As you age, your bones naturally tend to lose their strength and density.
Osteoporosis is a chronic disease that can speed up this process and exacerbate your symptoms.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with osteoporosis, you’re not alone.
More than 2.3 million Canadians have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, most of them women.
And it’s one of the more common conditions seen by naturopathic practitioners across the country.
If you or someone you love is living with osteoporosis, I’m Dr. Maria Cavallazzi, a women’s health naturopathic doctor at The Mindful Healing Clinic, and I can help.
But first things first: what exactly is osteoporosis and how can naturopathic treatments help?
Let’s find out.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a Latin term meaning “porous bones”.
So, you might be unsurprised to hear that it’s a condition that affects your bones.
Your bones are naturally porous – particularly in your bone marrow – but these pores are quite small.
They’re shaped like honeycombs, which allows your bones to be nice and strong, but also lightweight.
With osteoporosis, however, these holes increase in size and cause your bones to lose both strength and density.
As a result, your bones become more fragile and prone to fractures.
These breaks may occur with small traumas like simple falls, or even while doing routine activities, such as standing, walking, or running.
Osteoporosis can occur in any bones.
However, it most commonly affects your ribs, hips, and the bones in your wrists and spine.
While it more commonly affects people 50 and older, osteoporosis can happen at any age.
So, it’s important to work to reduce your risk factors and increase your overall health.
Osteoporosis is sometimes confused with osteopenia, the state of having low bone density.
But while osteopenia may lead to osteoporosis, they’re not the same thing.
What Are The Main Symptoms Of Osteoporosis?
In the early stages of osteoporosis, most people experience little to no symptoms.
In fact, you might not even realize that you have osteoporosis until the disease worsens and you break a bone, or when you get a bone mineral density test.
That’s why it’s so important to seek health support from a Mississauga naturopathic doctor if you’re considered to be higher risk.
As your bones weaken, you may notice the following symptoms:
- Receding gums
- Weakened grip strength
- Weak and brittle nails (also a sign of deficiency in vitamin B7 and protein
Without treatment, the symptoms of osteoporosis will continue to progress.
In severe cases, your bones may become so weak and brittle that even a strong cough or sneeze could potentially cause a fracture.
Additionally, you may experience:
- Chronic pain particularly in your back and neck
- Loss of height
Severe osteoporosis also increases your risk of experiencing a compression fracture.
This is when the vertebrae in your back and neck become too weak to support the pressure of your spine.
What Does Osteoporosis Pain Feel Like?
Most people describe osteoporosis as severe back pain with a sudden onset.
The pain often worsens when walking or even standing and often decreases while resting.
What Is The Main Cause Of Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis may be caused by several factors.
Advanced age is one of the biggest risk factors for developing the disease.
This is due to your body’s natural wear and tear.
In fact, one subset of osteoporosis is referred to as “senile osteoporosis.”
This is diagnosed in seniors with osteoporosis when all other possible causes are ruled out.
Nonetheless, younger people can, and do, develop osteoporosis.
This is particularly true for younger populations with multiple risk factors.
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Certain medications, such as long term corticosteroid use
- A thyroid condition, particularly hypothyroidism
- Being a woman
- Being of East Asian or European descent
- Having a hormonal imbalance associated with menopause
- Having a family history of osteoporosis
- Poor nutrition
- Lack of physical activity
- Low body weight
Naturopathic Solutions For Osteoporosis
Unfortunately, a cure for osteoporosis has yet to be discovered.
However, there are plenty of natural lifestyle changes that you can make to help minimize your symptoms and keep you feeling your best.
Below are some of the top naturopathic approved tips for osteoporosis treatment.
1. Strength Training
Staying active is always good advice, regardless of who you are.
But it’s even more important for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
In particular, weight bearing exercises can cause your muscles to pull on your bones a little.
Research has shown that this can be useful in slowing down the loss of bone density from osteoporosis.
A 2018 study found that resistance training can slow the loss of bone density, and in some cases can even restore bone density in people with osteoporosis.
If you’re used to only doing aerobics or cardio and feel intimidated by using weights, it’s understandable.
But there’s more to weight bearing exercises than powerlifting or bench pressing.
Things like weighted lunges, hip abduction & adductions, knee extensions and flexions, back extensions, and squats can all help.
Even certain yoga poses can help, like planks or the different warrior poses.
Strength training at least three times a week can go a long way toward managing – and in some cases even reversing – your osteoporosis.
If you have a more serious case of osteoporosis, be sure to work with a physiotherapist or personal trainer.
They can help you reduce your risk of fractures while exercising.
2. Get More Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays an important role in the development and treatment of osteoporosis.
It helps your body absorb calcium, which is an essential component of strong, healthy bones.
If you develop a vitamin D deficiency, your body becomes less able to absorb calcium in bones.
Subsequently, your bones become more prone to fractures and developing osteoporosis.
Vitamin D deficiencies are more frequent in places with limited supply of sunny weather – like here in Canada.
In these instances, it’s a good idea to supplement, especially during the winter.
Otherwise, fatty fish, vitamin D enriched eggs, and other vitamin D fortified foods can help boost your vitamin D levels.
3. Get More Calcium
Calcium helps to keep your bones healthy and strong.
Subsequently, it plays an important role in osteoporosis treatment.
Incorporating plenty of calcium into your diet can help slow bone mass loss and subsequently maintain your bone strength for as long as possible.
Foods containing high levels of calcium include dairy products, leafy greens, beans, and nuts.
4. Get More Magnesium
Like Vitamin D, magnesium helps your body absorb calcium.
It also helps by turning vitamin D into its most active form.
Therefore, magnesium deficiency can play a big role in osteoporosis.
Eating plenty of whole grain foods, nuts, and dried fruits can help prevent a magnesium deficiency.
5. Try Acupuncture
It involves placing very thin needles into certain points on your body to stimulate organ function and promote healing.
And it can provide relief from osteoporosis pain.
Scientific evidence supports the use of acupuncture to promote bone density and manage osteoporosis pain.
Acupuncture has plenty of other uses as well.
6. Improve Your Digestive Health
Believe it or not, keeping your gut health can do wonders for your bone health.
This is largely due to two factors: low stomach acid and stress.
Stomach acid helps your body process calcium, which, as we’ve already discussed, is important for bone health.
Therefore, low levels of stomach acid can worsen osteoporosis symptoms.
Low stomach acid can occur for multiple reasons, such as poor diet, nutrient deficiencies, and infection.
Additionally, low stomach acid is often caused by stress.
Stress doesn’t just affect your mind; it can also wreak havoc on your digestive system.
All these factors can affect your bone density.
Book Your Appointment With The Mindful Healing Clinic Today
Osteoporosis is a serious diagnosis.
But you don’t have to go through it alone.
At The Mindful Healing Clinic, we’re here to help.
Book your appointment with The Mindful Healing Clinic today to get started on improving your bone health.
Until next time,
Dr. Maria Cavallazzi is a medical doctor from Colombia where she practiced as a family physician for 8 years until she moved to Canada 16 years ago and became a naturopathic doctor in Mississauga.