Q: I have osteoporosis that was diagnosed after my periods stopped. I have tried medicines for it but I get heartburn. My doctor has me taking calcium, vitamin D and I am an active person but my last bone density scan was worse. My doctor wants me to start hormone replacement but I’m worried about breast cancer. What else might I try to build up my bones?
A: You have a lot of options outside of hormone replacement therapy, calcium and vitamin D. Bone is much ore that inert minerals. It is quite complex and like all tissues is constantly repairing itself albeit slowly. Building bone is done by a bone ell called a osteoclast. Its sister the osteoblast, breaks bone matrix down. When these two types of bone cells are in balance the density and strength of bone s preserved. There are three strategies to improve bone density. Give the osteoclasts lots of nutrients it needs to encourage bone growth. Second, stimulate hormonally the cells that lay bone down, the osteocast. Third, slow down the osteoblasts so they break down the bone more slowly. This last strategy is how antiabsortive medicines work.
Hormones replacement with estrogen ad progesterone compounds does stimulate the osteoclasts. Though these are not the only hormones that do so. Vitamin D is actually one such hormone. If you have not had a level checked, do so as some people need to take higher doses to get their levels into therapeutic range. You may also ask our doctor to check your DHEA and testosterone level as both of these hormones stimulate bone and neither is associated with breast cancer.
Getting more bone nutrients to your bones can make a huge impact on your bone density. First you want to have confidence in your guts ability to absorb. After all you can put all the great nutrients in but if they are poorly absorbed they simply wont work. All patients with osteoporosis should consider malabsorption as an underlying cause. I look at blood tests for vitamin D, B12, folate and intracellular magnesium. If any are unexplainably low I order stool test to find out why. These stool tests look at the capacity of the gut to digest and absorb as well as looking for antibodies that identify hidden gluten allergy. The stool antibody (antigliadin) is dramatically more sensitive than its blood counterpart. I also identify those patients with low stomach acid production as this leads to poor mineral absorption. Correcting digestive malabsorption issues and eliminating gluten from the diet when appropriate gets at the underlying issues of osteoporosis.
Once the nutrients are in the body holding on t the is the nest step. To assess how well a patient can hold onto minerals I ask them to check their urine acid level (pH). I their urine acid is very high they are losing more minerals as acid dissolves adn leaches minerals from the body. In this case I ask the patient to remove acid forming foods from their diet (alkaline diet). For more on hoe to alkalinize your diet refer to Susan Brown’s book, Better Bones, Better Bodies. Her book is a wealth of information o treating osteoporosis without drugs.
There are many nutrients your bones love aside from calcium and vitamin D. so many in fact find a good bone formula with the following additional bone supporting nutrients: magnesium, zinc, boron, copper, manganese, strontium, silicon, B12, B6, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Most good formulas will require to take 4 to 9 tablets per day. This number os pills is needed as minerals are bulky and you simply cannot get them i with smaller doses.
Nexus May/June 2012