It’s never too soon to start keeping your bones strong and healthy to protect your body, says Jayney Goddard
I’ve worked with both women and men over the last 25 years, and one of the most challenging issues that comes up is that of osteoporosis – in both sexes. Over the years that I’ve been in practice, I have seen the prevalence of this debilitating and dangerous condition increase. Sadly, there isn’t much that conventional medicine can do to improve the condition, yet lifestyle medicine approaches offer real solutions.
Here’s why. The first line of action to prevent and even reverse osteoporosis is correct nutrition, adequate physical activity and the avoidance of falls. Once these protocols are in place, it is vital to assess and treat the underlying causes of compromised bone health.
Given that natural approaches to treating osteoporosis are so demonstrably effective, medication should be the very last resort. Of course, I accept that some people may need drugs for very serious bone disorders, but please be aware that even if you do have to take these, adding the natural approach to complement your recovery protocol can provide additional, long-lasting benefits.
This will provide you with the nutrients you need to keep healthy in all respects. I recommend this approach as the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence demonstrates that this way of eating is the most health-supporting. We live in a time when our soil is demineralised, our foods are overly processed, our physical activity is low and we aren’t getting much sun exposure. By eating a more natural diet and making just a few adjustments to our lifestyles we can increase both our life-span and our healthspan. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and beans, and avoid processed foods, white flours, and refined sugars.
Usually, I’m not a huge advocate of supplements – unless there is a demonstrable need for them. Most people in the further northern or southern hemispheres do not get enough sun exposure – and without it we are unable to manufacture the vitamin D3 that we require for optimal health. D3 is extremely important for bone health and research shows that it reduces fractures as much or even more than drug therapies. You could consider taking vitamin K – but only if you get tested and have a proven need. I also recommend B12 – most people in industrialised nations – carnivore, omnivore or herbivore – tend to have sub-optimal B12 levels unless they supplement with this vitamin.
Acid-forming diets are one of the biggest problems when it comes to osteoporosis. People who eat a conventional ‘western’ diet (such as large amounts of animal protein, processed foods, low-quality or damaged fats and refined sugars) will experience numerous health problems – including bone loss. The reason for this is that these foods are acid-forming and this upsets the biochemistry of our bodies and leads to very slight metabolic acidosis. The tolerance for acid/alkaline level fluctuations in our bodies is very sensitive and if we move outside the optimal 7.365pH, your body will do what it can to re-establish the balance. So, if your diet is too acid-forming, your body will leach alkaline minerals from your bones (including calcium) in order to ‘buffer’ the acid and neutralise it. This is good in the short-term because it keeps you alive, but it seriously harms your bones in the long run. By including more fruits, vegetables (especially root crops), nuts, beans and seeds in your diet, you can significantly sway your metabolism to the more optimally alkaline pH of 7.365.
Our bones respond to the demands we place on them and the old ‘use it or lose it’ adage is true. Most forms of exercise can help stop bone loss by building muscle, and extensive strength training can even increase bone dramatically. As an additional bonus, it helps you feel – and look – better too. Take more walks, enrol in a yoga class and try my heel drop exercise: Rise up on to your toes and drop your heels down to the ground – as forcefully as you can. Repeat 30 times each day. This sends strengthening shockwaves up the bones in your legs and hips and right up your spine.
We all know that chronic stress takes a huge toll on health. One of our major stress hormones, cortisol, is highly detrimental to bone and other organs if it remains at high levels. Look at ways of developing resilience to stressors in your life. Of course, we can’t eliminate sources of stress, but we are in control of our response to these issues – and by practising resilience-growing techniques – such as the relaxation response (google it for complete – and free – instructions online), we can improve our stress-immunity.
As menopause approaches, bone loss accelerates. The loss of bone calcium may be related to the drop in oestrogens and/or progesterone. The use of prescription hormone replacement, using a synthetic combination of oestrogens and progesterone derivatives, slows, but does not usually arrest bone loss, and their benefits diminish with time.
Oestrogens have numerous side effects, the most worrisome of which is a dramatic increase in breast cancer risk. The now famous Harvard Nurses’ Health Study discovered that among women taking oestrogens, 30-80 percent more of them developed breast cancer, compared to other women. Adding synthetic progesterone derivatives does not counter-balance this increased risk.
Natural progesterone is a safer and more effective alternative. It is bio-identical to human progesterone, derived from wild yams or soybeans. You can use either a cream or an oral preparation, although the cream is better as it bypasses liver detoxification. In a three-year study of post-menopausal women treated with natural progesterone, bone density increased by about 15 percent, which is more than enough to have a major effect on fracture risk.
Your body is capable of building bone on its own when given the needed support and time to do so. Natural nutritional and lifestyle changes can be the most powerful factors in bone protection.
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