Osteoporosis (porous bone) is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Men and Women can be impacted by osteoporosis, often called a silent disease because one can’t feel bones weakening. Breaking a bone is often the first sign of osteoporosis or a patient may notice that he or she is getting shorter or their upper back is curving forward.
Natural Changes in Bone with Age:
Bones naturally become thinner as people grow older because, beginning in middle age, existing bone cells are reabsorbed by the body faster than new bone is made. As this occurs, the bones lose minerals, heaviness (mass), and structure, making them weaker and increasing their risk of breaking. All people begin losing bone mass after they reach peak bone density at about 30 years of age. The thicker your bones are at about age 30, the longer it takes to develop osteopenia or osteoporosis. This is why the most important time to focus on building healthy bones is in the first 3 decades of life.
Complications from a Break:
Breaking a bone is a serious complication of osteoporosis, especially with older patients. Osteoporotic bone breaks are most likely to occur in the hip, spine or wrist, but other bones can break too.
Osteoporosis increases fracture risk, causing a huge amount of personal suffering and loss of quality of life. Limiting mobility, feelings of isolation or depression, as well as a high correlation between hip fractures and an increased risk of death within one year from either complications related to the broken bone itself or the surgery to repair it.
There are several factors that can increase the chance of developing osteoporosis:
Inherent Risk factors (not changeable)
1. Family history: bone mass tends to be transmitted genetically. Those with a family history of osteoporosis bone fractures and other bone disorders should pay extra attention to their bone health and nutrition.
2. Age: Bones grow weaker over time and the risk of developing osteoporosis increases with age
3. Ethnicity: Caucasians are the more likely to develop Osteoporosis
4. Gender: Women are much more likely to develop this condition due to their smaller bone density and the physical impact of menopause. But this does not mean men are spared. At least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime.
Changeable Risk Factors
1. Inactivity: lacking in exercise increases bone weakness over time. Increase weight bearing exercise activity to strengthen and maintain bone density.
2. Smoking: Quit Smoking, Smoking interferes with the Calcium/Vitamin D absorption process
3. Alcohol: Avoid it. Alcohol can alter hormones responsible for calcium distribution and
interrupts the natural bone reconstruction process.
4. Increasing bone building nutrients in your diet. Not just calcium intake
Dietary Patterns Impact Calcium Loss:
- Diets high in animal protein increase calcium loss due to high renal acid load.
- Diets high in Veggies & Fruit help to keep calcium in bone where it belongs. This is due to high potassium and bicarbonate load linked to improved bone health. Resulting in increased bone mineral density and lowering of fracture rate.
- The answer to bone health is more complicated then just increasing calcium via milk/dairy products. We need a strategy that puts and keeps calcium and other nutrients in bones!! High animal protein diets are associated with high hip fracture rates (across populations)
- As dietary Plant protein goes up – fracture rates go down. Strong, healthy, fracture resistant bones require 17 nutrients – including calcium.
Brick wall Metaphor: Calcium represents the bricks in this metaphor. Other nutrients act as the mortar of the brick wall. Only focusing on increasing the bricks without strengthening the whole structure – obviously doesn’t reduce fracture risk.
“Mortar” Nutrients include:
- Vitamin: C, K, A, B6, folic acid, D
- Minerals: Boron, copper, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorous, silica, zinc, Strontium
- Macronutrients: Essential fatty acids, protein
- There is more calcium in our bodies then any other mineral, yet there are not many foods loaded with it. Although dairy products contain a significant amount of calcium, there are many other sources. Non dairy sources include: Bok choy, Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, Soybeans/tofu, Beans/Chickpeas, Salmon, sardines (with bones) etc.
- Calcium from vegetables is not easily absorbed by the body. Greens need to be steamed in order to absorb the calcium. Eating an iron rich food, such as red meat, at the same time can cut down on calcium absorption. On the other hand, a Vit C rich food eaten at the same time can give calcium a boost. Most fruits and veggies are high in Vitamin C.
Healthcare providers can have direct impact on Osteoporosis by educating patients. Optimal bone health results from stepping back from a single nutrient approach (ie. just calcium) and instead:
1. Increasing Veggies & Fruit
2. Limit protein from animal sources
3. Weight bearing Exercises Regularly
4. Getting enough Vitamin D
5. Getting Calcium and Mortar Nutrients from Plant Sources
Need a bone health checkup? Call 902.444.3303 to book an appointment with one of our Naturopathic Doctors.