What’s the best natural treatment for osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is estimated to affect over two million people in Canada and proportionally affects more women than men.

Muscle and Joint

asktheexpert
Sonia Chartier
@AVogel_ca


22 October 2019

1 – Try a vitamin D supplement

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which keeps bones strong and healthy. In the event of a vitamin D deficiency, the body is less able to absorb calcium, leading to symptoms such as depression, aching joints and poor digestion. What's more, calcium deficiency makes adults more prone to bone fractures and osteoporosis. However, research shows that a sufficient supply of vitamin D slows bone density loss which, in turn, decreases the risk of fracture.1
As vitamin D is largely obtained from exposure to the sun, this problem is common in areas with a limited supply of sunny weather. And people who don't spend enough time outdoors during the day, such as office workers or elderly shut-ins, are also prone to it. Faulty vitamin D receptors and poor dietary intake can also contribute to a deficiency. Foods naturally containing Vitamin D include oily fish, cheese and egg yolks. However, because vegans don't eat these foods, they have to take care to avoid becoming deficient.
TOP TIP: Taking a vitamin D supplement is sensible if you have osteoporosis, as it helps the body absorb calcium, a key mineral for the bones. A liquid supplement is best, as it is generally better absorbed by the body.

2 - Increase magnesium intake

Magnesium is very important for those with osteoporosis as it helps with the absorption of calcium, while also helping to convert vitamin D into its most active form. Vitamin D, as we now know, is also very important for calcium absorption.
Magnesium deficiency, which is more common in western countries, can be countered by eating more wholegrain foods, nuts and dried fruits, as well as by taking a magnesium supplement.

TOP TIP: A liquid supplement is best as it is more readily absorbed into the bloodstream.

3 - Address low stomach acid

Low stomach acid can arise for a number of reasons. It could be a result of age, as we become less efficient at making stomach acid as we get older. Other things that contribute to the problem include stress, poor dietary choices, nutrient deficiencies and infection. Taking antacids for extended periods may also lower levels of stomach acid.

Low stomach acid is a risk factor for osteoporosis as it hinders the body's ability to solubilize and ionize calcium, which plays a very important part in bone maintenance and health.

TOP TIP: Try using bitter herbs such as Centaurium before meals if you have any problems with low stomach acid. It helps digestion and should be taken five minutes before meals.

4 – Tackle stress

Stress is a risk factor for osteoporosis because it reduces digestive ability. Low stomach acid can then arise as a result of poor digestion which, as I've just explained, may then affect calcium levels.
Stress is often accompanied by a lack of sleep and disrupted blood glucose regulation as well. The latter affects bone density, further evidence that stress can be a risk factor for osteoporosis.
TOP TIP: Passion Flower helps ease symptoms of mild stress and anxiety. For additional tips on how to manage stress in the long term, I recommend reading some of the articles found in our stress hub.

5 – Make dietary changes

A diet high in animal protein, caffeine, processed foods and refined sugar can cause high levels of acidity in the bloodstream, which is bad news for bone health. A diet full of fresh produce is definitely a better option. As one particular review concluded, people aren't eating enough fruits and vegetables, despite the fact that the important micronutrients and phytochemicals they contain are useful for bone remodelling.2

This particular review, which looked at the findings of 20 trials evaluating the role of whole foods on bone health, also found evidence suggesting that dried fruits such as prunes could help support bone health, mainly by providing meaningful amounts of vitamin K, manganese, boron, copper and potassium.

Nutrients such as selenium, copper and iron, which are found in a range of foods, may also have roles to play in bone health. We should therefore aim to eat a healthy, varied and balanced diet, particularly during sensitive periods of bone remodelling, such as during menopause.

Research also shows that salt intake can affect calcium levels.3 When sodium intake is too high, the body gets rid of it via the urine—this is good—but also excretes calcium at the same time—definitely not good. High levels of calcium in the urine may contribute to the development of kidney stones, while inadequate levels of calcium in the body can lead to thin bones and osteoporosis. Therefore, to improve bone health, it's important to cut down on salt.

TOP TIP: While it's easy to point a finger at chips and other salty snacks when it comes to high-salt food sources, processed meats, ready meals, white bread and even pre-packaged sauces are just as guilty. As an alternative, why not make some homemade low-salt snacks and meals instead? Our recipe hub is packed with easy recipes you can try.

6 – Avoid sparkling juices and caffeine

High quantities of carbonated juice and caffeine can reduce your body's phosphorus levels, which won't do your bones any favours. High blood phosphate levels negatively affect vitamin D levels and, since the latter nutrient helps to absorb calcium, bones will weaken as a result.
TOP TIP: Swap the lemonade and soft drinks for a refreshing smoothie—we've got a variety of recipes to suit your tastes over on our recipe hub. If you're a coffee lover, our natural Bambu drink offers up an alternative: it's absolutely caffeine free, so it's bone friendly!

7 – Do some moderate exercise

Physical exercise is also very important for strong bones, and inactivity has been linked with an increased chance of osteoporosis. Just 20–30 minutes of walking on a daily basis is a good starting point, but you may also want to try some low impact sports such as swimming and golf. Your healthcare practitioner will also be able to offer information on what kind of exercise classes may be suitable for you.

TOP TIP: Adults need around 160 minutes of exercise a week, so why not do half an hour, five days a week?

Should I take calcium for osteoporosis?

We all know that calcium is beneficial for the bones, right? But did you know that it is actually quite hard to become deficient in calcium because of your diet alone?
Individuals with an eating disorder, elderly people with a deficient diet (because they rely on ready meals or can't get out to the grocery store), and anyone using recreational drugs can be prone to calcium deficiency.
If your diet is varied, though, it's unlikely that you'll become deficient in calcium as a result of what you're eating. Therefore, instead of trying a calcium supplement, you would be wiser to focus more on vitamin D which, as I've explained, helps with calcium absorption.
Furthermore, a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2015 concluded that increasing calcium intake through dietary sources and taking calcium supplements produces only small, non-progressive increases in bone mineral density (BMD), which is unlikely to lead to a clinically significant reduction in the risk of fracture.4 They concluded that we need to do more than just increase our calcium intake if we hope to have healthy bones.
I hope the many options I've provided above will help!
My Top Tip: Calcium Absorber can improve calcium uptake which may, in turn, improve bone density and guard against osteoporosis. Calcium Absorber is a calcium director—it shows calcium where to go (bones, nails, hair) instead of allowing it to be dumped in joints and tissue where it's not wanted. In addition, it can speed up bone healing after fractures, help reduce cramps and strengthen nails, plus it may help restless leg syndrome.

Our Calcium Absorber Tablets are very easy to take as they are very small and can be crushed if necessary. They're suitable for long-term use and can be taken with or without foods and liquids.

References

1 Feskanich et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77(2): 504-511
2 Higgs J, Derbyshire E and Styles K. Nutrition and osteoporosis prevention for the orthopaedic surgeon: a wholefoods approach. EFORT Open Reviews 2017; 2 (6): 300-308
3 Wanling, Pan et al. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2012 Apr 15; 302(8): F943-F956. Published online 2011 Sep 21. Doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00504.2010. PMCID: PMC3330715
4 Tai V et al. Calcium intake and bone mineral density: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal 2015; 351: h4183.
https://osteoporosis.ca/about-the-disease/fast-facts/