I have summarised some very relevant points gathered from two articles by Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (www.functionaldiagnosticnutrition.com) on the topic of Osteoporosis.
Research has found that bone density remained relatively constant over the course of human evolution, but sharply declined in the modern era. The drop in bone density correlates with shift from hunting and foraging to agriculture and industrialisation.
It would appear that our modern lifestyles, food, and environment has taken a toll on our bones. Osteoporosis is a serious concern for our ageing population. The good news is that problems with bone health can be prevented and even reversed through simple tools.
Our bones are like storage banks for minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Blood levels of calcium are tightly regulated, and kept within a very narrow range. This is one of the most strictly controlled processes in the body. When calcium blood levels start to fall below this range, stored calcium can be “withdrawn” from the bones in a process called resorption. On the other hand, as calcium blood concentrations start to approach the upper limit, calcium is often “deposited” back into the bones matrix in a process called absorption. These two processes, resorption and absorption are constantly “remodeling” or changing the shape and structure of the bone.
Blood calcium levels are regulated by a hormone which is produced by the parathyroid glands. These small glands are located in the neck and sit behind the thyroid gland. This hormone is released in response to low blood calcium, stimulating osteoclasts, cells which cause bone to release calcium into the blood. This hormone can also inhibit osteoblasts, cells which deposit bone, reducing the amount of calcium absorption in bone.
In some people, withdrawal of calcium from the bones can be abnormally high and deposition of calcium in the bones abnormally low. When calcium withdrawals in the bone continually exceed deposits, it leads to a deficit. A calcium deficit results in osteoporosis.
Generally speaking, the allopathic medicine approach to treating osteoporosis includes increasing some combination of calcium intake, medications, vitamin D supplementation, and sometimes exercise. The problem is, after a year or two of treatment, bone mineral density often shows minimal improvement, if any, and in some cases, gets worse. This type of approach to the bone-mineral density issue is akin to putting out a forest fire with an eyedropper.
Osteoporosis is not the problem, it is a symptom of the problem.
There are many potential factors that can contribute to the presentation of a bone density problem, and they can differ from one individual to the next. Frequently, there will be not one, but several dysfunctions in the body that lead to the condition of osteoporosis. Having said that, if we seek to prevent and correct osteoporosis, we must first seek to identify and correct the underlying dysfunction.
Here are two of the most common reasons for the prevalence of osteoporosis in our modern society:
STRESS (Internal & external), it’s everywhere! Chronic stress is a silent killer, and is at the root of many debilitating illnesses. Stress response in the body can be initiated by either mental/emotional, physical, or biochemical threats. Some are external, meaning they happen outside our bodies, while other stressors are internal, or hidden inside our bodies. Either way, chronic stress can contribute to the type of dysfunction that can lead to osteoporosis.
Some examples of external stressors include:
Prolonged high intensity exercise without proper recovery
Structural Issues such as spinal or jaw misalignments
Inadequate quality and quantity of sleep
Restrictive very low calorie or low fat or low carbohydrate diets
Ingestion of toxins from food, alcohol or tobacco
Contact with toxic chemicals and material at home and work
Examples of Internal Stressors include:
Blood sugar issues
Physical pain or trauma
Disease or illness
Fungal, bacterial, or parasitic infections
One of the most common stress related dysfunctions that lead to osteoporosis is a chronic reduction in progesterone levels. One of the main roles of this hormone is to oppose estrogen and signal osteoblasts to build bone. So, low levels of progesterone means less bone-building.
Stress creates an environment where the raw materials used to make progesterone are diverted to making cortisol, instead. Cortisol is the body’s key stress hormone; its production can take priority above progesterone in times of increased stress. In addition to reducing progesterone levels and increasing the risk of osteoporosis, increased cortisol can lead to a variety of other dysfunctions throughout the body such as leaky gut, decreased neural function, hormonal, immune, and metabolic dysfunction.
Chronic stress, regardless of the source, will “bleed” magnesium from the body and create retention of calcium in body tissues. This creates an issue in those who take calcium supplements yet are deficient in magnesium and have insufficient fat intake. Calcium can accumulate in the soft tissues causing muscular pain and cramping.
It is worth noting that some research has suggested that high supplemental calcium intake in some people increases the onset of stress reactions within the body, leading to the production of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. If this is the case, high dose calcium supplements may be doing you more harm than good.
In the simplest terms, if you have a defective digestive system, you can consume tons of calcium, and it will never make it to your bones. When the gut is dysfunctional, your Autonomic Nervous System, which controls all of the functions of your body that happen automatically without you having to think about them, including bone remodeling, becomes dysfunctional, as well. An impaired gut will bring about issues with nutrient absorption, assimilation, and metabolism.
In addition, gut dysfunction causes a chronic stress response, overloading the immune system and eventually manifesting in the stress-related issues mentioned above. Food intolerances and sensitivities, if undiscovered, could make it very difficult for a person to heal.
What You Can Do to Recover from Osteoporosis
The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to prevent and recover from this otherwise debilitating condition. It is important to understand that simply popping a pill will not solve this (or any) dysfunction in the body. Instead, you can aim to optimize your physiology by incorporating lifestyle changes such as diet, rest, exercise, stress reduction, and supplementation to support and nurture your body’s own innate healing ability.
In order to truly defeat Osteoporosis, it is important to identify why there is an issue with your bone density in the first place. This can involve diet and lifestyle assessment as well as screenings for hidden stressors that may be taxing the body and creating a chronic stress response, such as poor thyroid function, blood sugar dysregulation, food/chemical intolerances, gut dysfunction, hormonal balance, inflammatory status, etc. Failing to identify hidden stressors (structural stress, thyroid and/or adrenal issues, gut dysfunction, hormonal balance, etc.) prevents one from implementing a true healing program that will produce long-term results.
The key cause of osteoporosis can be either mental, emotional, biochemical (nutritional), and structural (physical) stress because all of these types of stress ultimately lead to reduced bone density. The best way to prevent and recover from osteoporosis is to learn to identify and manage life stressors, regardless of the source, and give YOUR body the support it needs to foster optimal health and vitality.