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Traditionally, Osteoporosis was thought of as a “woman’s disease”, affecting ladies of a certain age (!), with little that could be done about it. Whether proactively or reactively. Not an encouraging picture and one which is now proving far from true on both counts. 
 
Sadly, Osteoporosis is now affecting many more people. Not only younger women, but children and men too. At the same time, research has found that it’s not simply a hormonal issue but, once again, lifestyle factors play a large part. 
 
 
While this may initially sound like bad news, it’s actually good news too. Lifestyle choices are under our control – even if we may not always like to admit it (!) – meaning there are lots of things we can do at home to help ourselves. Proactively or reactively. Even better, they all have many other health benefits too. 
 
Although many people have heard of Osteoporosis, their understanding tends not to go beyond it affecting the bones and making fractures more likely. So, before we go any further, let’s take a quick look at what’s actually going on. 
 
As so often is the case, the clue is in the name. Osteo means bones, while porosis really says it all. Porous. Put another way porous bones. 
 
While we tend to think of bones as being solid and permanent, this is not the case. In fact, under a microscope, bones are far from solid looking more like honeycomb. 
 
Like every other tissue in the body, bone is alive and is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoclasts break down old bone cells, while Osteoblasts build new ones. True, this process is much slower than for other tissues, click here to find out more, but it’s estimated that our entire skeleton is replaced every 10 to 15 years. 
 
Osteoporosis occurs when the renewal process gets out of synch. In other words, when the creation of new bone cells doesn’t keep up with the breaking down of old cells. This may be due to too many cells being broken down OR too few new cells being made OR a combination of the two. Matters may then be made worse by some – or all – of the new cells being abnormal in structure or size, so weakening the bone further. 
 
Either way, the end result is that the holes in the honeycomb become larger, making the bone less solid and so more likely to break. While Osteoporosis can affect any of the bones in the body, those in the Hips, Spine and Wrists tend to be most prone to fractures. 
As already mentioned, traditionally, Osteoporosis was linked to hormonal changes at Menopause. This is the reason why bone density testing has been routinely offered to women after Menopause. 
 
In addition, from a conventional viewpoint, it’s also been linked to: 
 
• Long term use of various mediations such as high dose steroids or tamoxifen for Breast Cancer. 
• Various chronic illnesses, particularly inflammatory diseases and those affecting the hormones. 
• Eating disorders, malabsorption problems, heavy drinking or smoking; all of which reduce the nutrients available to build new bone. 
• Lack of exercise, particularly weight bearing exercise. 
 
However, it’s now becoming clear that lifestyle factors are just as important, particularly those which make the body more acidic. 
 
Why? For the simple reason that, to help bring the body back to its naturally alkaline state, minerals are released from elsewhere, particularly the bones, to allow this process to occur. Which raises the question of what makes the body more acidic? 
 
There are no prizes for guessing that diet plays a large part in this. Sadly, the modern western diet tends to be too high in animal proteins, processed foods, sugar and wheat. All of which make the body more acidic. 
 
This is why eating a diet based around fresh vegetables and fruit is so important, not only to provide the necessary nutrition, but to make the body more alkaline rather than acidic. It’s also why drinking plenty of water is vital, as this helps hydrate and detox the body, both of which reduce acidity. 
 
While on the subject of dehydration and acidity, many drinks are naturally acidic and so can inadvertently make matters worse. An easy example of this are fruit juices but what about carbonated drinks? Not only do they tend to contain high levels of sugar, but also carbon dioxide to produce the bubbles, both of which are very acidic. Less obvious are tea and coffee, which are also naturally acidic. However, again, matters are made worse by their caffeine content, which speeds up the metabolism so increasing acidity further. 
 
Smoking and alcohol also make the body more acidic, as well as playing a part in the stripping of minerals from it. And this is aside from their myriad of other health effects. 
 
As an aside, while we’re talking about diet, sadly, the conventional treatment of focussing on increasing Calcium levels – and so healthy bones – often doesn’t have the desired effect. 
 
Why? For the simple reason that the body needs other Vitamins and Minerals to be able to utilise the Calcium, particularly Vitamins D and K as well as Magnesium and Phosphorus. Without these, the body has to remove them from the bones to be able to deal with the excess Calcium, so making matters worse rather than improving them. We’ve written about this before, click here to find out more. 
 
Which brings us on to exercise and an active lifestyle, particularly weight bearing exercise. In other words, walking, gentle running, cycling, swimming and the like. Mini rebounders or trampolines can also be helpful. Our bodies are designed to be active, not sedentary, and exercise is what’s needed to keep them healthy. 
 
And here’s one that’s easy to overlook. Stress, particularly ongoing stress, which causes the body to release stress hormones into the blood stream. Not only do these shut down many of the body’s repair and renewal processes – such as bone replacement – but the stress response is costly in terms of energy and nutrients required to maintain it, as well as making the body more acidic. It also makes any pain much worse, as the stress response speeds up the metabolism. 
 
So, once again, there’s much more good news than bad. There’s no single factor at play just waiting to pounce on us. Instead, there are a number of different factors with many of these being within our control. Which, in turn, means there’s lots we can do at home to help ourselves; whether proactively or reactively. In other words, addressing the lifestyle choices we make every day, which then add up to make a huge difference in the longer term – both positively and negatively. 
 
As always, the choice is yours. 
 
 
Photograph by unknown author 
 
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