerging evidence from these studies shows that DHEA may significantly enhance bone mineral density. In fact, the improvements of bone mineral density are accompanied not only by suppression of bone resorption, but more importantly, stimulation of bone formation” (2002;1(6):349-57).
- The medical journal Menopause International reported on a medical study that concluded “evidence has accumulated for the beneficial effects of DHEA on osteoporosis” (2007 June;13(2):75-8).
N.B.: A patient must see a doctor familiar with DHEA, have her blood levels tested first and be supervised in using DHEA. It’s safe, but it should be supervised by a professional to determine the right dose and length of use.
Ipriflavone is a naturally occurring substance, found in soy products like tofu, miso, soy protein powders (etc.), which has over 60 human trials demonstrating its positive effects in the treatment of osteoporosis. Like DHEA, it has been shown to increase osteoblastic (bone forming) activity.
- The medical journal Maturitas (1997, Sep;28(1):75-81) published the results of a medical study that concluded “postmenopausal Ipriflavone administration can prevent the increase in bone turnover and the decrease in bone density”.
- A 12 month comparison of Ipriflavone to Calcitonin (a ‘conventional’ recommendation for osteoporosis) revealed that Ipriflavone increased bone mineral density by 4.3% compared to 1.9% for Calcitonin (Biomed Pharmacother 1995;49:465-468).
- Ipriflavone appears most effective for those 65 years of age and over. In a study published in the medical journal Bone Mineral (1992;19:57-62), women aged 65-79 were given Ipriflavone for two years. Those receiving the Ipriflavone had a 4-6% increase on bone mineral density. Those NOT receiving the Ipriflavone had an average loss of 3% of their bone mineral density.
These results require a specific, standardized amount of the Ipriflavone every day. Consumption of soy foods is not a means to achieve these results. A doctor familiar with Ipriflavone needs to be consulted for the right individual dose and frequency.
Your body is an amazing machine. If it determines risk of harm, it will do what it needs to in order to mitigate the potential harm. This reality is particularly true for your bones. If the body is experiencing an acidic ph in the blood, it will literally pull calcium from the shell of bones to buffer the acidity and balance the blood pH. While this inherently naturopathic awareness (of basic human biochemistry) has been ‘debated’ within medical circles, what isn’t debated is the role of foods causing an imbalance between calcium and phosphorus in the body. Consumption of caffeine (coffee and sodas) has been proven to increase the excretion of calcium in urine. In the Framingham Osteoporosis Study, women who consumed caffeine every day had much lower bone density than those who consumed it less than once per month (Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:936-42). This calcium / phosphorus imbalance can also be caused by diets high in dairy products.
Weight Bearing Exercise and Cardio
Physical activity that will benefit your bones puts strain on bones – which in turn makes the osteoblast cells in the bones (bone forming cells) more active. There needs to be this strain for this to occur. For this reason, swimming is NOT a desired exercise. Ideal ‘weight bearing’ exercise includes activities such as walking (a decent distance), dancing, jogging, weightlifting etc. The frequency should be at least 5 days a week and duration should be in the 45 minute range.
An often ignored strategy is developing muscle. With increased muscle strength, falls are greatly reduced. To develop a proper exercise program for osteoporosis – that you can do on your own – one needs professional counsel. Physiotherapists are most suited to design these programs for your specific needs.