WOMEN'S HEALTH - OSTEOPOROSIS
Osteoporosis, which means "porous bones," causes bones to become weak and brittle. In most cases, bones weaken when you have low levels of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals in your bones. A common result of osteoporosis is fractures - most of them in the spine, hip or wrist. Although it's often thought of as a women's disease, osteoporosis also affects many men. And aside from people who have osteoporosis, many more have low bone density.
Osteoporosis is often called the "silent" disease, because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People often don't know they have the disease until a bone breaks, frequently in a minor fall that wouldn't normally cause a fracture. Many people confuse osteoporosis with arthritis and believe they can wait for symptoms such as swelling and joint pain to occur before seeing a doctor. It should be stressed that the mechanisms that cause arthritis are entirely different from those in osteoporosis, which usually becomes quite advanced before its symptoms appear.
There are certain factors which might increase the risk of developing Osteoporosis, these are:
- Having a thin and small body frame.
- Being of the feminine gender.
- Belonging to the Caucasian or Asian race.
- Excessive alcohol and cigarette consumption
- Having a family history of Osteoporosis
- History of frequent fractures
- Lack of exercise
- Low estrogen levels
- Low doses of Vitamin D in the body
- Low diet in calcium
- Long-term use of medicines like- use of oral corticosteroids, heparin (a blood thinner medicine), anti-seizure medications.
- Malabsorption (nutrients are not properly absorbed from the gastrointestinal system) from conditions such as celiac sprue.
- Low estrogen levels (such as occur in menopause or with early surgical removal of both ovaries).
- Chemotherapy can cause early menopause due to its toxic effects on the ovaries.
- Amenorrhea (loss of the menstrual period) in young women also causes low estrogen and osteoporosis; Amenorrhea can occur in women who undergo extremely vigorous training and in women with very low body fat (example: anorexia nervosa).
- Chronic inflammation, due to diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic liver diseases).
- Immobility, such as after a stroke, or from any condition that interferes with walking.
- Hyperthyroidism, a condition wherein too much thyroid hormone is produced by the thyroid gland (as in Grave's disease) or is caused by taking too much thyroid hormone medication.
- Hyperparathyroidism, a disease wherein there is excessive parathyroid hormone production by the parathyroid gland (a small gland located near the thyroid gland). Normally, the parathyroid hormone maintains blood calcium levels by, in part, removing calcium from the bone. In untreated hyperparathyroidism, excessive parathyroid hormone causes too much calcium to be removed from the bone, which can lead to osteoporosis.
- Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. When vitamin D is lacking, the body cannot absorb adequate amounts of calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency can result from lack of intestinal absorption of the vitamin such as occurs in celiac sprue and primary biliary cirrhosis.
- Certain medications can cause osteoporosis. These include long-term use of heparin (a blood thinner), anti-seizure medications phenytoin (Dilantin) and phenobarbital, and long term use of oral corticosteroids (such as Prednisone).
Bisphosphonates are the standard drugs used for osteoporosis. These drugs block resorption (bone break down) and so slow the rate of bone remodeling, but they cannot rebuild bone. In fact, because resorption and reformation occur naturally as a continuous process, blocking resorption may eventually also reduce bone formation.
Our Integrative Approach
The goal of osteoporosis treatment is the prevention of bone fractures by stopping bone loss and by increasing bone density and strength. While slight bone loss is a normal part of aging, other factors can speed mineral loss from the bones or impede natural bone repair and rebuilding. At the Center for Natural & Integrative Medicine, we offer unique, natural treatments for osteoporosis that not only prevent the loss of bone density, but also help to strengthen and rebuild bone. Our physicians focus on several aspects of osteoporosis—including dietary factors, exercise, nutritional supplementation, and natural hormone therapy — and outline measures you can take to strengthen your bones and avoid becoming another osteoporosis statistic.
Build Your Bones With Proper Diet
There is an established relationship between osteoporosis and diet. Your bones are a mineral bank for your entire body, storing most of the body's calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Poor diet leads to low mineral levels in the blood, and small amounts of bone are then broken down to free up these minerals and deposit them. Excess protein intake also increases the need for calcium, further draining crucial stores and contributing to bone loss.
Exercise Your Way to Stronger Bones
The single most important thing you can do to prevent or reverse osteoporosis is exercise. Stress or strain on bones stimulates the formation and growth of new bone. Regardless of age, people who engage in regular weight-bearing exercise have higher bone density. And the converse is also true - inactivity can make bones brittle.
We can instruct you in a personalized exercise program aimed at strengthening your bones, maintaining musculature, improving flexibility, and comfortably increasing your activity level.
Strengthen Bones With the Right Supplements
Our physicians have great success in preventing and treating osteoporosis using proper nutritional supplementation. Many people know that bone loss is associated with deficiencies in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. However, although bone strength begins with these nutrients, it doesn't end there. Lesser known nutrients that also play a critical role in bone health: zinc, copper, boron, manganese, silica, strontium, and vitamins C and K for starters may also be recommended. Ipriflavone, a compound, synthesized from soy, can help prevent loss of bone density and enhance bone formation, with the net result being a decrease in the incidence of fractures in osteoporotic women.
Natural Hormones Offer Extra-Strength Protection
Estrogen is widely recognized for preventing bone loss in women, but less well known are other hormones—progesterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), testosterone, and human growth hormone (HGH)—that are also intimately involved in bone remodeling. We are well-versed in the safe use of natural hormone replacement therapy to lower risk of osteoporosis, while at the same time offering protection from several other age-related conditions.