Did you know osteoporosis is often called the silent disease? And for good reason as it is not on most women’s radar until after they have had a minor fall and broken a bone. Yet, at least 1 in 3 women in the UK will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture with women aged over 45 years spending more days in hospital due to osteoporosis than diabetes, heart attack or breast cancer. Let’s look at natural remedies for menopausal bone health.
Bones and Oestrogen
Bones are living tissues and throughout life are constantly breaking down and rebuilding.
Bones are also covered in oestrogen receptor cells and healthy levels of oestrogen lead to healthy bone density levels.
Decreasing levels of oestrogen in menopause can have an impact on bone density levels. Research indicates that on average, women lose up to 10 per cent of their bone density in the first five years after menopause.
Risk factors for Osteoporosis
In addition to age and oestrogen levels, bone health is influenced by day-to-day lifestyle choices. Risk factors include:
Risk factors uncontrollable: women, Caucasian, age, small frame
Risk factors controllable: lack of exercise, poor diet, lack of essential minerals, lack of vitamin D, smoking, excessive alcohol/fizzy drinks/coffee and poor gut health
Risk factors medically: hyperparathyroidism, hyperthyroidism, irregular menstrual periods (not ovulating and being exposed to bone protective oestrogen), diabetes, or long-term use of pharmaceuticals like steroids, aluminium-containing antacids, tranquillisers and diuretics
What about dairy consumption?
Did you notice that I haven’t put a low dairy diet in there? That is because whilst calcium is an essential mineral for bone health, we need to think of it in terms of a whole nutrient-dense diet and a healthy lifestyle, as opposed to high dairy consumption.
Japanese and sub-Saharan women tend to have lower dairy consumption and lower bone density than Caucasian women plus lower rates of fractures. The 2 countries with the highest dairy intake – US and Sweden – are also the countries with the highest rate of osteoporotic fractures.
Bone health and osteoporosis are multi-factorial. And thinking that the way to prevent osteoporosis is to take a calcium supplement simply won’t cut it.
Research into calcium supplements concludes: The current meta-analysis of randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials showed that the use of calcium supplements was significantly associated with the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease by 15%, specifically in postmenopausal women.
This risk is not seen when eating calcium-rich foods.
Natural Remedies for menopausal bone health
The more we can do in our younger years the better but anytime is a good time to start and day-to-day lifestyle choices can make a big difference.
Exercise – we want a combination of weight-bearing exercise, impact exercise and yoga to improve bone mineral density and bone flexibility. Impact exercise is fundamental to stronger bones. Whilst exercises like cycling and swimming are fantastic for cardiovascular fitness, they don’t offer the same skeletal benefits.
Give up smoking and cut back on alcohol and fizzy drinks – smoking reduces bone mineral density. Drinking alcohol and fizzy drinks in excess lowers your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Cut back on caffeine – equally drinking caffeine in excess (more than 3-cups a day) causes your body to excrete calcium more quickly.
Vitamin D – optimised Vitamin D levels help your body to absorb and use calcium. Get outside every day to top up vitamin D levels from the sun and if in doubt, get your levels tested as supplementation may be necessary
Eat calcium-rich foods – almonds, tinned fish with bones, green leafy vegetables all are rich in calcium. So, fill up on kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage all of which are rich in magnesium, another important mineral for bone health.
Address low stomach acid – if you have low stomach acid you won’t be able to absorb calcium, magnesium and other important minerals needed for bone health. Symptoms of low stomach acid include heartburn, indigestion, trouble digesting rich food e.g. red meat, gas and bloating after eating.
Eat your prunes – new research shows the benefit of eating prunes for bone health in post-menopausal women with some calling it the superfood of bone health.
Herbs and Spices – the real superfoods for me are herbs and spices as they are so nutrient-dense. For bone health try using thyme, parsley, nettle, dandelion and cayenne pepper.
Natural Menopause Remedies and bone health
Maca – Maca has been shown to strengthen bones and increase bone density and it is thought that may be due to its calcium content together with its oestrogen balancing properties.
Black Cohosh – contains phytoestrogens that may help prevent bone loss and promote bone formation.
Red Clover – contains oestrogen-like compounds which again may protect bones.
Personally, I prefer to prescribe Black Cohosh and Red Clover in homeopathic form using Homeobotanical tinctures.