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Men's Health, Women's Health, Menopause | November 5, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

menopause, men, women's health


Osteoporosis is when the bones become porous and lack density and strength. They are more prone to serious fractures, even from a minor fall or bump. Over one million Australians suffer from this ‘silent disease’, as there are sometimes no obvious signs and symptoms. Osteoporosis typically affects women 50 years and over, although some men also develop the disorder. Certain dietary and lifestyle measures can ensure healthy bones later in life. Read on to learn what you can do to prevent and treat this common condition.

Bone growth

Bone is formed by specialised cells called osteoblasts. Like the rest of the body it is in a constant state of renewal, where bone is being broken down and regained.

osteoporosisExercise to gain strength is just as important for our bones as it is for our muscles.

Our bones stop growing by the end of our teens, with our peak bone mass being achieved by about 20 to 30 years of age. Osteoporosis occurs when more bone is being broken down than what is renewed. The bones loose minerals such as calcium that give them strength.

The role of hormones

Sex hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone play a large part in bone density. As levels of these hormones drop with older age this contributes to accelerated bone loss. Menopause in women usually has a fundamental role to play. During the first 5 years after menopause, a woman can lose up to 10% of her total body bone mass.

Signs and symptoms of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis increases the risk of fracture. It can also lead to pain, loss of height, changes in posture and the characteristic ‘dowager’s hump’. This hump (also called kyphosis) is a rounding of the spine that occurs when segments of the bone collapse. Osteopenia is the early stage of osteoporosis where bone density is lower than normal but not as severe as osteoporosis.

Risk factors

  • Nutrient deficiencies such as calcium and vitamin D
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Excessive alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Thin body build or excessive weight
  • Family history of osteoporosis

Certain conditions and medications can impact the health of your bones. This includes:

  • Conditions that affect the absorption of nutrients such as inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac disease
  • Thyroid conditions such as an overactive thyroid
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Long-term use of corticosteroids
  • Some medications for breast cancer, prostate cancer, epilepsy and depression
  • Chronic liver and kidney disease
  • Early menopause before the age of 45 and low testosterone levels in males

Preventing osteoporosis

The following suggestions can be incorporated during a very young age to ensure healthy bone growth and development. They are equally important as strategies to help maintain bone density in people who already have osteoporosis.

Bone-building foods

There are certain nutrients required in the diet which are crucial for building and maintaining, strong healthy bones. They include calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D. Cofactors involved in the metabolism of calcium and vitamin D are also important and include boron, vitamin K2, zinc and magnesium.

Bone-building foodsCalcium is found in dairy products but is not always a food group that is suitable for everyone because of allergies or intolerances. Luckily calcium is in lots of other foods such as sardines, broccoli and almonds.

Eating a diet high in alkaline foods such as wholegrains, fruits and veggies will prevent calcium from leaching out of the bones.

Omega-3 rich foods can help the absorption of calcium and assist in reducing inflammation in the body. Protein found in seafood, meat, lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds is vital for a healthy musculoskeletal system. However, sometimes these nutrients can be lacking in the diet and this is when supplementation may be essential to ensure recommended nutrient intakes are being met. For adults under the age of 50, 1000mg of calcium each day is recommended, while 1300mg is needed for women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 70. Usually in people with osteoporosis calcium is additionally supplemented with vitamin D and sometimes vitamin K2.

Lifestyle factors

Getting outdoors and bathing in natural sunlight during the day can help to naturally increase vitamin D. Just make sure that it is within a reasonable time frame to prevent any damage to the skin. If you are drinking more than 3 cups of coffee each day, now’s the time to consider cutting back. Coffee decreases the absorption of minerals and increases their excretion from the body. Smoking is also tied to decreased bone density and quitting is considered important in those at elevated risk of osteoporosis.

Weight bearing exercise

To prevent osteoporosis 30 minutes of weight-bearing activities each day is important. This can include walking, jogging, tennis, dancing and soccer. While non-weight bearing activities provide health benefits they don’t promote bone growth. Strength training which is targeted towards muscles is also beneficial to our bones. Activities such as tai chi, yoga and pilates can help to improve balance, coordination, muscle strength and posture and are helpful to prevent falls.  Both weight bearing and strength training exercises are involved in the management and prevention of osteoporosis.

A combination of these exercise during the week has many benefits for our bones and wellbeing. In the case of injuries, joint problems or medical conditions it is best to seek the advice of a health or fitness professional who can tailor a fitness program suitable for your own ability and needs.

Boosting oestrogen

In women who have experienced a drop in oestrogen they may find naturally occurring oestrogens found in plants helpful. These are referred to as phytoestrogens and are found in soy, linseeds, lentils, barley, oats and red clover. They attach to the same receptors as oestrogen and result in mild oestrogenic activity. One study found that in menopausal or postmenopausal women, phytoestrogens when combined with vitamin D resulted in a higher bone density and fewer breaks.

Summing it all up

Osteoporosis results in thin bones that are prone to fractures. In the early stages, there may be no symptoms but in more advanced cases a change in posture and stature can occur. Eating a diet rich in calcium, avoiding vitamin D deficiency and eating healthy can help keep our bones strong. Weight bearing and resistance exercises are equally important.     
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Daly RM. Exercise and nutritional approaches to prevent frail bones, falls and fractures: an update. Climacteric. 2017 Apr;20(2):119-124

Sirotkin AVHarrath AH. Phytoestrogens and their effects. Eur J Pharmacol. 2014 Oct 15;741:230-6

Malinova M. Phytoestrogens and vitamin D for bone health in menopausal transition.  Akush Ginekol (Sofiia). 2015;54(4):60-4

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