Osteoporosis is a common condition affecting over 10 million people over the age of 50 within the US. To make matters worse, an estimated 43 million more people already have low bone mass, putting them at increased risk for developing osteoporosis. The good news, while this condition is common, it’s certainly not normal-i.e. you are not meant to develop osteoporosis as you age. Why then do so many people have it? The answer lies in a misunderstanding of what causes osteoporosis. Once you know that you will see why so many people have it, and, best yet, you will know what is needed to reverse and/or prevent it from happening to yourself.
What is Osteoporosis? By definition its defined as weakness or thinning of a bone structure such that its now more susceptible to injury and/or fracture. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the loss of old bone. The most common areas of your body to become osteoporotic are your hips, spine and wrists.
What causes Osteoporosis? The answer to this depends on who you ask? Ask your primary MD and they will say it’s a normal part of aging and it’s connected to your intake of calcium (ie bones are made of calcium, lack of calcium leads to osteoporosis). Ask a nutritionist and they will say you first need to know not all calcium is equal and that it’s a calcium hydroxyapatite deficiency combined with acid/alkaline imbalance along with other nutrients like vitamins D3, K2 and phosphorus are also important. Ask a chiropractor and they will agree with the nutritionist but also stress that proper alignment is key, as the only reason one hip/wrist or portion of your spine develops osteoporosis because of improper alignment of the joint/spine. Proper alignment ensures normal movement, blood/lymph flow and balance of surrounding muscles. Ask a functional medicine doctor and they will say osteoporosis is a metabolic disorder stemming from subclinical infection within the joint in question, a global to city and even a gut issue.
How Do I Know If I have Osteoporosis: Like most health conditions, you can’t feel osteoporosis. Sadly, most older adults find out they have osteoporosis when a simple fall becomes a complicated fracture that needs surgical replacement/repair (hip/wrist/spine/shoulder etc). X-rays can detect osteoporosis, especially when viewed by a trained physician or radiologist. The most common X-ray used for osteoporosis is a “Dual X-ray Absorptiometry” or DEXA scan which involves taking X-rays of the hip and spine. The results will come back with a “T Score” It shows how much higher or lower your bone density is compared to that of a healthy 30-year-old, the age when bones are at their strongest. The lower your score, the weaker your bones are,
Normal: Bone density is within 1 deviation (+1 or −1) of the young adult mean.
Low bone mass: Bone density is between 1 and 2.5 deviations below (−1 to −2.5 SD).
Osteoporosis: Bone density is 2.5 or more below the young adult mean (−2.5 SD or lower).
Severe Osteoporosis: Bone density is more than 2.5 below the young adult mean (−2.5 SD or lower) and there have been one or more osteoporotic fractures.
Other more visible signs of osteoporosis include back pain, hip pain, loss of height over time, stopped / forward posture, numbness, tingling, weakness, receding gum lines, brittle fingernails, flattening of nails with raised ridges, dry and brittle hair.
Functional Causes Of Osteoporosis:
The golden rule of functional medicine is to always seek the deeper underlying cause and to focus therapy on that, rather than the condition itself. So what are the root causes of osteoporosis in most cases? Is it just a normal part of aging/genetics as the MDs want you to believe or are there some sources that are within our control?
Did you know that according to come of the most recent research osteoporosis is the result of an imbalanced metabolism, often coupled with a leaky/dysbiotic intestine and systemic inflammation? The health of your bones depends on the health of your body (think of your bones as a barometer of your health-great/strong health =great/strong bones (regardless of your age) where as poor/weak health = poor/weak bones. It’s known that when the gastrointestinal tract is dysbiotic (overgrown with opportunistic bacteria) and leaking (increased intestinal permeability) one resulting problem is that your body can’t efficiently absorb nutrients.
You would be shocked how many times we hear “but Doc, I take X daily! How can my labs show that I am deficient?” Simple answer-you’re swallowing X but not absorbing X. A body that is not getting the nutrients it needs will show signs of starvation at a nutritional level-one safety mechanism the body can do is pull the needed vitamins and minerals form muscles, nerves, connective tissues, and bones!
When a body becomes increasingly desperate for energy, as is the case for any chronic disease, it will even begin to mine its own skeleton and teeth in order to get the minerals it needs to sustain life! Chronic inflammation feeds into this equation also because it’s connected with all chronic disease. The constant inflammation causes the immune system to be always turned on, which leads to an unbalanced/overactive system and because bone marrow is the place where all the immune system cells are initially created, an unbalanced immune system wreaks havoc on you bone metabolism, sifting it away from repair and regeneration.
How To Overcome Osteoporosis: First you need to understand that all osteoporosis medication do not solve the underlying issues, in fact they only make the bone appear more dense on the DEXA scan-often by increasing the phosphorus levels of the bone and does not turn on the osteoblasts (bone rebuilders). The resulting bone is like glass, strong externally but shattered if dropped.
Stop Drinking Carbonated Beverages: Carbonated beverages are extremely acidic and often have various acids as base ingredients. This acidifies the body which results in calcium and phosphorous leaching from the bones due to the acid buffering properties of calcium and phosphorous.
Collagen, The Forgotten Nutrient: Did you know that collagen makes up 90% of a bones organic structure. Considering collagen production naturally declines with age, a collagen supplement is an absolute must for anyone over 40 and those who want to ensure great bone health.
Stimulate Your Osteoclasts/Osteoblasts: Collagen stimulates osteoblasts (bone producing cells). Regular Intermittent fasting (16 hr. fasting, 8 hour eating daily) has been shown in research to stimulate new bone growth and prevent osteoporosis.
Vibration Therapy: Both animal and human studies suggest tha thigh-frequency, low-magnitude vibration therapy improves bone strength by increasing bone formation and decreasing bone resorption. There is also evidence that daily vibration therapy can improve the results of DEXA scans over time.
Address Gut Health/Inflammation: At the root of all forms of chronic illness, including osteoporosis, is a defective gutaxis-the connection between the intestines and brain which is comprised of the nervous system (vagus nerve), gut bacterial and the integrity of the gut barrier.
If you are looking for an alternative approach to conventional osteoporosis therapy or are looking for ways to enhance your overall bone health schedule a FREE 15-min consultation with Dr. Ernst by CLICKING HERE.
During the call Dr. Ernst will review through your health history, review any labs that can uncover the functional cause and discuss steps you can take right now to begin a natural healing journey.