Who thinks osteoporosis is a disease that only affects elderly woman because they have fragile little bones due to loss of calcium? Let’s see a show of hands. Whoever has their hands up out there, you’re wrong – possibly dead wrong.
While it’s true that osteoporosis affects more women than men (1 in 4 women versus 1 in 8 men to be exact), when it comes to this disease age is nothing but a number. Bone mass should be at an all time high between ages 27 – 33. While this is well and good, the problem lies with the facts. Cold hard facts and one has proven that most of us don’t start taking bone-building supplements until we’re already past our “prime” and miss out on early preventative measures. Couple that with the sad statistics that 53% of young adults are already so unhappy with their bodies that they take extreme measure to lose weight (particularly the 1% that is anorexic), that a sad 38% of teens and young adults don’t get enough exercise, and that diets are the poorest they’ve ever been (high in sugar and caffeine, low in beneficial nutrients) and you’ve got more people losing bone mass in their early 20’s now than ever before.
And even if you are a pretty young thing, don’t even think osteoporosis cannot lead to death. A very small portion of the public knows that 20% of those with hip fractures die and another 20% will never get out of long term care facilities – no matter what their age.
Osteoporosis Myth Busters
So enough scaring you with the strtling but very honest truth. The real reason we’re here is to free you from the myths you might’ve heard about osteoporosis and fill you in on more of the facts. Let’s take a look at the top myths surrounding this sometimes lethal disease.
Myth 1: Age Brings on Osteoporosis
This is absolutely false. A strong, healthy woman’s body – regardless of her age – will be able to withstand the day to day stresses her body faces. After menopause, it’s true that bone loss does start to decline but in a very natural way that still allows the bones to renew and mend with ease. As you learned above, age is nothing but a number when it comes to osteoporosis.
What does bring on osteoporosis are some of the aforementioned factors including unhealthy diets, little to no exercise, hormonal imbalances, internal inflammation, unbalanced PH levels, low Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Magnesium levels, chronic stress, and the use of prescription meds.
Myth 2: Low Calcium Intake Causes Osteoporosis
Two of the biggest contributors to low calcium are Vitamin D and Magnesium deficiency. Nearly 68% of us do not get our daily dose of magnesium and with the recent “sun care scare” so many people are coating themselves with so much sunscreen that America is highly deficient in Vitamin D.
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is derived from, you guessed it, the sun. While those who are obese, dark skinned, or those who don’t get outdoors enough are obviously at high risk of deficiency, a new crop of people at risk are those who think they’re doing the right thing by listening to their dermatologist. While sun care is certainly preventative of skin cancer and wrinkles, a certain amount of sunshine is a necessity to healthy Vitamin D intake. Even if your body has the right amount of calcium present, if there isn’t enough D around, only 10-15% of the calcium will be absorbed. Those who get the right amount of the vitamin often increase intake by 30-40% and, in these same individuals, osteoporosis prevention rates soar.
While Magnesium can certainly help the body intake calcium, its biggest role is bone formation. It is the co-factor, along with partner calcium, in all bone turnover. Even our buddy Vitamin D needs Magnesium. We now know that Vitamin D is needed for proper absorption but Magnesium is needed in order for the liver to turn the D over into its active form, called calcitriol. If this activation does not occur, the body will have a Vitamin D resistance which will lead to facts we learned about previously; only 10-15% calcium absorption – a leading factor in osteoporosis.
Calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D come full circle in the fight against osteoporosis. You simply can’t have one without the other or the cycle doesn’t complete itself. Aside from supplements, you can get these vitamins from foods like dairy, fruits, veggies, and of course, some SPF free sun time (just don’t go crazy here – 15-20 minutes three times per week will do.)
Myth 3: Osteoporosis is Due to Faulty Bones
For healthy individuals osteoporosis is actually a miraculous response that proves just how intelligent our bodies are. We are all made up with extra bone mass. Thus if mineral loss occurs the body can pull from those additional masses to make up for the lost resources and keep many internal functions, including all important PH balance, in line. And contrary to popular believe, our body can then reproduce bone matter in a just a few weeks to repair the losses.
Unfortunately many individuals fall prey to “doctors orders” when it comes to osteoporosis. Instead of taking a healthier, natural approach, they load up on prescription meds like Fosamax. As you learned earlier, meds can actually begin to deplete the body of calcium for one. Secondly, many of these “bone building” drugs actually stop the natural bone breakdown/buildup process that helps maintain strong bones. Instead a drug like Fosamax will simply harden the existing bone. Although it may look like it is increasing density, many radiographic techniques can’t pick up on the fact that it isn’t new bone but rather the old bones hardened.
Prevention is Key
Early prevention is key. Don’t wait until the osteoporosis has begun to form. Instead, get to know both the risk and beneficial factors and put them to good use as soon as possible.
Start now by cutting out the enemies – refined sugar, caffeine, and smoking. Not only does this trio zap calcium they can also cause weight gain, acne, collagen loss, addiction, PCOS, and other extreme disadvantages within the structure of the body that will begin to show themselves only over time; when you are just too late for early prevention. While you’re at it, quite drinking alcohol and taking antiacids and prescription drugs (if you can). This is a key step in regaining your natural calcium balance.
Your body needs more than calcium alone to restore the skeletal system. It also needs many other minerals and vitamins that help your body absorb calcium and maintain healthy collagen levels. (Note: Collagen isn’t just in the skin – another misinformed public myth. It is like the “glue” that holds our entire skeletal system together.) Magnesium is one of the most important of them all since it helps the bones absorb calcium. Facts lead docs to believe most women with osteoporosis actually have a magnesium deficiency, not a calcium one. Zinc, copper, beta carotene, and vitamins C and E are also particularly important to collagen reproduction.
Add to that a balanced diet. Avoid items like sugary calcium drinks or antacids with calcium. And although supplements are beneficial in aiding bone renewal, getting the right minerals and vitamins shouldn’t be left to supplements alone. Get the real thing from calcium rich resources like snow peas, broccoli, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, beet and turnip greens; almonds, figs, beans, yogurt and cottage cheese. Get your dose of calcium helper, magnesium, from whole gains, wheat bran, leafy green veggies, nuts (especially yummy almonds), beans, bananas, and apricots.
Finally, add some exercise into your routine. Whether it’s for fifteen minutes daily or an hour three times per week, fit in a brisk walk followed up by some repetitive weight lifting exercises. Not only will these help increase your bone density, extra weight exercise will help you build lean muscle masses and shed a few extra pounds as a bonus to all of your healthy, hard work.
The bottom line is that our bodies require micronutrients and minerals to carry out their daily functions. Our bones are built on these minerals. They’re also maintained by the vitamin D we make from sunshine and by the stimulation of regular movement. If you stop and listen to the wisdom of your body, you’ll see that many of the factors that promote strong bones come instinctually. Just as a plant knows to take water into its roots or open its leaves for the sun, you too have Nature’s prescription for bone health written in your genes. Forget the myths and listen to your body.
Kassie Kuehl is a respected leader in, and advocate for, natural health and beauty care. The founder of Kasia natural line of skin care and stylist for Kasia Organic Salon, Kassie combines her experience as a nutrition coach with her ongoing Functional Medicine research to apply a whole of body “Beautiful Health’ approach to hair care and styling. She can be found at www.kasiaorganicsalon.com.