By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
I often get questions from postmenopausal women worried about their bone health. Often, they’ve seen other doctors who have prescribed drugs like Fosamax or Boniva in an effort to halt bone loss. But recent news reports have made many women with osteopenia and osteoporosis rethink their decision to take these drugs.
Physicians at the Weill Cornell Medical College at Cornell University have found that Fosamax may increase the risk of thigh-bone fractures in those who have been taking the drug for more than four years—even if they don’t suffer a fall. Earlier reports by the FDA show that Fosamax (and similar osteoporosis drugs called bisphosphonates) can cause incapacitating pain in bones, joints and/or muscles. Worse still, Fosamax can cause destruction of the jawbone.
Once women become aware of the risks these drugs pose, they turn to doctors like me for a more natural approach. Fortunately, there are a number of nutrients that can not only improve bone density but help prevent future bone loss.
The first step is to alkalinize your system. If you read my recent bulletin, “Understanding Your pH,” you already know how important it is to balance the amount of acid in your body. And here is yet another reason to lower your acid levels—when the body’s fluids become too acidic, your skeleton can suffer as minerals are pulled out of bones and tissues to reduce blood and tissue acidity. Foods rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium are alkaline-forming, meaning that they shift the body toward a neutral pH. This pH enables bones to hold on to calcium, which helps keep them strong.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are major sources of alkaline-containing minerals—especially potassium. Foods high in potassium include coconut water, dates, raisins and spinach. Foods rich in chloride, phosphate and sulfate, on the other hand, increase acidity in the blood and tissues.
Foods high in salt (commonly found in packaged and fast foods), beef, white bread and rice, milk and other simple sugars are highly acidic. One simple way to maintain a pH-balanced diet is to fill half of your plate with vegetables, one-quarter with fish or other lean protein and the remaining quarter with a small amount of complex carbohydrates like a sweet potato or brown rice.
Supplements can also help protect your bones. Some may be familiar, while others may not. However, they are all important and should be taken together for the greatest benefit.
Calcium. This well-known nutrient has been shown to help prevent osteoporosis by slowing bone loss. Calcium is most effective when combined with other nutrients like magnesium and vitamin D that work synergistically to build bone. I recommend taking 300 to 500 mg. of highly absorbable calcium such as citrate, citrate malate, chelate, lactate or hydroxyapatite. Try to avoid calcium carbonate as it is not readily absorbed by the body.
Magnesium. This mineral is just as important as calcium for bone density. It is involved in parathyroid hormone production and the activation of vitamin D, both of which influence calcium metabolism and absorption. Take 250 to 350 mg. of magnesium twice daily in divided doses. Reduce the dosage if you get loose stools.
Vitamin D. Too many Americans aren’t getting enough of this critical nutrient—and it’s having a negative impact on their bone health. Recent research has shown that vitamin D3 taken along with calcium decreases postmenopausal bone loss, helps prevent osteoporosis and decreases the risk of fractures. I tell my patients, especially if they are postmenopausal women, to take 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily with meals. If you have osteoporosis and have a vitamin D deficiency, you may want to take 5,000 IU each day. Just make sure you do so under the supervision of a doctor.
Vitamin K. While you may not be familiar with Vitamin K, it is a key player in bone calcification and is required for the bone-forming protein osteocalcin to function properly. Studies have shown that vitamin K reduces bone loss as well as fracture rates. Even though studies have used up to 45 mg. daily of vitamin K2, I recommend taking 500 to 2,000 mcg. if you suffer from osteoporosis. Just be aware that you should not take supplemental K if you are on blood-thinning medications without strict supervision from your doctor.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the addition of weight bearing exercise like weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis and dancing.This type of exercise not only enhances bone mineral density, it also helps to maintain muscle strength, coordination and balance, which in turn helps to prevent falls and related fractures. So watch your diet, take your supplements and get moving! Your bones will be stronger because of these simple lifestyle changes.
Goranova-Marinova VS. Osteonecrosis of the jaw in patients on bisphosphonate treatment. review of literature with contribution of a case of multiple myeloma. Folia Med (Plovdiv). 2009;51:53-57.
Guadalupe-Grau A. Exercise and bone mass in adults. Sports Medicine. 2009;39:439-468.
Iwamoto J. Anti-fracture efficacy of vitamin K. Clinical Calcium. 2009;19:1805-1814