Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. This leads to increased bone fragility and risk of fractured or broken bones, particularly of the hip, spine and wrist. In general, women have 30% less bone mass than men but by the age of 65 or 70, men and women lose bone at about the same rate. Osteoporosis occurs when bone tissue and minerals are lost faster than the bone is replaced.
Osteoporosis is often known as “the silent thief” because bone loss occurs without symptoms. Osteoporosis is sometimes confused with osteoarthritis, because the names are similar. Osteoporosis is a bone disease; osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints and surrounding tissue.
Most people envision either seniors or women who have reached menopause when they think of osteoporosis but it can actually affect men and women of all ages. Secondary Osteoporosis usually affects young and middle-aged people and can be caused by medications (such as prednisone), chronic illness (such as anorexia nervosa), and excessive exercising. Osteoporosis can occur as a genetic condition, with people of European and Asian descent being most at risk.
Lifestyle is a contributing factor to either avoiding or developing osteoporosis. Smoking, excessive drinking, excessive caffeine intake, taking certain medications and having certain diseases may also contribute to bone loss. Conversely, people who are physically active, eat a proper diet, and are non-smokers have stronger bones and are less susceptible to the disease.
Everyone with osteoporosis should attempt to modify their lifestyle in order to minimize their risk of fracturing or breaking a bone. A diagnosis of osteoporosis is a life-changing event and will bring you into contact with an array of medical professionals.
One of the life changes you will want to make is revisiting your diet with a qualified professional.
Specific nutritional requirements for osteoporosis sufferers, in descending order of importance, include:
- Calcium – at least the daily intake of calcium so that your body does not have to dip into its calcium reserve – your bones
- Vitamin D3 – increases calcium absorption by as much as 30% to 80%
- Vitamin K – plays a vital role in calcium absorption and an indirect role in preventing bone loss
- Magnesium – regulates calcium transport
- Boron – plays an active role in the metabolism of calcium
- Phosphorus – a key mineral in almost all chemical reactions in the body
- Manganese – important to bone and connective tissue development
The bone in our bodies is constantly being broken down and replaced with new bone. This bone-building cycle takes about 100 days and is influenced by the hormones produced in our bodies (such as estrogen in women) as well as by the levels of calcium and vitamin D.1
Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the human body, has several important functions. More than 99% of total body calcium is stored in the bones and teeth where it functions to support their structure. The remaining 1% is found throughout the body in blood, muscle, and the fluid between cells. Calcium is needed for muscle contraction, blood vessel contraction and expansion, the secretion of hormones and enzymes, and sending messages through the nervous system. A constant level of calcium is maintained in body fluid and tissues so that these vital body processes function efficiently.2 However, when calcium levels drop, calcium is leached from the bones to fill the deficit.
There are so many dietary sources of calcium that no one in today’s modern world needs to suffer from a calcium deficiency. The most obvious source of calcium is dairy products, but what if you’re lactose intolerant? That’s easy; just get your calcium from dark green leafy vegetables, sardines, almonds, orange juice and more. Even bread has a certain amount of calcium. For your specific daily requirement of calcium, consult your health care professional.
STAY AS ACTIVE AS YOU CAN
Because bone is a living tissue it needs exercise to stay strong. Normally through the activities of daily living such as walking, bending, stretching, and exercising, forces are imposed upon the bones. Bone responds to these forces by restructuring itself and becoming stronger. If you are not active your bones will become weaker over time because there is nothing for them to respond to. For example, if you had to wear a cast on a broken leg, the complete inactivity or immobility of that leg could result in rapid bone loss in the area. If you do not engage in regular activity and exercise throughout your life you could be more at risk of developing osteoporosis.3
Guidelines for safe movement
Following these simple guidelines will help:
- Do not bend forward, as it puts you in danger of breaking the bones in your spine. Use your knees instead of bending at the waist.
- Avoid twisting your torso – it will put pressure on your spine.
- When lifting and carrying heavy objects, don’t pick them up off the ground, don’t lift them above shoulder level, or reach up over your head to retrieve something from a shelf or cupboard. When lifting something, check its weight first. If the object is not too heavy, bend your knees and keep your back straight.
- Avoid activities that overload your spine when you are in a bent position, e.g., putting a roast in or out of the oven, putting wet laundry in the dryer, lifting the mattress to tuck in sheets, shovelling the driveway. Ask for help.
- Think, then do. Don’t do something dangerous in a moment of impatience. Don’t be in a hurry to catch a bus, answer the phone or respond to a doorbell. Haste may create more problems than it’s worth.
- Stick to moderate weight-bearing exercises. Jogging jars the spine and puts you at risk of injury.
- Take extra care if you have a poor sense of balance, poor eyesight, or if you wear bifocals 4
You may or may not experience pain with a diagnosis of osteoporosis. There are several reasons why an individual with osteoporosis might experience pain:
- As described above, fractures are painful. The acute pain normally subsides by the end of the healing and rehabilitation period (six to eight weeks).
- A series of compression fractures in the spine can also result in pain. When the spine collapses from these fractures, it curves over, pushing the stomach forward. This affects the ribs, which often end up sitting on the pelvic bone. The rubbing of bone against bone is the source of this pain.
- Muscle spasms are also known to cause pain in people with osteoporosis. They are the result of nerves being pinched as one’s muscles tense to protect the joints, and in turn the bones.
- In some individuals, the microscopic fractures that can occur as bone thins can be experienced as painful. The sensation has been described as “having a toothache deep in the bone.”
People experience pain differently. Therefore, the way they choose to address the problem will vary. The following options are available:
- Relaxation techniques
- Gentle massage
- Light stretching/strengthening exercises
- Applications of heat and ice
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
- Pain medication
- A brace or support (only as a temporary measure)
- Physical activity.
Often when people are in pain, they do not feel like moving. But sitting still is not good for your bones or your pain. Find ways to move that accommodate your condition. Walking, even if inside your home or apartment, is a desirable exercise because it forces your major bones to bear the weight of your body (what we refer to as weight-bearing exercise). As you feel stronger, you can begin a formal exercise program that incorporates other weight-bearing exercises.
There are several types of professionals who can assist you with these pain management techniques, including massage therapist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, stress management counsellor or meditation teacher. Your family doctor will be able to refer you to someone who specializes in pain management.5
If you are on medication for your osteoporosis, you should have bone mineral density tests at regular intervals to measure the effectiveness of the medication.7 Nutter’s is hosting BoneWave Diagnostics Clinics at many of its locations.
Support for bones, teeth, nerves and muscles in a 1 to 1 ratio.
Calcium is required for strong bones, teeth and cardiac function. Calcium not only builds strong bones and teeth but maintains bone density and strength. It helps to regulate heartbeat, blood clotting and muscle contraction. Studies show that mineral citrates have superior absorption, especially when taken on an empty stomach. Each tablet has calcium and magnesium in a one-to-one ratio that many health professionals now recommend. Betaine hydrochloride is a digestive aid that increases stomach acidity and helps mineral absorption.
Throughout life, your bones constantly remove old, weakened material and add new material in a dynamic process called remodelling. Each week you recycle up to 7% of your bone mass. This natural rejuvenation process requires not just calcium, but a wide range of nutrients. Healthy Bone Factors from Natural Factors provides a balanced spectrum of the key nutrients essential for supporting the remodelling process:
Vitamins C, B6, B12, K2, and D3, Folic Acid, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Zinc, Boron, Silicon and Copper, PLUS Ipriflavone and Citrus bioflavonoids (a 4:1 extract)
Along with optimal nutrition and exercise, Healthy Bone Factors can fortify bones for a lifetime and help prevent osteoporosis.
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner, registered with Natural Health Practitioners Canada, who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 9 years experience in her area of expertise, naturopathic medicine, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch ® Practitioner and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.
2. National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
3. The Arthritis Society
4. Osteoporosis Canada
5. Osteoporosis Canada