not much good we can say about osteoporosis (OP). I wouldn’t bother to bring it up if I didn’t have any ideas about how to lower your risk of osteoporotic bones and resulting fractures of too often early death.
First, let’s talk about the magnitude of the problem. Both sexes are subject to osteoporosis. Often the defining event of osteoporosis is a fracture, but by definition, only a decrease in bone mass to the point that a fracture is becoming more likely is good enough.
Now for some numbers:
1.5 million fractures per year attributed to OP. These include 700,000 vertebral, 250,000 distal forearm and 300,000 fractures of other limb sites. Following a hip fracture, the mortality rate is 10-20% over the next six months. 50% of those with osteoporotic hip fractures will need assistance to walk, and 25% will require long-term assisted living care. Not a good outcome.
The cost of OP treatment in the U.S. is about $5-10 billion. Yes, that is billion with a B.
What do we do about it?
I remember giving a talk at a senior citizen center in Santa Cruz some 20 some years ago. Facts, like you see above, aren’t that hard to come by, but the question comes, “what do we do about it?”
You already know the medical answer. Take one or a combination of the 40+ medications formulated to increase bone density directly and/or from hormone support.
These drugs are often in the category of bisphosphonates and include Fosamax (alendronate), Boniva (ibandronate), Actonel (risedronate) and Reclast (zoledronic acid).
Another type is Prolia or Xgeva (denosumab) that is an antibody therapy to help slow bone resorption or breakdown.
Estrogen therapy is sometimes recommended for peri to post-menopausal women. Sometimes parathyroid hormone is used to help build bone due to its role in calcium metabolism. Also, thyrocalcitonin is sometimes used to help regulate calcium.
But before we get too excited about the drug approach, let’s review some of the reported bad effects.
The bisphosphonates are famous for acid reflux, nausea, stomach pain and loss of bone in the jaw. Our dentist neighbor when we lived in Aptos, CA told us that a patient on of these drugs was no longer a candidate for many dental repairs as the quality of the jaw bone was typically very poor. Of course, anything that interrupts normal gastric digestion will cause a whole host of other problems as you will probably end up taking an acid blocker that can lead to an increased probability of kidney disease and dementia. Let’s not forget the atypical femur fractures. These aren’t super common, but this type of complication indicates that people should look for alternatives to avoid these potentially dangerous events.
The denosumab treatments can lead to skin irritation, muscle stiffness, increased pain, muscle spasms, fatigue, excessive sweating and even bone fractures. The fatigue indicates to me that this class of drugs can affect the brain.
Hormone therapy has its negative effects such as stroke, heart attack, breast cancer and blood clots.
20+ years ago, I gave a talk at a senior citizens center about osteoporosis. I had lots of facts at my fingertips as you see above. What I didn’t have were good suggestions for these people on how to handle their OP other than the usual exercise and calcium supplements.
My advice today is different.
Of course, some weight bearing exercise is still part of the equation so that might require some change in your lifestyle routine. I also recommend a whole body vibrator along with exercise. A whole body vibrator is a gadget you stand on with your feet slightly spread apart, and it vibrates your legs, hips and low back. This therapy targets some the most critical areas of concern with OP. We have a Noblerex K1 in our house. The K1 is a simple oscillation machine. The newer ones are dual motion and are considered to be an improvement. The older oscillation machines did work so you might be able to pick one of these up for a reduced cost.
Another lifestyle change could include a gluten-free diet (GFD). Gluten-related antibodies can sometimes attack bone tissue. In my clinic practice, I have seen OP reverse just by changing to a GFD. I have written a lot about gluten and OP in other blogs. Look for my gluten section on OVitaminPro.com for tips on how to diagnose gluten sensitivity. Some researchers maintain that anybody with OP should be checked for gluten sensitivity. I agree.
Of course, you should be taking your D3. You might need 5000 IU or more per day to maintain your D3 levels at a healthy level. You aren’t going to be able to push bone growth with massive amounts of calcium in a supplement. We usually recommend some calcium lactate for that need. A company called Zycal makes OP specific supplements called Ostinol. I would certainly add one of these to your daily routine. Ostinol comes in different strengths so choose the stronger one for more severe problems.
DEXA scans aren’t universally loved, but I think this information is still better than nothing. You should at least be able to monitor your progress in treating your condition. So get a good DEXA scan, start a gluten-free diet, get on your whole body vibrator every day, take your supplements and recheck in a year. You should see a nice change that will really make you feel good!