Can You Prevent, Even Turn Around, Osteoporosis?

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Yes. Effective, Natural Therapies Stop Bone Loss

Osteoporosis affects up to 44 million Americans. Long considered a woman's problem because of its female hormone involvement, osteoporosis affects from 35 to 50 percent of women in the first five years after menopause. Men also suffer in far more substantial numbers than once believed. By age 75, one-third of all men are affected by osteoporosis.

Most people have no idea their bones are becoming progressively weaker and more brittle until they actually sustain an injury or fracture.

Are drugs the answer?
Over 800,000 women in the U.S. today take Fosamax (Alendronate sodium), the first nonhormonal drug approved to treat osteoporosis. Fosamax belongs to a class of drugs called "bisphosphonates" which inhibit the action of osteoclasts, the cells in the skeleton that break down bone.

Esophageal injury caused by this drug is a real threat. And now, leading health experts believe Fosamax actually blocks bone resorption, the process which removes weakening bones to allow space for new healthlybone growth.

Long before the introduction of Fosamax, the leading drug treatment for osteoporosis was based on HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Today it is still strongly promoted; many menopausal women are so afraid of osteoporosis that with a little coaxing from their physicians they begin taking hormone drugs right away. Of those, about 60 percent discontinue the therapy because of side effects or fear of cancer!

What causes osteoporosis?
The answers may surprise you. There is no question that hormones are involved in bone building and bone loss, but declining estrogen levels after menopause do not by themselves cause osteoporosis. Although some tests find estrogen does inhibit bone cell death, other tests find that as many as 15 percent of women on estrogen therapy continue to lose bone. Estrogen isn't the only hormone involved in bone building. The hormone progesterone actually increases bone density in clinical tests. Some medical experts find progesterone therapy even reverses osteoporosis in some women. In addition, low androgen levels of DHEA and testosterone also play a role in bone loss, particularly in men's osteoporosis.

You can learn more about your own bone health. Get a bone mineral density (BMD) measurement test through your doctor or local pharmacy. Or check your osteoporosis risk by a simple test. Use pH paper (found in some laboratory supply stores and college bookstores) to test your urine pH. A habitual reading below pH 7 (acid) usually means calcium and bone loss. Above pH 7 (alkaline) indicates a low risk.

After more than 20 years of working with osteoporosis, I find the most successful treatment involves not only balancing (normalizing) hormone levels but also improving lifestyle and dietary habits that we know accelerate bone loss. Following are some of the dangerous lifestyle and dietary habits to avoid.

Poor Nutrition
A low nutrition, processed foods diet sets the stage for bone loss.

Minerals are important. Lack of minerals means low thyroid function and poor collagen protein development, which contribute to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is highly bound to food-enzyme activity. If you don't eat enough fresh plant foods, you probably have low enzymes and poor digestion. I find this is especially true for older men at risk who try to correct digestive problems with handfuls of antacids.

There is a clear relationship between high protein consumption and osteoporosis. According to The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, when protein consumption is doubled, calcium loss increases 50 percent.

Over-acid blood from overeating red meats, sodas, caffeine foods and alcohol puts you at risk for bone loss. Soda warning: USDA research finds that men who consume five cans of cola a day for three months absorb less calcium, increasing risk for bone deterioration and injuries or breaks.

Got milk? If your diet is high in milk and dairy products you may be MORE at risk for osteoporosis! A 12-year Harvard Nurses Health study of over 78,000 women reveals that high intake of milk and dairy products does NOT reduce bone breaks. In fact, proteins in milk can actually CAUSE calcium loss through the urine.

Constant dieting may be weakening your bones. A recent study shows that for each 10 percent drop in weight, there is a two-fold increase in the risk of hip fractures in older women. When blood calcium levels become low from a severe weight loss diet, bones release their calcium to keep the rest of the body running smoothly. Even taking calcium supplements may not be enough to maintain bone mass during dieting. Women who crash diet regularly show up with estrogen deficiency, also involved in bone loss.

Poor Lifestyle Habits
• Too little exercise stunts healthy bone development.

• Too little sunlight means less vitamin D is available for bone building.

• Smoking interferes with your body's calcium and estrogen production. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals women smokers have 10 percent lower bone density and are more vulnerable to fractures than non-smokers.

• Depression may cause bone loss. German researchers find men and women with a history of severe depression have 15 percent lower bone density in their lower spines than non-depressed people.

• Overusing steroids or antibiotics severely reduces mineral absorption.

• Believe it or not, drinking fluoridated water is another risk factor. New studies link hip fractures to fluoridated water. Here's why: Fluoridated water literally leaches calcium from the bones.

Warning Signs
Since bone loss is greatest in the spine, hips and ribs, osteoporosis symptoms begin to show up as chronic back and leg pain. Bone pain may also occur in the spine, affecting the cranial nerves.

Bone tends to draw away from the teeth, causing them to loosen and, in some instances, fall out. Unusual or unusually frequent dental problems are also a sign.

Vision defects or facial tics may also occur due to bone marrow obliteration.

You don't have to let osteoporosis steal your health.
Start today to build up your bones, even if you've already been diagnosed with the disease. Here are the best, most thoroughly researched natural therapies for osteoporosis treatment and prevention I know of today.

My Healthy Healing Program for Almost Unbreakable Bones
The following recommendations are effective for bone strength against osteoporosis and as part of a healing program to arrest and improve the disease in every stage. Specific recommendations are noted for men and women.

Start with diet improvements.
Avoid high salt foods (most snack foods and processed foods) and alcohol; both are linked to osteoporosis.

Reduce your protein intake from red meat and dairy products. They disrupt pH balance and lead to mineral loss. Protein from fresh fish, legumes, vegetables and sea greens is better assimilated.

Have a green superfood drink daily for super nutrition and system alkalizing.

Drink more high nutrient juices, especially carrot and orange.

One 8-ounce glass of fresh, organic carrot juice has 300-400 mg of bioavailable, high assimilation calcium. (An 8-ounce glass of fortified milk only has about 250 mg with low assimilation.)

Add sea greens to your diet, like nori, wakame, dulse, kombu and kelp (2 tablespoons daily, snipped into salads, soups, rice, even pizzas, or take capsules). Sea greens offer bone-building minerals and fat soluble vitamins, like D and K, which boost your adrenal glands production of steroidal hormones like estrogen, progesterone and DHEA, prime supports for bone health during menopause.

Research published in the British Journal of Rheumatology shows men's osteoporosis often results from malabsorption of nutrients. Sprouted grains are a good way for men to increase their enzyme action and nutrient assimilation. Men really benefit from enzyme therapy. Add a targeted, high potency enzyme supplement daily.

Eat high vitamin C foods regularly like kiwis, oranges, grapefruit and potatoes to stimulate collagen production for added bone strength and flexibility.

Boost your minerals.
Calcium isn't the only mineral involved in bone health--dearly many minerals are important to bone density. Modern farming techniques regularly leach minerals from the soil; hardly anyone gets enough minerals from foods today. Massive water fluoridation across the U.S. means many Americans are losing even more calcium with every sip of their tap water. Your bones need a full range of minerals and supportive nutrients for ongoing health from veggies like broccoli, kale and collard greens, and herbs like oatstraw, kelp, dulse, burdock, dandelion, borage seed and lobelia. I'm a firm believer that for maximum bone building, high quality plant mineral supplements are necessary.

Women, consider a mineral-rich herbal formula with supportive plant-hormone protection. For men who don't get enough minerals from their diet or who live in a fluoridated community--an electrolyte mineral formulation helps shore up deficiencies.

Silica therapy helps. Silica strengthens the entire connective tissue system, including collagen, ligaments, bones, hair and skin. Silica therapy bonus: healthier, shiny hair, stronger nails and soft, supple skin.

Note: Avoid fluorescent lighting, electric blankets, aluminum cookware, non-filtered computer screens, etc. All tend to leach calcium from the body.

Hormone balancing (not merely replacing) therapy is a key.

Even though estrogen has been the mainstay of conventional therapy, progesterone increases bone mass and may even reverse osteoporosis in some women.

The supplement ipriflavone, synthesized from isoflavones (natural plant estrogens), is a new leader in natural osteoporosis treatment. Studies find ipriflavone inhibits bone cell death and may even increase new bone growth. Note: Use ipriflavone with caution if you have kidney disease. In addition, ipriflavone may increase blood levels of certain prescription drugs. Theophylline (for asthma), tolbutamide (for diabetes), phenytoin (for epilepsy), warfarin (a blood thinner), and caffeine have all been implicated in this interaction. Ask your medical doctor if you're unsure.

For older men who may be at risk, I recommend adding hormone recharging herbs like sarsaparilla, saw palmetto, and panax ginseng, one of the only known herbs to contain plant testosterone.

Pump iron.
Studies find men and women who do regular weight-bearing exercises have denser bones than those who don't. Bones can rebuild themselves but only when they're used. A sedentary lifestyle increases osteoporosis risk. Power walking has good clinical proof behind it for bones, so do aerobic workouts like Tae Bo; weight-bearing exercise three to four times a week can be paramount to recovery from osteoporosis. It is also an important preventive, particularly for men and women under 35 whose bone mass is still growing. Consult with a qualified health professional to find out what exercises are right for you.

Don't wait to start taking care of your bones. Osteoporosis CAN be prevented and arrested with a natural healing program. For an even more complete osteoporosis program, see my new book, Cooking For Healthy Healing, Book One--The Healing Diets. Available at stores, at www.healthyhealing.com, or 888-447-2939.

Resources:
"Disease Statistics," National Osteoporosis Foundation, 2002. "Put Osteoporosis Diagnosis and Treatment in Perspective," The John R. Lee, M.D. Medical Letter, October 1998.

"Alendronate (Fosamax) Alert: New Drug May Cause Injury," www.mayohealth.org, October 24, 1996.

Sofia, Virginia M, M.Ed., "Alternative to Hormone Replacement for Menopause," Alternatives Therapies, March 1996, Vol. 2, No. 2.

Harkness, Richard, Pharm., FASCP and Stephen Bratman, M.D. Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions Bible. Prima Publishing, c 2000.

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By Linda Page, N.D., Ph.D.

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