My Osteoporosis journey
Updated: Aug 1
In early 2023, I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis. This means the bones of my lower spine are losing density faster than normal for my age. I unavoidably have three of the associated risk factors: (a) being coeliac all my life - which means I potentially don't absorb nutrients well, hence the routine DEXA scan, (b) I'm a white female, and (c) I'm post-menopause.
In the UK, the usual response to this diagnosis is your doctor recommends a triad of medications: alendronic acid, calcium (carbonate = chalk!) and vitamin D3. However, my blood calcium levels were above the top of the range, my vit D was at a good level and I really did not like the sound of the possible side effects of alendronic acid (see below). So I started to research bone density and came across the following experts:
- The Bone Coach: Kevin has a fantastically inspirational personal story of thriving after his Osteoporosis diagnosis. The website has lots of great information for free. He also has free social media and YouTube channels.
- Parathyroid.com: If you have high blood calcium levels and Osteoporosis, it's very possible you have a Parathyroid issue - usually a benign tumour/growth on one of the four glands in your neck. This website is a goldmine of amazing information and I have already helped a long-standing client be diagnosed - thankfully.
Here's what I've learned about Osteoporosis so far:
- DEXA scan results compare your bones to those of a 30 year old. I reckon most or all women of 58 would probably not compare well! Thin bones are not necessarily weak bones. Just because your bones absorb x-rays does not mean they are weak necessarily. DEXA scans were only given after fracture until the 1990s. Osteoporosis is being diagnosed much more frequently now. And the standard treatment was only given to the elderly or after fracture.
- Bones are primarily made of collagen (not calcium!). Collagen is strands of protein which we make ourselves so eating and digesting protein well is crucial. Do you eat slowly and chew thoroughly? Are you drinking too much fluid before or with your food (ie, diluting stomach acid)? Do you need to take digestive enzymes? I personally don't recommend supplementing with other creatures' collagen. It has to be broken down to be digested (not easy) and then your body has to know to remake it into your own human collagen - not a given! Also, the number one co-factor we need to make our own collagen is vitamin C - especially combined with bioflavonoids.
- There are 20+ minerals in bone - not just calcium!
- Bone is a mineral storage place for your body. And calcium is more important for muscle contraction (especially of the heart!) and nerve function than it is for bone. So your body will release it from your bones into the bloodstream if it needs to. It’s essential for your doctor to do bone profile blood testing.
- Healthy bones are both strong and have a degree of flexibility. Dense but brittle bones may fracture more easily if you fall.
- Bone is living tissue. It is constantly being broken down and renewed. Sometimes osteoporosis is caused by a slowdown or increase in one or both of these processes. It’s important to find out what's happening and why. Ask your doctor for further testing.
- Exercise is crucial. If you don’t use it, you lose it when it comes to bone (and so many other things). My hip and femur scores were very good. I have a job where I’m on my feet all day and I walk and cycle regularly. Weights/resistance training is essential - as we use muscles, they pull away from the bones and this stimulates new bone production.
- Avoiding fractures is the best thing you can do with Osteoporosis - so having good balance and coordination is ideal. Yoga is great for this - luckily, I've being doing Yoga for 30 years.
- There is a connection between low bone density and chronic inflammation and/or acidity in the body.
And here are the changes I've made since my diagnosis:
- I’ve joined a local gym . I go twice a week and use the resistance machines. I do 3 sets of 8 reps at as heavy a weight as I can manage - and I'm gradually increasing the weights. I learned how to start doing this safely with a physiotherapist and the personal trainer at the gym.
- While I was waiting to do this, I used my rebounder (mini trampoline) every day. Bouncing creates an impact or a jarring which stimulates bone to make new bone cells.
- I strongly believe that there is a connection between the osteoporosis in my lower spine and inflammation in my gut. So I'm working with a functional medicine GP. Sometimes even us therapists just need to hand over to an expert!
- As for supplements, I’ve been taking magnesium, boron and silica - both components of bone. I'm also taking a combination of vitamins A, D, E and K. The fat-soluble vitamins work together and are crucial for bone health.
- I’ve started drinking some mineral water - just in case my water filter is too efficient.
This is my personal journey and is not intended to be a recommendation for anyone else. We're all unique!
From my research of alendronic acid, I became very concerned about its side effects. First of all, it’s very irritating to the digestive system. And I have coeliac disease/chronic inflammation so I’m not keen to impact my digestive system at all. There is an alternative route via injection, but I read that the side-effects of this can be pretty devastating. First of all atrial fibrillation - in other words, risk of heart attack! And it can actually cause complex fractures of the femur, the thighbone. These fractures are very difficult or impossible to heal, so that sounds pretty life changing too. Finally, it can cause necrosis or dying off of the bone in the jaw. I imagine this would be pretty devastating as it would lead to tooth loss, difficulties eating and basically it sounds horrendously painful. As I am currently in good health and able to do pretty much whatever I want with my body, I was reluctant to risk any of the above.
With Kinesiology and Nutritional Therapy, I can help you on your Osteoporosis journey.