Bone loss can sneak up on you. Most often people are unaware that their bones are virtually disintegrating. Identifying a bone loss condition is very important to your overall health. The good news is that there are ways to reverse bone loss naturally without fancy bone drugs.
With significant bone loss, bone mineral density decreases and you may develop conditions called osteopenia or osteoporosis. People usually do not experience symptoms of osteopenia. As it progresses into osteoporosis, symptoms may or may not occur such as bone fractures, back pain, decreasing body height, or stooped posture.
When diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, you may worry about bone fracture with every sudden move, fall, or exercise. However, bone loss is not a guarantee of fracture, and exercise is an important approach to managing bone loss under the guidance of your health care practitioner.
What causes bone loss?
Our bones are constantly replacing cells. Osteoclasts are bone cells that break down bone and osteoblasts create new bone. This process occurs throughout our lifetime to maintain adequate bone tissue. Bone loss can be caused by a variety of things and occurs when bone loss exceeds bone replacement.
Bone loss occurs as we age, but more rapidly in women than men. Primary osteoporosis occurs predominantly in women over age 50 due to decreasing estrogen and increasing bone loss. In men over age 70 and with decreasing testosterone, osteoporosis may occur. Depletion of these hormones plays an important role in the development of primary osteoporosis. Genetics and a family history of osteoporosis may be a factor.
Even if you have primary osteoporosis, you may also have secondary osteoporosis which may include other factors such as behaviors, diseases, conditions, medications, or other factors which contribute to bone loss. Examples include poor nutrition, high alcohol intake, digestive issues, toxins, leaky gut, dysbiosis (imbalances of gut microbes), hormonal imbalances, lack of exercise, poor sleep habits, and stress. Diseases such as diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, digestive disorders, autoimmune disease, eating disorders, certain cancers, or where steroids are used in long-term treatment may be at higher risk.
The presence of contributing factors to bone loss may be unknown to the individual. Because there is a variety of contributing factors to bone loss, it makes sense, that just giving medication to help prevent bone loss will not fix the bone loss problem when other factors are present. Therefore, the key to resolving bone loss issues is to identify and solve all the contributing factors.
Why is avoiding bone loss important?
Most people think of their bones as just a support structure. However, bone is an important endocrine organ. The skeleton produces hormones fibroblast growth factor (FGF23) and osteocalcin. These hormones produced by bone cells control energy balance and mineral homeostasis, thereby impacting other organ functions.
With osteoporosis, the bones can become very brittle. This makes an individual more susceptible to bone fractures. These fractures may result in vertebral fractures in the spine, hip fractures, or other fractures that can result in pain, immobility, and a decrease in the quality of an individual’s life.
How do you know if you have bone loss?
A DEXA, also known as DXA scan, is an X-ray that shows how dense your bones are. The T-score is determined by the DEXA scan to identify whether bone density is normal, low (osteopenia), or even lower (osteoporosis). While this test measures the bone density of certain bones in your body, it cannot measure bone quality, and therefore cannot predict the risk of fracture.
Once your provider has identified whether you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, often calcium supplementation or calcium-rich dietary foods are recommended along with medication. It is uncommon for a traditional provider to check for and help an individual address other factors contributing to their osteopenia or osteoporosis.
A functional practitioner looks holistically at contributing factors to bone loss. Rather than jumping right into medications, the functional practitioner will often perform functional lab tests to examine hormones and gut function. They will look at diet and lifestyle factors that may be adding to bone loss and work with the individual to approach those specific opportunities for improvement.
Natural Ways to Reverse Bone Loss:
- Consider Supplements
- Supplementing with collagen, particularly types I & III
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids help preserve bone mass
- Take a vitamin D3 supplement with vitamin K2. A baseline vitamin D level is important to establish the amount of vitamin D needed. Vitamin D is important in calcium absorption in the intestine. K2 stimulates osteoblasts to grow new bone and to avoid minerals being deposited into blood vessels. Taking vitamin D3 with K2 helps keep your bone strong. Learn more about why K2 is essential.
- Promote a Healthy Diet
- Getting adequate calcium in the diet by eating foods such as dark leafy greens, dairy products, sardines, or salmon. Note that taking calcium supplements should be considered carefully. Calcium needs to be balanced with magnesium for appropriate absorption into the bone and to avoid depositing calcium in unwanted areas such as blood vessels, arteries, or eyes.
- Reduce/moderate alcohol intake as higher alcohol intake is associated with bone loss
- Exercise is important, as inactivity contributes to bone loss. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises help maintain bone.
- Get quality rest and sleep to promote healthy bone turnover.
- Address Lifestyle factors
- Quit smoking as smoking is significantly correlated with osteoporosis risk. When you quit smoking, you can reverse bone loss.
- Reduce stress that can lead to hormonal imbalances that contribute to bone loss.
- Investigate potential contributing factors to bone loss
- Find a functional practitioner to test for potential contributing factors such as leaky gut, dysbiosis, hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, and nutrient deficiencies.
- Work with your practitioner to address any identified imbalances in your body contributing to bone loss.
Risk of Bone Loss Medications:
Medications are frequently used by traditional providers. to treat osteoporosis. While medication may be indicated, it may have side effects. Biphosphonates are a class of drugs that have been typically used to reduce osteoclast activity to preserve bone. The potential risks and benefits of medication or not taking medication for osteoporosis should be considered. However, medication does not necessarily have to be the first step in many cases.
Bone loss can be a silent disease that ultimately can lead to a variety of symptoms and impact your quality of life. Prevention and early diagnosis are important. Addressing all contributing factors or root causes of bone loss is essential to the recovery of healthy bone. Medication is often not the first step and should not be the only step in managing bone loss. Natural ways to help recover from bone loss are an important part of prevention and recovery.
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.