The gut-brain-bone connection is an intricate web of interactions essential for our overall health. Our digestive system, brain, and bones are all interconnected; when one system is out of balance, it can affect the other two. It’s important to understand how they work together so we can better maintain our bone health.
The digestive system is essential in providing nutrients to the body, which are absorbed and used by different systems, including the bones. The brain regulates many aspects of bodily function, including how much calcium is stored in bone tissue. Thus, maintaining a healthy balance between gut regulation, brain signaling, and nutrient absorption is key for supporting optimal bone health.
When this balance is disrupted, it can lead to a variety of conditions related to the bones, including osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and autoimmune joint diseases. In each of these conditions, an imbalance between osteoblasts and osteoclasts – cells responsible for breaking down and rebuilding bones, called bone remodeling – is triggered in some way.
For instance, in osteoporosis, the imbalance is caused by a decrease in the number of osteoblasts that are responsible for bone formation. In autoimmune joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, an increase in the number of osteoclasts (which break down bones) leads to inflammation and destruction of the joints.
What are osteoblasts? These are bone cells that:
- Form bone by promoting bone stem cells to differentiate into osteoblasts.
- Function is impacted by autoimmune arthritis and numbers are decreased in osteoporosis.
What are osteoclasts? These are bone cells that:
- Develop from white blood cells, called monocytes.
- Are essential for joint destruction and enable bone to be reabsorbed.
- Help degrade and remove bone to allow osteoblasts to come in and produce new bone.
- Are overproduced in certain chronic inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis. RA is an autoimmune disease, triggering autoantibodies such as rheumatoid factor (RF) and autoantibodies against citrullinated proteins (ACPA) to affect immune cells and osteoclasts, causing bone loss.
Osteoclasts are found within inflammatory synovial tissues and activated by specific inflammatory substances or cytokines. In addition, inflammation causes monocytes to be recruited to form new osteoclasts in the synovial tissue.
As this process occurs early and throughout RA, the goal of treatment is to prevent activation of inflammatory substances such as cytokines and the recruitment of monocytes to the synovial tissue that promote osteoclast formation. However, medication can impact joint structure, so studies are needed to determine the optimal level of control that can be provided by specific medications. Strategies to reduce inflammatory triggers are important.
The good news is that diet and lifestyle play an important role in keeping our gut-brain-bone connection and our osteoblasts and osteoclasts balanced.
5 Ways to Help Balance Osteoblasts and Osteoclasts
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are essential for bone health and help support the balance of osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Vitamin D should be taken with K2 to help direct calcium into the bones versus the circulation.
- Practice stress management techniques such as yoga, mindfulness, and deep breathing. Stress can have a negative effect on the gut-brain-bone connection and can trigger an imbalance between osteoblasts and osteoclasts.
- Incorporate regular exercise into your routine; weight-bearing exercises are particularly important for bone health. Be sure to include stretching after each workout to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, as both can have a detrimental effect on bone health by promoting an imbalance in osteoblasts and osteoclasts.
- Consider taking probiotics or prebiotic supplements to help maintain a healthy gut microbiome for better brain signaling, which supports hormone balance and nutrient absorption for stronger bones.
No matter what age you are, it’s never too late to start taking steps towards better bone health. By taking steps to maintain a balanced gut-brain-bone system, we can reduce triggers of inflammation and pain and better protect ourselves against bone-related diseases. We can also enjoy better overall health.
Make sure you consult with your healthcare provider before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. With the right nutrition and lifestyle habits and the support with the right supplements, you can create an environment that supports the balance of osteoblasts and osteoclasts.
Start by incorporating small changes into your lifestyle and monitor how you feel. Over time, these healthy habits will become second nature and the gut-brain-bone connection will become stronger, helping you move better, feel better, and live better.
I am a Master’s prepared RN, National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Board-Certified Functional Wellness Coach, and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. I help people fix their chronic inflammation & pain with in-home lab testing, client assessments, personalized natural healing protocols, and online coaching to help them move from pain to peace so that they feel better, move better, and live better.