Disclaimer: Please consult your own medical team before starting any treatment for a condition. This article is for information purposes only.
So it turns out that I have a new diagnosis. Osteoporosis is a scary disease. Like who wants to worry about breaking their bones while doing everyday activities? I’ve been doing a lot of research about treatment of osteoporosis and I’m left with many questions and decisions to make. Treatment for osteoporosis is complicated by the serious side effects that osteoporosis medications can cause.
If you would like to read about my shoulder fracture which led to the diagnosis of osteoporosis, click here.
What Is Osteoporosis?
According to The Mayo Clinic:
“Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine.
“Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the loss of old bone.”
“Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women — especially older women who are past menopause — are at highest risk. Medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.”
What Causes Osteoporosis?
“Your bones are in a constant state of renewal — new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and your bone mass increases. After the early 20s this process slows, and most people reach their peak bone mass by age 30. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it’s created.”
Risk Factors For Osteoporosis
General Risk Factors
- Women are much more likely to get osteoporosis than men. Your risk is higher if you are white or of Asian descent
- Risk increases with age.
- If you have a parent with osteoporosis you are at higher risk.
- If you have a smaller frame you are more at risk of developing Osteoporosis.
- Hormone issues: too low levels of estrogen or testosterone, overactive parathyroid, thyroid, or adrenal glands increase the risk.
Dietary Risk Factors
- A lifetime of low calcium intake
- Eating disorders that severely limit intake of food, and cause extreme weight loss.
- Gastrointestinal surgeries- these can result in decreased absorption of the vitamins and minerals needed for bone health
- Severe intestinal diseases that impact absorption of nutrients.
Medications That Impact Bone Health
The following types of medications can cause bone loss:
- Seizure medicines
- Cancer treatments
- Organ Transplant Rejection medications
Medical Conditions Related To Bone Loss
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Kidney or liver disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Lifestyle Choices That Impact Bone Health
- “Sedentary lifestyle. People who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do those who are more active. Any weight-bearing exercise and activities that promote balance and good posture are beneficial for your bones, but walking, running, jumping, dancing and weightlifting seem particularly helpful.”
- “Excessive alcohol consumption. Regular consumption of more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases your risk of osteoporosis.”
- “Tobacco use. The exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn’t clear, but it has been shown that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.”
The worst complications of osteoporosis are hip or spinal fractures, because they can greatly impact your ability to be independent. Fractures are also very painful to live with.
Natural Options: Exercise
The first natural option is exercise, since sitting too much weakens our muscles and our bones. Check out this Mayo Clinic article on Exercising with osteoporosis: Stay active the safe way This article has videos of upper arm exercises to do, and tips for what activities to avoid. I am incorporating these exercises into my daily life. Plus, I am trying to walk for 30 minutes on most days.
Natural Options: Nutrition
This topic is where I found a variety of opinions about how to eat to improve our bone health. The first dietary recommendation I found was the idea of eating low-acid producing foods to preserve the calcium in our bones. This New York Times article Exploring a Low-Acid Diet For Bone Health does a good job of explaining in layman’s terms the science behind this diet plan.
The article noted that there is a higher rate of osteoporosis and fractures in the United States than there is in Asian countries. Western countries eat more protein from meat and more dairy products than do the people who live in Asian countries. The low-acid theory has been proposed as a possible explanation for this difference.
According to this article, “the theory of low-acid eating, (is) a diet laden with fruits and vegetables but relatively low in acid-producing protein and moderate in cereal grains.”
Save Our Bones is a website that promotes the low-acid diet as a way to preserve and increase bone strength. They recommend eating a ratio of 80% alkaline-producing foods vs 20% acid-producing foods per meal. So if you divide your plate into 4 sections, three of them should contain veggies and fruits, and only one section should contain proteins, and grains.
I purchased their Osteoporosis Reversal Program to learn more about how to improve my bone strength without resorting to medications. It includes charts of acid-producing, and alkaline-producing foods. I’m still in the process of learning how to use this program.
This site has a ton of information about bone health, osteoporosis medications, and recipes for bone health.
FYI: I found this research report about the low-acid eating theory interesting. If you like research studies you may enjoy this: Dietary protein and bone health: harmonizing conflicting theories
This article gives a good overview of the medications doctors prescribe to treat osteoporosis: Osteoporosis Treatment: Medications Can Help
However, the more I read about osteoporosis medicines, the less I want to take any of them.
The most concerning truth is that these medications increase bone density by preventing the creation of new bone cells. Our bones break down old bone and build up new bone all the time. These medications work by preventing the break down of old bone. By doing this they stop the creation of new bone as well. Every one of these medications can cause fractures due to brittle bones!!!
Yes, they increase the denseness of the bones on DEXA scans, but they do not increase the health of the bones. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want another fracture. Plus, I do not want to have to worry about my jaw bone decaying in my head.
Here is an article that talks about the side effects of bisphosphanates: Side Effects of Bisphosphonate Medications These medicines are usually the first ones prescribed for osteoporosis.
For example, my doctor prescribed Fosamax for me, because that is what Medicare would pay for. It was one tablet every week. When I took the second dose I got severe nausea and stomach pain, and I felt like the tablet was stuck in my throat even after swallowing 16 ounces of water. It took a week bfore my stomach felt back to normal. That was the end of Fosamax for me.
Wrap-Up Of Osteoporosis Part: 1
Next week, I’ll continue with supplements for bone health, and natural sources of calcium in our food. If you have any questions. please let me know, and I’ll search for the answers for you.
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Till next week, take care of yourself, Kathy