Many of my radio spots on Natural Health Show are about menopause and women’s health. One of the major concerns with menopause is bone health, when women lose the bone-protecting quality of estrogen and start losing bone tissue. This leads to major problems — the most significant of which is osteoporosis.
Estrogen, the female hormone, protects bones from developing
osteoporosis. When estrogen decreases during menopause, women start to lose
bone tissue, which leads to this condition. The bone simply becomes porous and
thus weaker and more prone to fractures. Men are also more prone to
osteoporosis and bone fractures as they age. This is mainly due to decreased testosterone
(the male hormone) and a poorer diet low in calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K.
· In Canada, 2 million people suffer from confirmed osteoporosis. Probably an equal number are yet undiagnosed, as diagnosis usually occurs when one experiences a fracture.
· The annual cost to the health care system in Canada is $2 billion.
· 25% of women over the age of 50 will develop osteoporosis.
· 40% of bone fractures in women occur after the age of 50.
· 28% of women that experience bone fractures due to osteoporosis survive less than one year.
As you can see from the statistics, this is a significant
problem. And in terms of suffering, anyone who has experienced a bone fracture
(including myself) knows the pain is excruciating and relentless. The severe
pain usually lasts 6 months and then usually takes 12 months to subside
completely. It interferes with sleep. The standard pain medications don’t work
and the whole process is completely incapacitating. It other words, this is a
THE SCIENCE OF BONES
Bone is primarily made up of the protein collagen, calcium and osteocalcin. Collagen is what gives bone flexibility, while calcium gives it hardness and osteocalcin acts as a glue that attracts calcium to collagen and makes everything stick together. Bones undergo constant restoration; they are always being dissolved and then reformed. This enables their flexibility and allows them to adapt to stresses. The more stress, (e.g., due to weight bearing exercises), the more bone formation than bone disintegration occurs. This process makes bones stronger and that is why weight bearing exercises, especially the ones that put pressure on leg bones, are encouraged.
The cells responsible for bone formation are called
osteoblasts. Those responsible for bone resorption (i.e., disintegration) are
called osteoclasts. Under ideal conditions, the actions of these two cell lines
balance each other out and there is equal formation and disintegration. However,
as we age, bone disintegration slowly starts to predominate (mainly due to a
decrease of protective hormones) and bones become weaker. Eventually, they
become so porous and so weak that osteoporosis is officially confirmed.
FIGHTING OSTEOPOROSISFor a long time it was thought that the primary factor that plays a role in osteoporosis development was the lack of calcium in the diet. This is only partially true. While it’s true that many do not have sufficient calcium in their diet (i.e., those who don’t eat dairy), most people still do get enough calcium. So what is the main culprit? One of the primary culprits is the decrease in protective hormones as we age. But there are other equally important factors. One of them is the lack of vitamin D and vitamin K2. Vitamin D can be acquired from food or formed as a consequence of exposure to UV radiation from the sun or from solar lamps. Vitamin D is required for calcium to be absorbed into bone.
Vitamin K2 directs calcium so that it is deposited in bone
where it should be, instead of being deposited in soft tissues and, more
importantly, in the walls of arteries where it is very harmful. This latter
process causes the hardening of arteries, leading to their lack of elasticity
as well as the progression of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the medical
term for developing calcium/cholesterol plaques that are responsible for
blocking of arteries and, in turn, heart attacks and strokes. Vitamin K2 is
mostly found in beef and in dairy products but only when the cattle are grass
fed. Most modern farms do not implement this feeding technique, but rather rely
on grain feeding. This results are meat and dairy products that are deficient in
THE PROBLEM WITH MEDS
Another important piece of this puzzle is that the standard prescription medications prescribed to treat osteoporosis have very harmful and significant side effects. They are called bisphosphonates. They work by completely inhibiting the bone resorbing cells osteoclasts. In theory, this should create a desired effect: i.e., bone resorption is inhibited and the bone forming cells can continue bone formation unhindered. However, the problem with this concept is that it inhibits bone remodeling. Without bone remodeling, bones lose their elasticity and although osteoporosis does not develop, the bones become brittle and prone to fractures. Another significant problem with bisphosphonates is that they can cause inflammation of the food pipe (esophagus) as well as predispose to esophageal cancer. This is one of the most difficult cancers to treat and it has a very high mortality rate, even with aggressive treatment.
Supplement with Vitamin D. Most people are deficient in this essential vitamin. If you have a darker complexion, do not be afraid to expose yourself to the sun. It is sunburn and excessive prolonged exposure that causes skin cancer. Moderate exposure without burning brings far more health benefiting effects than any harm. Secondly, make sure that you have an adequate intake of Vitamin K2. One way to achieve this is to eat beef and dairy from grass fed cows. Another great source is aged, fermented cheeses. Probiotics are also essential, as they produce this vitamin in the gut before it is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Another great option is a new product called BoneMD. BoneMD is the highest grade Milk
Basic Protein (MBP) on the market today. The proteins are extracted from
hormone-free, free range, grass fed cattle in New Zealand. BoneMD is highly
effective in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
Stay tuned for my next article in this series where I will present the amazing qualities of this new product for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.