Until recently it was thought that to prevent osteoporosis and therefore the risk of bone fractures, it was enough to provide, through the diet, a certain amount of daily calcium , perhaps consuming a lot of milk and many cheeses .
However, this is not the case.
Recently, a Swedish observational study – which appeared in the British Medical Journal – where the eating habits of over 100,000 inhabitants were analyzed for 20 years, categorically denied the preventive role of dairy products in the prevention of bone fractures .
Considering that no animal in nature drinks milk or eats cheese after weaning, it was not that difficult to understand this concept. In fact, today there are many doctors and nutritionists who advise against the consumption of milk and derivatives.
Not only because they wouldn’t be good for your bones, but also because they could be the cause of so many other health problems.
That said, what we know for sure is that osteoporosis is a multifactorial pathology , that is, the causes that lead to the deterioration of bone tissue could be more than one, but always related to our lifestyle and our diet.
In the course of this article we will therefore list all the possible risk factors for osteoporosis, then emphasizing what you can do, personally, to treat and prevent it, through lifestyle, nutrition and the help of some specific herbs.
What is Osteoporosis?
L ‘ Osteoporosis is a systemic skeletal disease, characterized by decreased bone mass and deterioration of the microarchitecture of bone tissue.
The consequences of this reduction are such as to induce greater fragility of the bones , with an exponential risk of fractures .
Although the loss of bone consistency affects the entire skeleton, the major problems are found in fractures of the femur, hip, wrist and vertebrae.
It is a silent problem, which most of the time does not give any symptoms, but is revealed only following a fracture caused by a fall.
With the consequent diagnosis of MOC / DEXA ( densitometry ) we will indicate the density in mineral salts of the bone and therefore the degree of osteopenia, or osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, osteoporosis is a problem that affects many people, mainly women. It is estimated that in Italy 1 out of 3 women over 50 (about 5,000,000 people) and 1 out of 8 men over 60 (about 1,000,000 people) are affected by osteoporosis .
In short, we are in the presence of an osteoporosis epidemic !
Considering that a hip or femur fracture most of the time ends up compromising a person’s autonomy for life, with great social inconvenience and enormous costs for the whole family, I think it is important to inform and explain well to people what may be the causes and how to do primary prevention, through a lifestyle and a correct diet.
Is it possible to cure osteoporosis?
The position of Official Medicine is peremptory: it is not possible to cure osteoporosis , but only to slow down the process of bone deterioration, through an improvement in lifestyle and the intake of some drugs (not without side effects).
My opinion is that this is not the case.
Personally I have seen and met many people, who have succeeded in what according to doctors is literally impossible: to reverse the process of deterioration of the bone mass, with analysis in hand.
This is thanks to a meticulous work that goes through an improvement in lifestyle, a radical change in one’s diet, as well as with the help of some plants and supplements that we are going to see.
That said, what we should all do is prevention . We will also see how soon.
Main causes of osteoporosis
Before going into the real causes of osteoporosis, let’s start by saying that bone mass is not something that is unchangeable and stable over time .
During the phases of our entire life, bone undergoes a physiological remodeling process: during this process the old and damaged skeletal tissue is removed by cells called osteoclasts and new bone is reformed by the osteoblasts .
After a certain age and with the passing of the years the activity of osteoclasts tends to be greater than that of osteoblasts and in fact with aging it is physiological that a certain loss of bone mass occurs.
This, as we will see, largely depends on the reduced hormonal activity , both in men and even more so in women with the arrival of menopause.
When this loss becomes excessive, we are talking about a real disease. When the reduction is still low we speak of osteopenia, in more serious situations, we begin to speak of real osteoporosis.
Why does this happen?
We now come to the causes of this process of bone deterioration and what we can do, at least to prevent deterioration as much as possible.
1. Menopause and andorpause
As I mentioned earlier, advancing age is the main cause of osteoporosis. In particular due to the significant drop in hormone production (estrogen for women and testosterone for men).
These hormones play a central role in the formation and maintenance of bone tissue:
- promote the reabsorption of calcium in the kidney;
- they favor the conversion of vitamin D and the consequent intestinal absorption of calcium itself;
- increase the synthesis of calcitonin ;
Their deficiency , on the other hand, stimulates a greater activity of osteoclasts (cells responsible for the disassembly of bone tissue) and an increased resorption.
How to fix it?
It is possible to fill this estrogen deficiency, at least in part, with the help of an aromatic plant that you certainly already know.
I’m talking about Salvia ( Salvia officinalis ).
The Salvia is in fact extremely rich in isoflavones , plant compounds that behave in a manner similar to estrogen and for this reason are called ” phytoestrogens “.
The use of sage as an herbal tea and as a spice is very useful, especially for women, during and after the menopause period.
Not only to prevent osteoporosis, but also to reduce typical symptoms of this female period, such as hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness.
Other foods notoriously rich in phytoestrogens, such as isoflavones and lignans are: soy, legumes, red clover, cloves, flax, sunflower and sesame seeds.
Physical inactivity, whether young or old, is one of the main causes of osteoporosis.
There are several studies that have shown that sedentary seniors are more likely to suffer a hip fracture than those who are more active.
In fact, it is physical activity (running, fast walking, lifting small weights, etc.) combined with gravity, which cause a stress on the osteoblasts, or those cells I mentioned earlier, which fix calcium for the formation of new bone tissue.
So the most important thing to do to avoid the risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis is to do physical activity, perhaps a little, without exceeding, but practicing it every day .
3. Vitamin D deficiency
The vitamin D is a pro-hormone that acts on the metabolism of calcium in the blood and bone. It promotes the reabsorption of calcium in the kidney, the intestinal absorption of phosphorus and calcium and the mineralization processes of the bone.
Insufficient levels of vitamin D is one of the main causes of osteoporosis and unfortunately 80% of the Italian population is deficient.
Why are we nearly all vitamin D deficient?
Because we spend most of our time indoors.
In fact, the solar light is the main source of vitamin D . When our skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UVB) rays emitted by the sun produce vitamin D . In the summer, 30 minutes of sun exposure are enough to obtain about 10,000 IU of vitamin D.
Indicatively, 90% of the vitamin D requirement is guaranteed by solar radiation. The remaining 10% can be obtained from some foods, such as egg yolk, salmon, blue fish and some mushrooms. In the flesh we find it only and exclusively in the liver.
Some important things you need to know about vitamin D:
- It can accumulate : Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and can accumulate in the body. So considering that we produce very little of it in winter, we should take advantage of the summer period to stock it up.
- The sunscreens prevent the synthesis of vitamin D . So at least 30 minutes a day you should try to sunbathe without sunscreen, perhaps during the central hours of the morning, when it is more difficult to get burned.
- Statins , which is the most widely used anti-cholesterol drug in the world, is a strong inhibitor of vitamin D synthesis.
- The color of the skin : the darker it is, with a high degree of melanin, the less it receives the UVB rays that produce vitamin D. To form the same amount of this substance, therefore, black people need more exposure time to sunlight versus fair-skinned ones. In fact, melanin is a pigment that absorbs UV rays, inhibiting the production of vitamin D;
- Age : the amount of activated vitamin D decreases as the years go by. A 70-year-old has a quarter of the ability to synthesize and activate this substance compared to a 20-year-old;
- Body weight : overweight people, especially those with greater fat mass, find it difficult to use vitamin D as fat cells “sequester” it, making it less available for use by other body cells and tissues. Therefore, for the health of the skeleton it is also important to normalize the body weight.
Vitamin D values of at least 30 ng / ml are considered “normal”. In fact, many doctors and specialists in the sector agree in considering the optimal threshold between 60 and 100 ng / ml. It is possible to evaluate the levels of vitamin D through a specific blood test and in case of deficiency, it would be worth evaluating a possible integration.
4. Drug abuse
All drugs have contraindications and some in particular can affect and erode bone mass.
Some medications that can cause osteoporosis are:
- the cortisone,
- proton pump inhibitors,
- some chemotherapy drugs,
- anticonvulsant drugs.
And many others.
This list should also include antibiotics whose prolonged use can alter the microbiota, resulting in dysbiosis and intestinal malabsorption (i.e. difficulty on the part of the intestine in absorbing mineral salts and vitamins).
It would therefore be worthwhile to understand what are those cases where it is possible to treat the problem with a more natural approach, perhaps through nutrition and the use of herbal remedies.
5. Cigarette smoking
The research, the work of scholars at the Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center, investigated a very important parameter for establishing the health of the skeleton: bone mineral density (known as MOC). The lower the value, the more fragile the bone.
From the data, obtained by analyzing over 250 young people, it emerged that girls who smoke show important changes in this value compared to those who do not smoke. In particular, research has shown a lower bone density in the hips and lumbar spine, areas of the body that are often subject to fractures, especially when one is later in age.
Translated: adolescents who smoke have a greater risk of incurring osteoporosis than their peers who do not. So here’s one more reason to stop.
6. Nutrition and nutrient deficiency
Osteoporosis can also be associated with poor nutrition and a consequent lack of nutrients, in particular vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids.
In turn, nutrient deficiency can depend on two factors:
- Lack of nutrients : malnutrition is a phenomenon that is anything but rare. A monotonous diet, especially if lacking in fresh and seasonal fruit and vegetables, can lead to a lack of vitamins and minerals essential for bone health;
- Intestinal malabsorption : other times the problem is upstream, that is, even if we take all the nutrients, we are unable to assimilate them due to a chronic intestinal inflammation, or a dysbiosis, or as we have seen before, due to a lack of vitamin D (essential for the correct absorption of calcium and phosphorus).
Let’s see in detail what the causes may be.
Lack of mineral salts
It is the most abundant mineral in our body and is present in all tissues and cells, however 99% localized in bones and teeth, while the remaining 1% is found in the blood and fabrics. It is a very abundant mineral in nature, as well as in dairy products, we can easily find it in oil seeds, cereals, legumes, vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, spices, seaweed, etc.
Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body. About 85% of the total is deposited in the bones, the remainder is localized in soft tissues and extracellular fluids. Phosphorus is also an abundant and rather common element in nature and it is difficult to face a phosphorus deficiency. We find it easily in legumes, whole grains, fish, eggs and many oil seeds. It is also abundant in dairy products.
After calcium and phosphorus, magnesium is the most present element in bones. In bone metabolism it interacts closely with calcium and vitamin D and has a significant, as well as unknown, role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Magnesium is abundant in oil seeds (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.) and we find it in many vegetables, legumes and dark chocolate.
Silicon is fundamental for our body, because it is an integral part of the tissues and contributes to the constitution of bones and joint cartilages, as well as to the formation of connective tissues. It favors the process of bone calcification, thanks to the absorption of calcium and magnesium, but in a way that is completely free from vitamin D. So much so that it supports the mineralization and reconstruction of bone tissue, even in the event of a fracture. Especially essential in the growth phase, as it helps to form and strengthen bones, but after 10 years of life, the level of silicon begins to drop, until it decreases more and more when you are elderly. For this reason it is useful in the presence of osteoporosis and arthritis, but also osteoarthritis and other rheumatic diseases. Silicon keeps muscles elastic and tendons flexible,as well as protecting the ligaments and supporting the cartilages. It is also very good for the skin, since it keeps it elastic, as it promotes the production of collagen fibers, accelerates healing in the presence of wounds and promotes skin regeneration. It strengthens the nails and is useful for healthy and strong hair, strengthening its structure, with anti-fall action. Sources of silicon are some grains, such as millet and barley, and some vegetables such as potatoes, onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes. One of the best sources of silicon ever isIt strengthens the nails and is useful for healthy and strong hair, strengthening its structure, with anti-fall action. Sources of silicon are some grains, such as millet and barley, and some vegetables such as potatoes, onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes. One of the best sources of silicon ever isIt strengthens the nails and is useful for healthy and strong hair, strengthening its structure, with anti-fall action. Sources of silicon are some grains, such as millet and barley, and some vegetables such as potatoes, onions, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes. One of the best sources of silicon ever is Horsetail , a plant particularly suitable as a herbal tea, or as a powder, to prevent and treat forms of bone diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis and arthrosis.
We come now to vitamins. We have already talked about vitamin D, which we can get from sun exposure. Two other vitamins that are very important to bone health, but often overlooked, are vitamin C and vitamin K2 .
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential element for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that is naturally produced by the body and which is abundantly present in bones, joints and cartilages. An adequate presence of collagen helps the healing and repair of bone and cartilage damage, and ensures the maintenance of strength and elasticity. Vitamin C is found in raw and above all fresh fruit and vegetables (i.e. harvested a few days ago). Some fruits are rich in vitamin C, in particular acidic ones (citrus fruits, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, cherries, currants, etc.) and some fresh vegetables (lettuce, radicchio, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, peperon , etc.). A very high source of natural vitamin C, we find it in Rosehip berries that can also be used for the preparation of cold herbal teas.
- Vitamin K2
Green leafy vegetables and microalgae (such as spirulina and klamath ) are important sources of vitamin K. This vitamin is then converted into K2 by our friendly bacteria that form the gut microbiota. K2 is the biologically active form that guarantees the correct functionality of some specific proteins involved in the binding of calcium in bones and other tissues, and in blood coagulation (anti-haemorrhagic activity). Vitamin K deficiency can result in increased bone fragility.
Even people with intestinal malabsorption problems can be at risk of osteoporosis , which effectively prevents the correct assimilation of all nutrients.
Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and those with celiac disease can be the cause of this problem .
Even forms of intolerance, unfortunately ever more applicants, such as the sensibility to gluten not celiac and sensitivity to casein , may involve forms of latent inflammation, which in turn can create problems such as intestinal dysbiosis (ie alteration of the equilibrium of the intestinal flora) and intestinal permeability. All ailments that can reduce the ability of our intestine to properly assimilate all nutrients.
It is often possible to achieve major improvements by simply eliminating all those foods that contain gluten and casein.
Natural remedies useful for osteoporosis
There are no remedies capable of preventing or treating osteoporosis on their own.
Instead, we are talking about herbs and substances naturally rich in nutrients that are important for bone health, which can perhaps fill up a lack of vitamins and mineral salts.
The most important and above all at no cost “natural remedies” are the sun and physical activity . If vitamin D is deficient (i.e. blood values below 30 ng / mL), it is always possible to resort to supplementation under medical prescription.
As for herbs and plant extracts, the remedies considered useful in Natural Medicine are:
1. Salvia officinalis
We have already talked about it, Salvia officinalis is particularly rich in isoflavones, phytoestrogens (ie plant estrogens) perhaps not able to completely replace the endogenous ones, but at least to partially fill the natural decline due to menopause.
In this regard, it must be said that Sage, taken both as an herbal tea and as a normal cooking spice, is also considered useful because it could reduce the undesirable effects of menopause (hot flashes, nocturnal soduration, vaginal dryness, etc.)
2. Arvense horsetail
Also of ‘ Equisetum we arvense we have already spoken. It is among the plants with the highest concentration of silicon, an absolutely essential micronutrient for bone health.
We talked before about how important vitamin C is for the synthesis of collagen, which then represents the structure that guarantees flexibility and resistance to the skeleton. With this in mind, Rosehip berries are one of the best natural sources of vitamin C on the planet.
Consider that 100g of Rosehip berries contain up to 2,000 mg of ascorbic acid , a concentration 40 times higher than that of lemons and oranges.
It is a very common plant in our territory at all altitudes. We find it in the plains, but also in the hills and in the high mountains. The berries are harvested after the first frosts, between November and December.
If you want to buy dried berries instead, you can find them here .
4. Blue-green microalgae
Despite the great abundance and wide choice of foods that we find on supermarket shelves, today we have a great problem of nutritional deficiency .
This is largely caused by intensive agriculture, therefore by the intensive use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, which have done nothing but impoverish the earth, reducing the quantities of nutrients we find in fruit and vegetables.
Furthermore, the food that reaches us on the table undergoes many passages and various levels of intermediation. This means that before it is consumed, many days pass since it is harvested. This is also a problem, as many vitamins are sensitive to oxygen and sunlight, so they degrade over time.
In fact, we are talking about substances of a vegetable nature, with an extremely high concentration of nutrients and above all highly biodisonable (i.e. easily assimilated).
In fact, the green-blue microalgae contain all the essential amino acids, almost all of the vitamins and mineral salts present in nature and a large amount of antioxidants.
The intake of microalgae should not be considered as a meal replacement, but rather as a supplement to fill nutritional deficiencies such as those described in the previous chapters.
NB : All information published on this site is informative and should not be considered as advice, or medical prescriptions, or other.