Osteoporosis is a condition in which bone density is significantly reduced, with loss of both minerals and the protein 'matrix' of bone. This causes the bones to become weaker, resulting in ongoing pain and, at an advanced stage, repeated fractures and deteriorating posture. It can significantly impact quality of life for the person with the condition. Bone loss ...Read more and osteoporosis occur most commonly after the menopause in women, but can also occur at a younger age and in men.
Luckily, there are steps that we can take to promote our bone health and prevent these degenerative changes.
Diet and exercise are of paramount importance. Most people know that weight-bearing exercise helps to keep the bones strong, so see a personal trainer or physiotherapist for a safe and effective exercise programme. As far as diet is concerned, the most important factor may be to focus on an “alkaline” diet, with plenty of vegetables (especially green vegetables) and vegetable proteins; and low to moderate intake of animal proteins including meat and cheeses, and grain-based foods such as breads and pasta, which are more acid-forming. This is because when our blood and tissues are more acidic, minerals are released from our bones to help neutralize the acidity. Contrary to popular belief, a diet high in dairy foods may not be the best solution: some research shows that countries with the highest dietary dairy intake actually have the highest incidence of hip fracture, probably because dairy foods are relatively acid-forming. Non-dairy sources of calcium and other ‘bone’ minerals include seeds, nuts, fish, seaweeds such as kelp and dulse, green leafy vegetables, beans, dried figs, and molasses. Other strategies that can help include avoiding coffee and alcohol (alcohol may decrease levels of parathyroid hormone, important for absorption of calcium), and avoiding stress, which can increase loss of minerals from the bones.
In terms of supplements, it’s important to bear in mind that calcium alone is not enough for bone health. Many minerals are found in the bones and contribute to their strength. Phosphorus is one of these, but we commonly get enough of this in our diet. Magnesium is an important mineral: although it makes up a small percentage of bone, its deficiency may cause bones to become more brittle; and adequate levels of this mineral in the blood are thought to promote calcium absorption. Boron and zinc are two other minerals that may be important. Two vitamins are thought to be particularly crucial: vitamin D for maintaining the correct calcium balance in the blood, and vitamin K is thought to be essential for the production of a protein called osteocalcin which binds calcium into the bone matrix. It is possible to use all of these as individual supplements, or combined in 'all-in-one' bone health products.
Another group of supplements that can be helpful are those that are aimed at alkalising the body. Barley grass can be a good choice, or other alkalising liquid drops, powders or tablets are available.
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