Osteoporosis: The Silent Thief0steoporosis is an insidious metabolic bone disease that results in a loss of bone at an accelerated rate. Because there is no pain associated with the progression of the disease, it has been dubbed "The Silent Thief "creeping up on us without a warning - until it's too late. Osteoporosis can advance to actually cause structural failure of the bone. Spreading at epidemic rates, Osteoporosis is the fourth leading cause of disease- related death of women. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, of the 25 million Americans that have the disease, almost all of them are women. Loss of bone mass occurs in both men and women, but women lose bone mass faster, and at an earlier age- as young as thirty.
What causes Osteoporosis?It is well known that sedentary lifestyle contributes to osteoporosis. Preliminary evidence connecting amount of exercise with onset of osteoporosis came from mineral balance studies performed on astronauts returning from weeks of being in gravity-free conditions. Detectable demineralization was noted regardless of duration of exposure to zero-gravity conditions. Studies have repeatedly confirmed that weight-bearing exercise not only slows bone loss; it can augment bone mineral content. (See exercise options below) Poor diet is also a key factor in predisposition to osteoporosis. Bone, like all living tissue, requires adequate nutrition for proper growth. Bones require sufficient levels of minerals, especially calcium to maintain mass. Most adults lose minerals from the bone steadily throughout their life as part of the natural aging process. The standard American diet produces metabolic imbalances that reduce absorption and retention of minerals including calcium. A diet of excess protein, dairy products, sugar, carbonated soft drinks, alcohol, caffeine, and fried foods has an acidizing effect on the body, causing calcium to be drawn from the bones to buffer the condition. The insufficient absorption of calcium increases one's risk of osteoporosis. Calcium is ingested in the form of relatively insoluble salts, whether a source of food or dietary supplements. For calcium to be absorbed, the body requires not only vitamin D but also adequate Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) in the stomach. With age, the amount of HCL secreted decreases. Soft drinks and caffeine consumption also put bones at risk as they contain high levels of phosphorus. Since the body needs to maintain blood levels of equal amounts phosphorus and calcium, high phosphorus causes calcium to be drawn from bones to meet the demand. Caffeine acts as a diuretic increasing calcium excretion in the urine and allowing more calcium to be secreted into the gastrointestinal tract. Heavy use of tobacco or alcohol also contributes to osteoporosis. Cigarette smoking lowers estrogen levels crippling the rate of bone mineralization. Excessive use of alcohol depletes over all nutritional status, thus diminishing the body's resources needed for building bone. Use of drugs such as steroids, diuretics and antacids containing aluminum are contributing risk factors as well. Fluoride (once touted as an osteoporosis treatment) is, in fact, toxic to bone cells; small amounts of fluoride in common drinking water, over time, has been known to diminish bone nutrients. Decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause osteoporosis as hormones play an important role in bone building. Specifically, progesterone is the hormone that stimulates monthly ovulation, but it also stimulates bone formation. Before menopause actually begins, the body starts to decrease its output of progesterone facilitating the loss of bone mass. When menstruation stops, estrogen levels fall, accelerating osteoporosis. Menopause marks the onset of the rapid depletion of bone mass. This accelerated rate of depletion continues for two to five years following menopause. More on Progesterone. In the 19th century, the average woman died within 5 years of menopause (around 50 years of age). Now, with advances in nutrition, women live thirty years after menopause. Unfortunately, this extended life span is a double-edged sword; there now is more than enough time for osteoporosis to develop.
What treatments are available?Conventional medical practice relies chiefly upon both hormone replacement (estrogen) and pharmaceutical drug such as Etidronate. Since estrogen has been shown in studies to slow bone�s calcium depletion process it has become a standard prescription for women menopause. But estrogen does nothing to maintain new bone formation. Further, with estrogen therapy comes numerous undesirable side effects. The longer estrogen is taken the greater the risk of salt and water retention increased fat synthesis, uterine fibroids, gallbladder and liver disease, heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, and endometrial (uterine) cancer. To offset the risk of endometrial cancer manufactured progesterone (progestin) now added to the prescription to help balance the estrogen. Although slight improvement on bones affected by osteoporosis has been noted, the introduction of progestin may produce undesirable side effects of it's own. Pharmaceutical drugs such as Etidronate cause bone composition to change resulting in a higher percentage of old bone cells, which are inhibited from being absorbed into the blood. At the same time new bone growth decreases. The resulting bone is more crystalline and brittle, making it more susceptible to fracture. Once drug treatment is stopped, bone loss appears to resume at a pretreatment rate. Therapy must be continued uninterrupted for twenty- plus years until bone loss declines, around age seventy. More soluble forms of calcium such as calcium-citrate, lactate, and asparate have been prescribed as supplemental treatment; however, redistribution of excess calcium deposited in soft tissue can cause arthritis, arteriosclerosis, glaucoma, kidney stones and other problems. Excess calcium can also be imbalance stores of other minerals in the body. The question now becomes how can we repair the leeched-out minerals to restore bone mass without damaging the metabolic balance of our bodies?
Is there a way out? Yes.