What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis generally shows no symptoms until a fracture occurs. Some symptoms of bone loss may be:
- Gradual loss of height
- A stooped posture
- Fracture of the spine, hip or wrists
- Loss of bone in the jaw
You should call a doctor if you experience a sudden severe back pain which can indicate a spinal compression fracture caused by osteoporosis. Also inform your doctor if dental x-rays reveal a loss of bone in the jaw which is an early osteoporosis sign.
What are the causes of osteoporosis?
While the exact cause of bone loss is unknown, the process is well understood by medical science. About 6-12% of an adult's total skeleton is replaced each year in a process called bone remodeling. After bone mass peaks at around the age of 35, bones begin to lose calcium faster than can be replaced. Bone remodeling reduces and the bone begin to grow thinner. In women, loss of bone density increases in the first 3-7 years after menopause and then slows down again. This is supposed to be due to the sharp decline in production of estrogen. Researchers have found that Estrogen helps inhibit a chemical interleukin-6, which helps keep bone destruction and bone formation in balance. A drop in estrogen leads to an overproduction of bone-scavenger cells, which damage bones. Women who are nursing have also been known to lose bone mass although this is gained back within 6 months after weaning.
What factors increase the risk of osteoporosis?
- Women who are small boned, thin and fair haired
- Smoking, drinking
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Taking cola and carbonated beverages
- Diet containing red meat and high protein foods
- A family history of osteoporosis
- Women who have had both ovaries removed especially before age 40
- Women whose hair turns more than 50% gray before age 40
- Conditions that impair the body's ability to absorb calcium including Kidney disease, Cushing's syndrome and hyperthyroidism
- Surgical removal of part of the stomach or intestine
- Excessive use of glucocorticoids, other steroids and anticonvulsant drugs.
- Prolonged immobility due to paralysis or illness
How is Osteoporosis diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you have osteoporosis, he may measure you to check for a loss of height. Bone density may also be measured. Ordinary x-rays do not reveal bone loss until at least 20 to 30% of the bone mass has disappeared so it is of limited utility for early screening of osteoporosis. Diagnostic tools such as Absorptiometry and quantitative computerized tomography are more accurate methods of measuring bone density.
How is Osteoporosis conventionally treated?
Many doctors recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) either estrogen alone or a combination of estrogen and progesterone to post menopausal women. However HRT does not build new bone; it only slows the loss of existing bone and this effect disappears after age 75 when most dangerous fractures occur. Once the hormone treatment is discontinued, the bone begins to thin again - at the same pace as at menopause therefore women must continue to take it indefinitely exposing themselves to serious health risks including uterine and breast cancers
How can Osteoporosis be prevented and treated naturally?
- Eat foods rich in calcium. It is recommended that women should take at least 1000mg of calcium per day. One glass of non-fat milk provides 300mg of calcium. Non-fat milk, low fat yogurt, broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, tofu, sesame seeds. almonds and green leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin D (400 to 800IU) and magnesium supplements (250 to 350mg) to help in calcium absorption
- Avoid phosphorus rich foods such as red meats, soft drinks and those containing phosphate food additives
- Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine as these also tend to reduce the amount of calcium absorbed by the body
- Eat foods that contain plant estrogens especially tofu and other soy products
- Do weight bearing exercises for 30 to 45 minutes at least 3 times a week. These include exercises that put stress on bones such as walking, running, tennis, stair climbing, aerobics and weightlifting.
- Do not smoke. Smoking increases risk of osteoporosis by 50%
- Avoid antacids containing aluminium as they can prevent calcium absorptoin by binding with phosphorus in the intestines.
- Herbs such as Shatavari, Alfalfa, Licorice and Marsh mallow help to prevent osteoporosis.
- A herbal formulation Reosto by the renowned Himalaya Herbals company has been shown extremely effective in not only stopping and preventing bone loss but actually reversing it by helping build new bone. Reosto is a natural source of easily absorbed calcium and Vitamin D. It restores bone mass and promotes production of estrogen and progesterone. More information on Reosto action and benefits
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