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Article Archive >> Featured Topics

Alternative Approaches: Osteoporosis and Herbs -

Alternative Approaches
Osteoporosis and Herbs -
Nourish Your Way to Strong Bones

What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis means porous bone. Throughout the early part of your life bone formation outpaces resorption. Around age 35-40 bone breakdown starts to outpace bone formation. Osteoclasts dissolve the bone faster than osteoblasts can build the bone and your bones get holes in them - osteoporosis.
Throughout your lifetime, you constantly lose and gain bone mass. This continuous cycle of formation and breakdown of bone is known as bone remodeling. Osteoclasts dissolve old or damaged parts of the bone in what is called resorption. Resorption dissolves crystallized calcium and other minerals in the bones returning them to the blood. This leaves small spaces in the bone. Cells called osteoblasts create new bone to fill these spaces in. In forming new bone, calcium and other minerals are taken from the blood and crystallized in the bone.
Decline in bone mass after the age of 35-40 (about 2% per year) is greater in women than in men because of lower bone density prior to the age of 40. Postmenopausal osteoporosis is the most common form of osteoporosis. Approximately one in four postmenopausal women have osteoporosis. Osteoporosis affects more than 20 million women and 5 million men in the United States.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
There is more to osteoporosis than lack of dietary calcium. It is a complex condition involving hormonal, lifestyle, nutritional, and environmental factors.
Osteoporosis involves both the mineral (inorganic) and non-mineral (organic matrix composed primarily of protein) components of bone. In osteoporosis, there is a lack of calcium and of other minerals as well as a decrease in the non-mineral framework (organic matrix) of bone.
Bone is a living tissue and normal bone metabolism is dependent on an intricate interplay of many nutritional and hormonal factors, with the liver and kidneys having a regulatory effect. Over two-dozen nutrients are necessary for optimal bone health.
You can develop low bone density in two ways. You can have accelerated loss of bone mass - like women in menopause do. You can also have slowed bone growth - which is harder to correct than accelerated loss of bone. The goal in prevention is to foster the appropriate interrelationship between resorption (breaking down) and formation (making new bone). There are many chemicals in the body that regulate the starting and stopping of resorption and formation including thyroid and parathyroid hormones, growth hormones, estrogen and testosterone, and others. The rate at which bone is made is also affected by how much calcium you ingest and how much calcium is absorbed and how it is utilized in the body (all of which is regulated by a series of hormones). Also, the amount of stress that is placed on the bone through weight bearing exercises influences the growth of bone.
During the course of your life, you go through four phases of bone development. In the first phase - which runs from infancy through adolescence - you build bone. The sex hormones that drive puberty also spur bone growth and half of all bone forms during the teenage years.
In the second phase of bone development, you reach peak bone density - by your mid to late 20s - and stay there for about a decade. Around the age of 35 years you enter the third phase where you begin to experience a slow decline in bone mass (0.5-2%). During the five to ten years after menopause, women will experience an increase in loss of bone mass (3-5% per year) because of the decrease in estrogen and progesterone.
Somewhere around 65 years of age you enter phase four wherein the rate of bone loss slows to about 1 percent per year for the rest of your life. However, in phase four your rate of bone formation starts slowing down in addition to the loss of bone mass. We absorb less calcium and make less vitamin D, have less efficient digestion and lower than optimal levels of hormones. By age 80 women have lost about two-thirds of their skeletons - about 30-40% of their total bone mass (men have lost 20-30%).
After bone loss starts, your risk of fracture increase 1 1/2 times each decade. The younger you are when your bone loss begins or quickens the higher your risk of fracture will be later in life.
What You Can Do To Prevent Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a lifestyle disease that begins in childhood. The best way to avoid low bone density is to reach the point where your bones start to lose bone mass with the healthiest, densest bones you can. The only chance you get to create the best bone density you can is when you are very young - from birth to adolescence. Once you are past adolescence, your window of opportunity is closed. After adolescence, you have to take the next best strategy - protecting your bones.
It is never too late to start taking the steps to prevent, protect, and reverse osteoporosis. With a comprehensive program of dietary and lifestyle modifications along with the use of selected herbs, you can make your bones healthy at any age.
Dietary Modifications
Include several servings of high calcium foods a day.
Eat at least 4 cups of vegetables a day. In addition, eat 1 cup of green leafy vegetables a day.
Eat more plant foods overall- like grains and legumes.
Eat 35-60 grams of soy protein a day. Check first to make sure you are not allergic or sensitive to soy.
Decrease consumption of soda.
Avoid high protein diets. The average protein intake should be about 1 gram of protein for every 2.2 pounds of bodyweight.
Reduce caffeine.
Reduce salt.
Reduce refined sugar.
Reduce saturated fat.
Avoid heavy alcohol use.
Increase your intake of foods rich in magnesium and vitamin D.
Improve digestion to ensure adequate absorption of nutrients and maintain adequate stomach acid.
Lifestyle Modifications
Do at least 30-60 minutes of weight bearing exercise three to five times a week.
Strength training.
Yoga, tai chi or qi gong.
Herbal Support
Bone Health Herbal Tonic
* Horsetail- may be a useful source of minerals, especially silica and calcium in a form that can be easily used by the body in the production and repair of bone and connective tissue.
* Burdock- may assist in providing the bones with a rich and pure supply of blood in order to heal.
* Echinacea- may have an important healing effect on healing bone and connective tissue by inhibiting the enzyme hyaluronidase; may prevent the pathogenic destruction of connective tissue.
* Dandelion- may assist in providing an acid environment for maximum digestibility of calcium.
Calcium Raising Herbal Infusion
* Nettles- a rich source of micronutrients that are vital for flexible bones; source of vitamin K, which is crucial for calcium absorption
* Horsetail- helps restore bone density through synergistic mineral action: helps bones thicken and stabilize
* Dandelion- increase hydrochloric acid production to increase absorption of calcium
* Red Clover- calcium rich herb
* Raspberry- calcium rich herb
* Oatstraw- a calcium rich herb, which is also magnesium rich; magnesium is needed for calcium absorption
Remember, it is never too early or too late to start taking steps to prevention of osteoporosis.
Consumerlab.com is building a database of natural remedy brands that it tests and rates. Not all are yet available.
Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration has a program called MEDWATCH for people to report adverse reactions to untested substances, such as herbal remedies and vitamins (800-332-1088).
A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions.

Mary Ann Copson, a Certified Licensed Nutritionist and Wellness and Life Coach is the founder of the Evenstar Mood & Energy Wellness Center for Women. You can visit her online at www.evenstaronline.com or reach her by phone at 434-263-4996.

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