Today I want to get back to basics.  I want to review osteoporosis.  What it is.  How it develops and what we can do to prevent or reverse osteoporosis without drugs!

This week we will explore some of its causes, and next week I will outline a program for preventing and reversing osteoporosis.

Contrary to what may people think, osteoporosis is not a bone disease; it’s a total-body metabolic disease that will affect one out of two women in the US during their lives.  Women with osteoporosis can experience fractures in hips or forearms, or small fractures in their spines, causing pain, shrinkage in height and an inability to care for themselves as they age.

Osteoporosis is a preventable and reversible disease. Yet, we’re given no guidance on how to prevent or reverse this disease process.  Taking calcium, exercise and drugs are recommended as our only options.

In my practice, I’ve not found it necessary to use the bisphosphinates, the current drugs used for osteoporosis. Bisphosphinates are a metabolic poison that kill the cells that remove aged bone particles:  The osteoclasts.  Cells clean out the damaged cells to be replaced by new strong bone through the osteoblasts.

When most people think of bones they visualize dead skeletons, but our bones are living tissue just like the rest of our bodies.  Most people don’t realize that new bone is continuously being made throughout our entire lives while old bone is reabsorbed to make space for new bone formation.

Approximately 20% of bone tissue is replaced annually…

The larger, denser bones in our bodies are completely replaced in ten to twelve years, while the smaller bones, such as those in our spines and fingers, turn over every two to three years.  So at any age, we can influence the development of healthy, strong bones.

A common misconception is that, aside from calcium, diet has little to do with osteoporosis.  That assumption ignores the fact that bone has nutritional needs as diverse as those of our bodies. It would never be said that only one nutrient is necessary for a healthy heart.  That would be ludicrous; but we continuously are told that only calcium, and recently vitamin D, is necessary for strong bones.  And that’s ludicrous!

Like the rest of our bodies, bones need a complex supply of nutrients accompanied with regular exercise to maintain bone strength.

We know that our standard American diet (SAD) promotes the development of osteoporosis.

This is why our diet is not good for our bones:

  1. First, we ingest too much sugar, caffeine, salt, sodas and alcohol, known mineral blockers, linked to increased risk for osteoporosis.
  2. Second, Americans consume less than the RDA (recommended daily amount) of calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron, to name the minerals, and folate, B12, B6, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin K and protein, all documented nutritional deficiencies.   Any one of these nutrient deficiencies can interfere with bone formation; but combined, they can devastate new bone growth.

Complicating this picture is our exposure to lead, aluminum and fluoride, which block entry of minerals into the cells; and meds such as diuretics and prednisone, which are only a few of the drugs that have been documented to cause osteoporosis.

So how do we begin to prevent this disease?

The ideal would be to teach young people how be healthy.   For PREVENTION of age-related bone loss, early nutritional interventions should be the first choice.  It is the least expensive option and it enhances one’s entire life. The earlier, the better.

Calcium is important, but not the only nutrient deficiency that can cause osteoporosis.

The value of exercise in prevention and treatment of osteoporosis is proven. Exercise enhances bone growth and repair in all age groups.

Remember, it’s not only what you eat, it’s what you absorb. Stomach acid is essential for the absorption of minerals.  Anti-acids are our Number One over-the-counter drug.

Wheat can be a serious problem.  In women sensitive to gluten, and many are, gluten can inhibit the cells that build bone.  Gluten sensitivity is well documented as a cause of early-onset osteoporosis. If you have been diagnosed with early-onset osteoporosis, begin by eliminating wheat and work on your digestion.

Magnesium can be equally as important as calcium.  A typical diet contains 250 mgs of magnesium; the RDA is 350mgs daily, whereas an optimal level is considered 600 mgs.  Documentation has shown that just increasing magnesium intake will encourage bone re-growth to occur.

Vitamin K is as important as calcium for your bones.  Increasing evidence indicates a significant role for vitamin K in bone metabolism and in osteoporosis. Vitamin K serves as the “bond” that helps fit the calcium into the bone matrix. K is a fat-soluble vitamin found in leafy greens, and plays a role in the formation, remodeling and  repair of bone, among other functions.  Vitamin K deficiency may be more common than has been recently realized.

Manganese – the 4th most abundant mineral in the body – has its highest concentration in the bone.  It helps build the matrix for calcium to build on.  Manganese must be balanced: we do not want too much or too little.

Folic Acid – one of the most frequently encountered nutritional deficiencies.  Folic acid supplementation may help prevent osteoporosis even if blood levels are normal.

Boron supplementation has been shown to reduce calcium excretion by 44%; it reduces magnesium excretion and also increases the serum concentrations of estrogen and testosterone.  Found in vegetables.


Copper, Zinc, Silicon

Vitamin D is required for calcium to be absorbed and deposited into bone tissue.  There is vitamin D in milk.  Unfortunately, the vitamin D in milk will not provide enough benefit, since it’s a synthetic vitamin D (called ergocalciferol).  Vitamin D is a common deficiency. Nutritionists are now recommending a minimum of 800 iu of vitamin D daily, not the FDA’s 400 iu; and in cases of osteoporosis, up to 1,000 iu daily.

Essential fatty acids, the omega-3 fatty acids, alone have been shown to build bone.

Last but not least, here is the new research:

The conclusions from this brilliant study are that estrogen, at least in great part, prevents bone loss by stimulating formation of active, sulfur-based antioxidants in bone osteoclasts. Adequate levels of these special antioxidants inhibit osteoclast production and over-activity, but don’t harm them, like chemical drugs might. In fact, the nutrients exerted the same bone-sparing effect of estrogen, even in animals whose ovaries had been totally removed.

The nutrients just keep osteoclast function in proper balance, and evidently through the same mechanism as used by estrogen. When estrogen is withdrawn, osteoclasts spin out of balance because the body loses its ability to manufacture these specific protective antioxidants in these cells. This provides you with a fantastic opportunity to nutritionally restore balance in these important cells without using drugs or hormones!

I’ve added this regimen — NAC, alpha lipoic acid, and additional vitamin C — for my osteoporosis patients. You may consider the same. I’ve never seen any undesired reaction to this combination of nutrients.

We didn’t even speak about hormone balancing.

Checking thyroid levels: balanced levels are essential for correct bone development.

Estrogen, progesterone: are they the missing link?
DHEA, testosterone? Both are documented to build bone…

In my practice, utilizing nutrients, balancing digestion as well as balancing hormones:   I see postmenopausal women not only blocking the progression of bone loss, but also showing bone re-growth from 2% up to 11%. This change occurs even in females greater than 65 years of age.

We just had a basic but important osteoporosis review.

It’s the time.  Actually, any time of year is the time.  Get out into the sun and enjoy motion.  Morning T’ai Chi in the park gives us both exercise and sunshine.

If you’re having trouble with digestion, remember that you’re not absorbing.  Digestion is the key to nutrient absorption.  Tums is not the answer.

Remember:  in most women, osteoporosis is a preventable and reversible disease. How estrogen protects bones is uncertain, but a team from London  reveals at least one reason and offers a simple method of counteracting (run in)the problem. The group of researchers found that the levels of two major sulfur-bearing antioxidants, glutathione (one of my favorite nutrients) and thioredoxin, fell dramatically in rats after their ovaries were removed (oophorectomy).

Additionally, glutathione and thioredoxin reductases, the enzymes responsible for regenerating these specific antioxidants, also fell sharply. However, levels of the re-generating enzymes and the antioxidants themselves all rapidly returned to normal with administration of estrogen.

But, more importantly, the researchers looked at an alternative to estrogen to stop the bone loss. They administered nutritional precursors of glutathione and found that these abolished the bone loss following  oophorectomy.

To prove the glutathione link to bone loss, they also administered a specific inhibitor of glutathione synthesis (totally unrelated to hormones), which induced substantial bone loss.

Then they finished up their report by looking at osteoclast-like cells in the lab that were fed N-acetylcysteine (NAC — a nutritional supplement which raises glutathione levels). They found that NAC blocks the ability to manufacture specific cytokines (white blood-cell hormones) that stimulate bone loss and to  prevent the overproduction of osteoclasts.

The conclusions from this brilliant study are that estrogen, at least in great part, prevents bone loss by stimulating formation of active sulfur-based antioxidants in bone osteoclasts. Adequate levels of these special antioxidants inhibit osteoclast production and overactivity, but don’t harm them, like chemical drugs might. In fact, the nutrients exerted the same bone-sparing effect of estrogen, even in animals whose ovaries had been totally removed.