Osteoporosis is the progressive degeneration of bone mass leading to weaker bones with a risk of breaking, most commonly in the hip, spine, ribs or wrist. In school, we were taught that the majority of people over the age of 40 will have some decrease in bone mass. It’s difficult to detect on X-Rays, as the degeneration has to be fairly significant to show up, so it’s most often found on a DEXA scan. Symptoms are usually non-existent until fracture occurs. When osteoporosis is significant, acute and chronic pain are usually present due to frequent fractures from minor incidents.
As with most Western diseases, prevention is necessary. Dietary and lifestyle changes can and should be made to prevent osteoporosis. Yes, there are genetic predispositions to all diseases, but we have the ability as to whether or not we activate these genes (called epigenetics). Yes, osteoporosis is very prevalent in our society, but I would argue that it has much less to do with age and more to do with lifestyle choices. Never has a society ate as poorly or moved as little as we do today.
In no particular order, the following are my top recommendations to prevent osteoporosis and keep your bones healthy for a lifetime:
Exercise – If you don’t use it, you lose it. Hit the weights, get out for a walk, simply move. We currently live very sedentary lifestyles and this needs to change for the health of ourselves and our children. Movement of your joints and bones allows them to rebuild (similar to the way we put on muscle).
Remove gluten and grains from the diet – Anti-nutrients in grains prevent the absorption of many of the other vitamins and minerals in our diet. Also, grains commonly irritate the gut lining which also prevents the absorption of nutrients.
Supplement the right stuff – It isn’t just about calcium. It’s about the balance of vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K and calcium. Everyone and their mother takes a [most often crappy] calcium supplement to “prevent” osteoporosis. But, guess what? The numbers aren’t changing. They’re still ending up with broken bones. If you live in a place where sun is minimal most of the year, supplementation of vitamin D is critical. I recommend 20,000IUs per week from October through April. During the other months, simply make sure you get frequent sun exposure. Leafy greens, nuts, seeds, bone broth and fish are a great source of calcium, magnesium and vitamin K. Vitamin K can also be found in grass fed butter, ghee and eggs.
Bone broth – Bone broth is a traditional food with which many of us have lost touch. Homemade bone broth provides all of the nutrients from the bone of another animal to you! How perfect. It’s also great for healing the gut which leads to better nutrient absorption. There’s no losing when it comes to bone broth. You simply have to find a way to make it and enjoy it. It can even provide a better boost than coffee in the morning.
Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption – Do I really need to give you another reason to quit smoking? It’s harmful to you and everyone around you. And it's expensive.
The earlier you start taking preventative measures, the better. It is never too soon to make changes to your diet and lifestyle for a long, healthy life. It’s beneficial to both you and your children (present or future).