What is Osteoporosis?

July 23, 2002

Osteoporosis, is a situation where calcium is being lost from the bones faster than being added, regardless of how much calcium a person consumes. As we age it is normal for both men and women to develop a condition known as osteopenia, this being a moderate reduction in bone mass. This situation is without problem unless it progresses to osteoporosis, which is a severe reduction in bone mass significantly increasing the risk of bone fracture and posture deterioration such as ‘dowager’s hump’.Preventing osteoporosis is about getting the right balance of bone minerals. Healthy bones need calcium, magnesium, boron, other minerals and protein. Generally the mineral calcium is the main focus, yet calcium can not be absorbed into the body, unless a significant supply of magnesium is present. Magnesium is also alkaline, and the latest research by Dr. Susan Brown (osteoporosis specialist in the USA, www.betterbones.com) suggests that a more acidic body is more susceptible to calcium loss. So some research is suggesting a high magnesium intake is probably more important than a high calcium intake.

However, in general we need to look at the raw materials needed to form good healthy bones that will last a lifetime. Food is raw material for the body and a balanced diet, that includes lots of fruit and vegetables, should equal – of your food intake on a daily basis. Eating raw nuts and seeds (preferably soaked overnight) will provide essential fatty acids, which are essential for the absorption of all the bone building materials. Good sources of both calcium and magnesium are sea vegetables and raw almonds. Protein is another essential requirement, however protein in excess produces strongly acidic wastes. These may force the body to call upon its reserves of the alkaline minerals, calcium and magnesium from the bones. So, a high protein diet will increase calcium loss.

Other risk factors that can induce onset of osteoporosis include salt, refined sugar, cigarette smoking, vitamin D deficiencies and excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol. Because bones thicken or become denser in response to load placed on them, lack of physical activity is paramount in creating a weakening and thinning in bone density. Weight bearing exercise is essential to the recipe for life strong bones. Try yoga, Pilates, resistance training, walking some form of weight bearing movement that you enjoy.

Osteoporosis has also been blamed on estrogen deficiency. However, not even basic medical texts agree with this. Estrogen plays a part in slowing down the bone loss but cannot rebuild new bone. Progesterone, the balancing hormone, stimulates new bone growth. Whilst the researchers and the pharmaceutical industry discuss this controversial issue, it is probably safe to suggest that hormonal balance would play a key role in the prevention of osteoporosis. How do you balance your hormones? Reduce stress in your life. Eat a balanced diet. Get some regular exercise. The formula is the same for most health-related issues. Start today!

Karl Ostrowski, BHMS (Hons), Ass. Dip. Sp. Sc., CSCS, Pilates instructor for The Golden Door, Australia

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