Osteoporosis, one of the most common bone diseases, is characterized by excessive loss of calcified matrix and collagenous fibers of bone. Holes or pores are formed as bone tissue is lost, increasing the risk of fracture.
Osteoporosis may be primary or secondary. Primary osteoporosis as defined by western medicine, is of unknown origin, occurs with aging, accelerates with menopause, and has no direct or singular cause. There are two types of primary osteoporosis, Type I, which involves losses of trabecular bone, and Type II, which involves losses of cortical and trabecular bone.
Secondary osteoporosis has a direct cause. It can be due to endocrine abnormalities, bone marrow disorders, connective tissue disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, renal disorders, and due to some prescription drugs. An effort should be made to rule out the above anytime excessive bone loss occurs.
Primary osteoporosis can be prevented through proper diet, supplementation, and lifestyle modifications. Many nutrients are required to build bone. The minerals boron, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, silica, and zinc; the vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, folic acid, K, and essential fatty acids are all involved in the bone building process. The Standard American Diet is deficient in many of the above nutrients, thus conducive to poor bone health. This diet also contains many excesses that can be considered as bone robbing. The high phosphoric acid content of many American diets due to the consumption of excess soda and other carbonated beverages has been linked to a higher rate of bone fractures. The high content of sodium from consuming processed foods results in a 20% increase in urinary calcium. High sugar intake increases urinary excretion of calcium, magnesium, chromium, copper and zinc. Diets high in the wrong types of fat (transfatty acids, hydrogenated, high quantity of saturated) may result in an increased incidence of osteoporotic fracture.
To the contrary, essential fatty acids are important for bone health. Nutrient deficiencies must be addressed. One example of how a single nutrient lacking in the diet can result in weakening the skeletal system can be provided by magnesium. Magnesium stimulates the thyroid’s production of the bone preserving hormone calcitonin, which is necessary for the conversion of vitamin D into its active form, and is required by an enzyme necessary for the formation of new calcium crystals. It is easy to understand why a deficiency of this one mineral can result in vitamin D resistance syndrome, hyperparathyroidism (in which excess parathyroid hormone is produced, causing the withdrawal of calcium from bone), and thus is a causative factor in osteoporosis. Hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) may also lead to deficiencies, since an acid medium is required for the absorption of certain minerals, especially calcium. Calcium citrate or citrate malate may circumvent low stomach acid production as a route to absorption.
However, it is better to correct the underlying problem as it can lead to other chronic conditions. Since each individual has a unique biochemistry, a proper bone building diet must incorporate healthy foods that contain all essential nutrients, specifically tailored and adjusted for food sensitivities, allergies, carbohydrate sensitivity, level of activity, and current state of health. Lean protein sources, fish, low fat dairy (if not allergic), or dairy substitutes formulated to match the nutritional profile of dairy (soy milk, rice milk, etc.), legumes (especially those containing isoflavones), whole grains, seeds, nuts, cold pressed oils (such as flax), vegetables (especially dark leafy greens), and fruits should compose the diet. Supplementation should be considered to ensure that all essential nutrients are acquired in optimal amounts. Totals from food should be factored in prior to choosing a dosage. Doses should be adjusted for each individual by a certified nutritionist.
The isoflavone ipriflavone has been found to stimulate the activity of bone building osteoblasts, and inhibit the effects of osteoclasts, the cells responsible for bone resorption. In addition, it enhances the utilization of calcium. The current dose is 200mg three times per day with meals. Other isoflavones found in soy can increase bone formation in the lumbar spine and prevent dowager’s hump.
Lifestyle factors negatively and positively affect bone health. Smoking is toxic to the liver, depletes the body of vitamin C, and decreases blood levels of estrogen. Alcohol inhibits absorption and increases excretion of calcium, magnesium, C, zinc, copper, and inhibits B6 functioning.
Inactivity is associated with poor bone health. However, regular strength training sessions, three to four times per week, will help increase bone formation. Tension applied to bone by the actions of the muscles during weight lifting stimulates bone regeneration.
Osteoporosis doesn’t have to occur. By eliminating dietary components and lifestyle factors that are detrimental to the skeletal system, and exchanging those with behaviors such as acquiring an optimal intake of all bone building nutrients from diet and supplements, adding isoflavones, and partaking in a regular strength training program, one can enjoy having a strong healthy skeletal system throughout their life.