Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the bones, causing them to become thin and weak. Approximately three million people in the UK have osteoporosis, and there are over 230,000 fractures every year as a result.
Osteoporosis is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in women as a bone mineral density 2.5 standard deviations below peak bone mass (20-year-old healthy female average) as measured by DXA; the term "established osteoporosis" includes the presence of a fragility fracture.
Osteoporosis is most common in women after menopause, when it is called postmenopausal osteoporosis, but may also develop in men, and may occur in anyone in the presence of particular hormonal disorders and other chronic diseases or as a result of medications, specifically glucocorticoids, when the disease is called steroid- or glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis (SIOP or GIOP). Given its influence in the risk of fragility fracture, osteoporosis may significantly affect life expectancy and quality of life.
Osteoporosis happens more commonly in old age when the body becomes less able to replace worn-out bone. Special cells within the bones, called living bone cells, are no longer able to break down old bone and renew it with healthy, dense new bone. As you get older, you also lose a certain amount of bone, causing the bones to become thinner. The bones become fragile and more likely to break (fracture), particularly the bones of the spine, wrist and hips.
Bone is a living tissue that is constantly repairing itself. It is made of a hard outer shell, which contains a mesh of collagen (tough elastic fibres), minerals, blood vessels and bone marrow. This mesh looks a bit like a honeycomb, with spaces between the different parts. Healthy bones are very dense, and the spaces within bones are small. In bone affected by osteoporosis, the spaces are larger, making the bones weaker and less elastic.
Bones are repaired and reinforced by a range of proteins and minerals, which are absorbed from the bloodstream. They include calcium, phosphorus, proteins and amino acids. The growth of sex hormones controls the amount of mineral substance deposited in the bones. Changes in hormone levels can therefore affect the strength of the bones. For example, the female hormone oestrogen offers some protection against osteoporosis. After the menopause, oestrogen levels fall, often causing the bones to thin quickly.
Osteoporosis can be prevented with lifestyle changes and sometimes medication; in people with osteoporosis, treatment may involve both. Lifestyle change includes exercise and preventing falls; medication includes calcium, vitamin D, bisphosphonates and several others. Fall-prevention advice includes exercise to tone deambulatory muscles, proprioception-improvement exercises; equilibrium therapies may be included. Exercise with its anabolic effect, may at the same time stop or reverse osteoporosis.
Parsley has a longstanding folklore reputation for the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and sciatica. It's high concentration of boron and fluoride might help against bone thinning and osteoporosis. Taking mineral rich herbs in capsule or tincture form won't do much for your bones. One cup of nettle tincture contains the same amount of calcium - 300 mg - as one cup of nettle infusion. Many women drink two or more cups of herbal tea a day, but no one drinks a cup of tincture! The boron in nettles helps protect bones. Nettle provide a good green source of calcium along with protein. Comfrey or Knitbone as it was once called was thought to aid bone growth, but this herb has fallen into disrepute of late.
Regular consumption of a tea made from lady's mantle helps to maintain estrogen production and regulate its effects on the body. Pour a generous cup of boiling water over 3-4 tsp. of the dried plant. Steep for 10 min., and then strain. Drink 2-3 cups each day.
This remedy promotes the absorption of calcium by the bones. It is particularly suitable for slender or small boned people. The most common recommended dosage is to take two 6X tablets three times daily.
This is an important remedy to improve bone structure, but to be effective, it must be used over several months or even years. Take three 12X tablets daily in th evenings. Taking Silicea with Calcarea phosphoricum works especially well.
Sparing the spine
Because the vertebrae are vulnerable to osteoporosis, it is important to protect them. Paying attention to how you move and not overburdening your spine may prevent a fracture. For instance, be sure not to lift more than you can carry comfortably. When picking up heavy objects, even bags of groceries, squat and use your leg muscles, not your back muscles, to lift the weight.
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Though less important to maintaining strong bones than calcium and vitamin D, fluoride, silicon and magnesium also promote bone health. While most tap water is fluoridated, bottled water is not. Thus, eat black and green teas, nuts, soybeans and fish for a regular fluoride intake. A balanced diet will also supply enough silicon and magnesium. Ask your doctor if fluoride supplements are needed.