My experience of osteoporosis and some top tips to avoid it
Author: Sally Philip
It’s a little over a week now since World Osteoporosis Day and so I find myself casting back to my own diagnosis 6 years ago. I’d just climbed Kilimanjaro and thought I was as fit as I’d ever been. Reality was somewhat different! I was diagnosed at 35 following multiple fractures (21 to be more precise in the space of 9 months). People still think that younger generations don’t get this disease, but that’s simply not true and it can be due to a number of different triggers and causes.
Despite our lifestyles being better, more active and more aware of food and nutrition than ever before, the stats are a little sobering! In the over 50’s, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men will fracture due to osteoporosis. So starting early and taking care of our bones in our 30s and 40s is key to prevention and the tips and techniques I’ve listed below will also have a wealth of other health benefits too.
Living a healthy lifestyle will set you up for the longer term
I am often approached for insight in how to keep fit and healthy in prevention of Osteoporosis, and was recently interviewed for the NOS regarding the impact it can have on intimacy in relationships. When I was diagnosed I read every paper, blog, websites from the US to Australia, and reems of research in order to investigate ways to reverse my condition – something I was told was both unrealistic and impossible on the basis that once you have osteoporosis that it’s a disease, YES a disease, that you have to accept and live with. Osteoporosis can be incredibly limiting, debilitating and painful. It induces fear in even stepping out of the front door! I experienced all this – needless to say I largely reversed my condition with diet, supplements and a varied approach. I’m not suggesting that this is the case for everyone, but if you follow a healthy lifestyle approach you will be setting yourself up successfully for longer term bone health and all with a ton of other side benefits.
Avoid processed foods
I largely follow a Paleo diet www.thepaleodiet.com – it’s pretty straightforward – basically no processed foods or for more clarity – nothing out of a packet, tube, tin – so no ready meals or highly refined and processed food! That might sound tough and I do keep some dairy in my diet, as giving up cheese would do me in, but I just have it sparingly. I do use tinned tomatoes on occasion of course – it’s not about being extreme, it’s more of a principle for informing what to eat and prepare – and yes I still use sauces and condiments – who can’t cope without their HP or their oils and vinegars on occasion – especially with bacon?!
Eat organic where possible
The main thing is I try and eat locally sourced, organic if possible – I know this can be tough as well as expensive, but there is so much stuff added to our water, meat and sprayed on our veg these days that impacts our bodies hormonally, our moods and our bones – so I do my best to limit my intake. Quality over quantity – how many times have we all heard that?
Carbohydrates (and I don’t mean carbs you get in fresh fruit and veg) – but bread, potatoes and all white foods such as rice, flour based foods should be kept extremely limited if not removed from your diet – they are known to generate inflammatory cytokines that favor disease progression if you are already at risk or suffering, not to mention making us feel stodgy and bloated.
Drink filtered water
Only drink and use filtered water – it can make a huge difference on how many hormones and crazy minerals you absorb.
Avoid alcohol and don’t smoke
We all know drinking alcohol and smoking are bad for us so do try and cut right back on the booze and quit smoking as it carries a 100 fold risk of developing osteoporosis.
Avoid all hormonal contraceptives
I personally avoid all hormonal contraceptives – by taking a drug called Depo provera (injection) it catapulted me in to a very severe state of osteoporosis – if you are thinking for any reason of taking it, or have daughters, granddaughters who use it – PLEASE ask them to be vitamin D tested. (It has a black box warning) There are other options like Natural Cycles now days so you can get round it!
Consider Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy
If you are in menopause, look in to using Bioidentical HRT as these are preferred by endocrinologists and rheumatologists in treatments. (Often this is tough because many physicians are not aware of the organic chemistry of why synthetic hormones are suboptimal for the human steroid receptor.) Scientists suggest avoiding synthetic hormones at all costs if possible – much of this can also be aided when you switch your eating habits, to help combat mood swings and other side effects such as bloating and hot sweats.
Take vitamins and supplements
I use high dose Vitamin D3, K2, iron and B complex (taken in the morning with breakfast – you’ll feel decidedly odd/nauseous if you don’t eat with them). But otherwise if you pack your diet with lots of leafy greens, you’ll get much of what you need.
• Vitamin D – we all know that most of us are a bit low these days, so boost it – its also great for keeping colds/flu at bay in the colder months. Spend at least 20-30 mins a day in the sunlight without any kind of suncream / block on your face.
• Magnesium – always take at night as can also aid in a good nights sleep.
• K2 – leafy greens, sprouts, cabbage, spring onions are the top sources.
• CALCIUM – found in plenty of leafy greens! Load up on Kale, broccoli, spinach, watercress and leeks amongst the top 5.
• Turmeric and resveratrol because all increase bone mass in older people as well as their widely reported focus for aiding in preventing dementia and being a great way of keeping your brain healthy – so a double bonus! Resveratrol increases bone morphogenic proteins directly!
We all know it, but now you’ve got more reasons to do it. Lots of walking (30 mins a day minimum or aim for 10,000 steps), if you like running then don’t think this will impact your bones, just try to avoid really hard ground and long distance.
Swimming is fantastic as the water supports you, and look for weight bearing exercise. HIIT training also works well as you use your own body for weights to build strength. Strong muscles not only keep your posture good and your core firm but help maintain your bones. Yoga and Pilates are fantastic and pretty much top of the list in my book. The stretching and rhythmical moves build strength and keep you supple. Yoga also helps manage Cortisol (or one of our stress hormones!)
Exercise will increase the Growth Hormone secretion which is very anabolic for bone mass accrual. Most older people have horrendous GH levels measured by IGF-1 levels. In people with IGF-1 levels below 100, Jack Kruse an esteemed US physician recommends use of arginine, ornithine as extra supplements, but you’d be good to check with doctors before taking if on other medications.
Keep balanced through mindfulnesss and meditation
I know its become trendy and buzzy of late, but I discovered and integrated these 6 years ago as a way of bringing down stress and keeping focused and finding balance. Meditation is great for control of cortisol, which, if that becomes unbalance can automatically knock out your other key hormones like dominoes and which is often considered a trigger for mood swings and depression (amongst other things).
Get plenty of sleep
There are more and more reports suggesting a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night and ideally earlier to bed and earlier to rise. I’m a night owl myself and quite a bedhog so I’ve never had a problem with this one, but if you do suffer broken nights’ sleep; mindfulness apps, night time teas, a few drops of lavender on the temples and wrists and a few soft yoga stretches before bed can all help, as well as the magnesium I mentioned earlier. Our bodies need good rest at night to be able to regenerate, heal and restore, so pamper yourself.
This is just a handful of tips to start or continue adopting in finding a rhythm within your everyday life.