Ten Ways to Improve Bone Health and Prevent Osteoporosis

December 27, 2019

Ten Ways to Improve Bone Health and Prevent Osteoporosis

What is one thing you think you could never do, even if someone paid you a lot of money to do it? Would you speak in public for money? They say people are more afraid of speaking in public than they are of dying! What if someone was holding one of your loved one’s hostage? Would you do it then? I bet you would! You just had a “paradigm shift”. We can have paradigm shifts about all kinds of things. I find that a chronic illness is a pretty powerful paradigm shift for change for most people.

I like to think that we don’t always need to wait until chronic illness knocks on our door. My greatest motivator to improve my eating habits came as a result of seeing how as I got older, I felt worse and was not able to shake that feeling of malaise, low energy and brain fog.

Anxiety was horrible and I had to get to a point where I would do anything to be able to function. Then I started looking at my risk factors for chronic illness and realized I could make one change that would address my osteoporosis, cancer and diabetes risks all at once: I could reduce sugar intake in my diet. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve learned so much about this topic of chronic illness prevention, that I want to outline some points for you to consider.

Let’s take a look at osteoporosis, a condition that affects bone mineralization and leads to fractures, disability and in some cases, death. This condition affects up to 50% of all women over age 60, and 30% of males, who are more likely to die within a year of experiencing a hip fracture.

How does a high sugar diet affect osteoporosis? The optimal bone building time and prevention of osteoporosis begins in childhood and it’s well underway in the teen years. Ninety percent of bone density is achieved by age 20, and bone remodeling continues to be optimal until about the age of 35. Optimal nutrition in the teen years is key for osteoporosis prevention, as this is the time when large amounts of sugar and soft drinks are consumed.

What can we do about it? These guidelines will help you optimize your diet and lifestyle to improve bone health and prevent chronic dis-ease:

  1. Avoid carbonated beverages.  The phosphorus content in them will affect bone mineralization. Phosphate displaces calcium absorption in the body, leading to low calcium absorption into the bones.
  2. High protein intake leads to high acidity in the body which interferes with calcium absorption. The recommendation is to limit meat intake to 2-4 oz. per meal, no more than 2-3 times per day.
  3. Improve digestion by avoiding the intake of acid blockers like proton-pump inhibitors, which block the secretion of HCL into the stomach, thereby compromising digestion of key nutrients like protein and minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Acid blockers or PPI’s are a temporary solution to a deeper problem. If you’re experiencing heartburn talk to your doctor about alternative methods to improve your condition. Looking at the quality of the food you’re eating and assessing whether you have food allergies or sensitivities might be a good idea. You can read about food allergies and sensitivities here
  4. Caffeine has been shown to increase calcium excretion in the urine in some studies. It may be a good idea to experiment with replacing caffeine intake with an herbal tea or other warm concoction (think matcha tea or golden milk). Decaffeinated coffee is not recommended because it’s processed with chemicals that are harmful to the body.
  5. Sun exposure is most important in the prevention of osteoporosis. Most doctors don’t test for vitamin D status however, it’s an inexpensive test you can request from your doctor that should be performed every year.  In several studies vitamin D status has been linked to bone mineralization, immune health and cancer.  The use of sunscreens blocks over 90% of vitamin D production. A good functional range for vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy levels is between 55-80 ng/ml. This is especially important for people who live in the Northern latitudes.  
  6. Choose foods that are good sources of calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and vitamin K. It's important to note that all these nutrients work in concert to help the body build and regenerate bone. Emphasize good sources of calcium in the diet, such as fermented whole milk products, dark green leafy vegetables, whole organic soybeans, sesame seeds, almonds, sardines and other oily fish like canned salmon with bones.
  7. Avoid alcohol, which is metabolized as sugar and affects insulin production and fat metabolism in the liver. There have been studies showing that intake greater than seven drinks of alcohol per week has led to increased fractures due to falls. Additionally, alcohol also affects brain function and sleep in a negative way.
  8. Stop smoking. Studies have concluded that cigarette smoking has negative effects on bone health, increasing the risk of fractures. This is a difficult change for many patients, but it has been shown to have a significant effect on bone mineral density.
  9. Since the body is connected at the cellular level, it follows that hormonal balance plays a key role in the prevention of osteoporosis. Low levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone have been linked to bone loss in men and women alike. Excess levels of the stress hormone cortisol, insulin and parathyroid hormone can also cause bone loss. A diet high in starches and processed foods may lead to elevated blood sugar levels and insulin levels, which can cause elevated levels of cortisol.
  10. Manage stress. As mentioned above, elevated cortisol levels due to a stressful lifestyle or a stressful event in a person’s life, could lead to elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance. This in turn affects bone metabolism by causing excessive calcium loss in the urine. Everything is connected and balance is key. Stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system to help with the balance of the stress hormones is key. You can read about self-care techniques here that you can incorporate into your life to help you become more resilient.

We just looked at the effect of sugar on osteoporosis, yet sugar can be connected to all chronic diseases. Whether you’re trying to prevent bone loss, decrease your cardiovascular risk or improve any other health condition, excess refined sugars and starches will elevate insulin levels and affect your fat and nutrient metabolism.

When someone has the right motivation, the results start moving in the right direction. What is your motivation? Remember, your genes are not your destiny; your environment affects whether your genes are expressed or not. If this is true, according of the science of epigenetics, then it follows that we have control over our genetic destiny. That’s really good news!

A diet high in plant sources, moderate in animal products and rich in healthy fats like nuts, nut butters and non-processed oils like olive oil are the key to your best health. The ideal diet for most people is a “low glycemic index” diet, which will keep your blood sugar regulated and steady. Fiber in the form of vegetables, whole grains and fruits is crucial for lowering blood sugar levels and looking to nature for your food is the best way to prevent and treat any kind of dis-ease. Remember, one small change can make a huge difference in your gene expression. Start today!

If you enjoyed this blog please feel free to share it with friends and family.

For more information or if you would like to chat about your health condition, please contact me at monica@nourishedfn.com.

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Yours in wellness,

- Monica

Monica Paz, MS, CN, FNLP

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