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Nutrition & Healing - Osteoporosis

By Dr. Jonathan V. Wright

If you've been told you have osteoporosis, it's quite possible to slow it down, stop it, or even turn it around with diet, improvement in digestion, calcium and other minerals, vitamins, and hormone replacement therapy using natural forms of hormones. I've seen reports of improved bone mass starting for some women after age 60. Just as importantly, the same principles apply to preventing osteoporosis in the first place.

"Mainstream" medical treatment of osteoporosis includes calcium but rarely other minerals, estrogen replacement, usually with synthetic or animal estrogen, unusually high quantities of vitamin D, salmon calcitonin and etidronate.

Diet changes for reversal as well as treatment of osteoporosis include a considerable reduction in animal protein and grains, and an increase in all other vegetables and fruits. Salt and phosphorus intake should be reduced, processed food, sugar, caffeine and alcohol should all be eliminated.

Women who've been strictly vegetarian all their lives are found to have as much as 30% to 40'/o greater bone mass in their 70's than women who've eaten average amounts of meat and other animal protein. Animal protein contains many more sulfur-rich amino acids than vegetable protein; these increase calcium excretion. Animal protein and grains both contain considerable phosphorus, which also increases calcium excretion. Animal protein, grains, and many other starches are 'acid ash' foods, which also increase calcium excretion.

By contrast nearly all other vegetables and fruits are 'alkaline ash', low in phosphorus, and low in sulfurrich amino acids. Eating a majority of these foods promotes calcium retention.

Soft drinks and processed foods are usually high in phosphorus, sugar, and salt all of which promote calcium loss. Phosphorus and salt intake can certainly be reduced to conserve body calcium, although not eliminated entirely since they're also essential nutrients. Sugar and refined carbohydrates aren't essential, and should be eliminated entirely.

Alcohol can interfere with bone rebuilding, and caffeine in more than small quantities promotes calcium excretion. Its best to severely restrict or eliminate both of these, too.

Almost all the women with osteoporosis I've worked with have significant digestive impairment leading to less than optimal assimilation of nutrients. Careful testing for and treatment of problems with digestion and assimilation requires the help of a health care professional skilled and knowledgeable in natural and nutritional therapies. For a referral to someone near you, you might call 800-241-7517.

Calcium is certainly the major mineral required by bone, but many others are needed too. I usually recommend 1000 to 1500 milligrams of calcium daily, along with 500 milligrams of magnesium. Please remember that even 2000 milligrams of calcium daily will do no good at all if it isn't retained by the body. The diet changes you've read about here are very necessary to get the calcium to be retained and "work".

Other minerals important to bone re-mineralization include zinc, copper, boron, manganese, strontium and silicon. Since it's almost impossible to take each mineral separately, look for a "multiples" supplement that includes them all, as well as the vitamins you'll read about next.

Important vitamins for bone re-mineralization, as well as prevention of bone loss, include Vitamin B6, and B12, folic acid, and vitamins C, D and K.

Vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid all reduce blood levels of homocystrine, an amino acid whose production by the body increases after the menopause. Homocysteine promotes both bone loss and atherosclerosis, so it's very important to keep its level low. Usually the amount of vitamin B6 in a good multiple is sufficient, but I usually recommend learning self-injection of 1000 micrograms of vitamin B12, and 5 milligrams of folic acid once weekly because of the impaired digestion almost always found in women with osteoporosis.

Many "multiples" for osteoporosis contain vitamins K, C, and D. However, I usually recommend at least 1000 milligrams of vitamin C twice daily, and one tablespoon daily of cod liver oil, in addition to a multiple vitamin specifically designed for osteoporosis.

Hormone replacement therapy with natural hormones are a very necessary part of osteoporosis reversal and prevention. Natural hormone replacement therapy always includes all three types of natural estrogen, as well as progesterone.

I always draw a clear distinction between pharmaceutical hormones that are either derived from animals or synthesized in a laboratory, and "natural" hormones. The "pharmaceutical" hormones have a different molecular structure than the hormones that are produced by the human body whereas the "natural" hormones are identical.

After individualized testing it may be necessary to include DHEA, a natural testosterone, also. For further details about hormonal replacement therapy, you might want to read the brief regarding that subject.

For help with any needed hormone testing as well as prescriptions for natural hormones, you might contact the American College of Advancement in Medicine for a referral to a doctor knowledgeable and skilled in natural hormone use.

Because of differences in age, sex, metabolism, or potential allergy, these diet and supplement therapies may not be suitable for you. Consult a health care professional skilled in nutritional and natural therapies. To locate one near you, you might call the American College of Advancement in Medicine at 800-532-3688 or the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians at 206-323-7610.


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