How can I support my bone health naturally without medication?
High-impact, weight-bearing exercises such as weight training along with long-term calcium supplementation are well known first steps to osteoporosis prevention. Women who take calcium supplements can decrease their fracture risk by half. However, this is just the beginning. There are other steps you can take to establish good bone health.
- Eat a pH balanced diet (alkaline diet). Diets rich in processed foods, refined sugars, salt, caffeine and an abundance of animal protein are known to cause the body to become more acidic. When this happens, your body steals minerals from your bones to rebalance the pH. By eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, your body will not need the calcium and magnesium from your bones to re-establish balance. This type of alkaline diet will help preserve your bone health in the long run.
- Find Balance. Many traditional exercises such as yoga and tai chi are now available in local health clubs and fitness centers. Not only are these exercises teaching awareness and relaxation, they also focus on strengthening those muscles essential for control and balance. By strengthening these muscles, you strengthen your body to build bone. In addition, better balance leads to less falls later on in life which reduces fracture risk.
- Decrease stress. We know that chronic stress can take its toll on our emotional well-being, but it can also be detrimental to our bone health. Our stress hormone cortisol is our body’s natural steroid. Cortisol is released when we are sad, mad, scared or in pain. If it remains at a high level for a long period of time, our body can develop many negative side effects including bone loss. There are special tests that can look at your stress hormone levels. Therapies can then be designed based on your personal test results to help you protect your body from the negative effects of stress.
- Build muscle. Quite simply, those activities that stimulate the body to build muscle also stimulate the body’s bone building. A combination of high impact exercises (running and jumping) with low impact exercises (push-ups and lunges) is the best for building bone. Exercises like swimming and biking can increase your bones’ flexibility and compression strength. Some gyms even have a whole body vibration platform to stimulate bone growth. The bottom line is to build bone, you need to get out and move!
- Decrease Inflammation. If you have chronic conditions such as arthritis, asthma, allergies, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and chronic pain, then you also have chronic inflammation. Initially inflammation is the way that the immune system triggers the body’s healing processes. Sometimes the immune system can go overboard. This can result in chronic inflammation which can make many conditions worse and can also cause bone loss. Taking steps to decrease inflammation by following an anti-inflammatory diet, reducing exposure to toxic chemicals, and addressing the underlying cause of health conditions that stimulate inflammation will not only improve your bone health, but your overall well-being as well.
- Calcium: Most studies show that calcium supplementation along with vitamin D can cut fracture rates by half. Calcium citrate and microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate (MCHC) are believed to be the best absorbed forms of calcium. MCHC has the added advantage of including other trace minerals and proteins that help promote bone health. Calcium should be taken in divided doses with no more than 500 mg at one time. We usually recommend consuming around 1000-1500 mg of calcium daily by taking supplements and eating calcium rich foods.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of falls and fractures when combined with calcium supplementation. A vitamin D3 supplement of 800-1000 IU per day was found to be the most beneficial to bone health. We encourage everyone to have their vitamin D levels checked via a simple blood test regularly.
- Magnesium: Newer research suggests that taking magnesium along with vitamin D and calcium can help prevent bone loss, especially in postmenopausal women. We usually recommend women take 600 mg-1000 mg per day of magnesium.
- Vitamin K: Many doctors overlook vitamin K as a crucial nutrient for bone health. Vitamin K is responsible for activating osteocalcin in the bone, a protein that attracts calcium to the bone. This ensures the calcium you take in your supplements ends up in the bone rather than in the arteries. A reminder: if you are taking blood thinners, consult with your doctor before taking supplements with vitamin K.
- Trace Minerals (Manganese, Copper, Zinc, Boron): Taking a combination of these trace minerals along with calcium has been shown to better increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women better than taking calcium alone. These minerals seem to be crucial for slowing down bone break down and to help build the collagen scaffolding of the bone.
- Strontium: This mineral is very similar chemically to calcium and helps increase bone growth and slow down bone break down. In fact, there is a form of strontium called strontium ranelate (Protelos) that is being investigated as a possible new osteoporosis medication. The preliminary research indicates that this form of strontium may reduce vertebral fractures. High doses of strontium should be used with caution. There continues to be research on this mineral to make sure that the benefits in the short term for the bone hold true in the long run. Strontium can compete with calcium, so if you do take strontium as a separate supplement, be sure to take it separately from your calcium.
- Cholinestabilized orthosilic acid (“ch-OSA”): Besides being a mouthful, this patented form of silicon helps stimulate collagen production in the bone. Collagen builds a strong net in the bone providing more places for the calcium in the bone to adhere. This helps build a strong, flexible and fracture resistant bone.
In our practice we typically use formulas that combine these nutrients, so that they can work together to build and preserve healthy bone. These are two of our favorites
- Osteoprime Ultra (Integrative Therapeutics): A comprehensive bone formula that delivers a complete complement of calcium, vitamin D and trace minerals for ultimate bone support.
- OSAplex (Xymogen): Additional bone support for women that provides microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate (MCHC) and cholinestabilized orthosilicic acid (ch-OSA). Besides being a mouth full, these specialized nutrients provide minerals, bone-derived growth factors, and a protein matrix that increases bone strength, flexibility and fracture resistance. An additional bonus is that it can also help strengthen hair, skin and nails!