Osteoporosis: Are Handfuls of Calcium Enough?

By Marianne Beck, DC

As a country of people, we consume more dairy products and take more calcium supplements than anyone on the planet. So, why do we have the highest rate of hip fractures in the world? Why can't we stop the growing number of people, especially women, added to the list of those being newly diagnosed with osteopenia and osteoporosis each day? Maybe we are looking in the wrong direction!



Osteoporosis is a complex condition characterized by a reduction in bone mass and an impaired micro-architectural structure (the bone matrix) leading to thinning bone and an increased susceptibility to fracture. Think in terms of the large steel beams of a skyscraper as being the bone mass and think of the micro-architecture or bone matrix as being everything in between such as the dry wall and studs. The bone matrix is made up of minerals and collagen fibers.

There are two types of bone cell, osteoblasts that build bone and osteoclasts that break down old and damaged bone. We need to remember that bone is a living, flexible tissue. Like living coral, bone is constantly being built as old bone is being destroyed and removed. This happens throughout our life through a metabolic process called remodeling. Remodeling is required for the maintenance and overall health of bones and must always be balanced between building bone via the osteoblasts and degrading or resorbing bone via the osteoclasts.

As a woman reaches her early 40's however, more bone starts to be resorbed than formed which leads to bone loss and the potential for a weak bone matrix. When a woman reaches menopause, bone loss accelerates and a woman can lose 20% or more of her bone at this time! This occurs due to decreasing estrogen levels, lack of exercise and increased body inflammation. Calcium intake alone via supplements and dairy products does very little to increase bone mass in menopausal women. In fact, research shows that calcium supplementation alone seems to improve bone density during menstruating years-and only if this woman is calcium deficient! Once a woman becomes menopausal the real battle is with hormones and inflammation.As estrogen decreases, bone breakdown via osteoclastic activity increases. If estrogen is deficient, it causes an increased inflammatory cascade of systemic inflammation in the body causing even more bone loss. Hormones such as progesterone and testosterone have bone building activity due to osteoblastic stimulation.

So How Does Inflammation Enter the Picture?

As estrogen levels decrease, this produces an increase in inflammatory cytokines(inflammatory chemicals in the body) which increase inflammation. However, there are many other causes of inflammation that can cause increased bone loss. Think about it-in the US we drink and eat the most dairy products but we have the highest hip fracture rate in the world! If we are consuming all of this calcium, why are we breaking bones? It is because dairy is very inflammatory to the body. So are wheat, rye and barley products. The proteins from these products, casein from dairy and gluten from wheat, rye and barley get ingested and get through our intestinal/gut lining. Then our white blood cells come to destroy these "foreign protein" invaders causing an inflammatory response in the body. This is known as "leaky gut syndrome". This inflammation again causes an increase in inflammatory cytokines which in turn increases osteoclastic activity leading to increased bone breakdown!

Another cause of inflammation in the body is stress. Increased stress causes our adrenal glands to produce increased amounts of cortisol. Fluctuating cortisol levels are a good indication of the bodies response to stress and sugar consumption. Increased cortisol again causes an increase in osteoclastic or bone resorbing activity.

Other causes of bone loss include smoking, excess alcohol consumption, too much sugar, lack of exercise, hypothyrodism, and certain medications such as prednisone and proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec,Nexium,Prevacid etc)

How Do I Know If I Have Too Much Inflammation?

Well, if you have any of the following health issues, you most likely have chronic low grad inflammation in your body.

-Acid reflux
-Food sensitivities
-Celiac disease
-Periodontal disease and gingivitis
-Autoimmune disorders
-Skin problems such as rosacea, eczema, psoriasis
-Diabetes/Insulin resistance
-IBS/Crohns disease
-Cardiovascular disease
-High Cholesterol

What Can I Do To Stop Bone Loss Without Taking Dangerous Drugs Such As Fosamax and Boniva?

First of all, Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel and all other bisphosphonate drugs ARE DANGEROUS! And have many side effects. Also, new research has shown that if you take these drugs for longer than 4 years, you become more prone to fractures that will not heal! These can be non-traumatic or spontaneous fractures-this kind of fracture you can get from just turning over in bed or stepping off the curb! This is because the bisphosphonate drugs seem to increase bone density on DEXA studies but in fact make your bone more brittle. Remember, bone is a living flexible tissue. The large bisphophonate drug molecules enter the bone and "plug up the holes" in your bone. So, on a DEXA test which is just a "photo in  time" of your bone, your bone appears to be denser but in reality it is much more brittle! And, drugs such as Fosamax and Boniva can be stored in your bone for up to 10 years after you have stopped taking them!

It is always best to stop bone loss and build your bones the natural way!

Some things you can do to be proactive are:

-Eat a balanced diet of veggies, fruit, seeds, nuts and lean protein.
-Exercise: strength training ,aerobics and Pilates all help maintain muscle strength which helps maintain bone mass
-Improve digestion and your gut lining: get off of gluten (wheat, rye, barley)
This will decrease your inflammation. Help your gut lining with a good probiotic, digestive enzymes and fiber.
-Take a high grade multi vitamin/mineral and Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil to decrease inflammation
-Decrease sugar and soda consumption
-Get your hormones tested and balanced. Take a salivary hormone test to check your levels of estrogen/progesterone/testosterone. Have your cortisol levels checked via an adrenal salivary hormone test.
-Get your Vitamin D3 levels tested. Vitamin D3 is really a hormone and acts in many bodily functions. We need Vitamin D3 to absorb calcium and we need higher amounts than first was thought. As we age we don't make the enzymes necessary to produce Vitamin D in the body from sunlight-yes even in Florida!

Why Wait For Your Next DEXA Test?

A women in her 40's can have a great DEXA score and yet be losing bone through her urine at a rapid rate due to poor lifestyle habits, hormone imbalance, inflammation, stress , low vitamin D3 etc.  But, there is a way to see if you are losing bone mass daily through as simple and inexpensive urine test. The test is called a Dpd Collagen Crosslink test. Approximately 90% of our bone matrix is made up of collagen. It is the collagen that holds all the minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus etc in the bone matrix making it strong. Elevated levels (over 6.5) of Dpd (collagen crosslinks) in the urine show that you are losing bone matrix into your urine. A baseline test can be performed and then you can be retested while on specific supplements, exercise programs, stress reduction protocols etc to see if this number improves (decreases). If the Dpd number decreases, you then know that you are losing less bone matrix and that your supplements are working for you. Why wait a year or two between DEXA studies only to be told that your osteoporosis has worsened or that your osteopenia is now full blown osteoporosis even though you have been faithfully taking your calcium!!!??? Be proactive-get a Dpd Collagen Crosslink test today and start doing the right thing for your bones!

If you are finally tired of being "sick and tired", contact Dr. Marianne Beck at Women's BestHealth today. Call 954-782-4855to to set up an appointment.

Women's BestHealth is a functional medicine and nutritional health center specializing in women's health issues and wellness. Dr. Marianne Beck, founder and director, provides natural treatment for menopause, perimenopause, adrenal fatigue/stress, thyroid problems, Hashimoto's, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal problems and autoimmune disease.We offer our services locally inBroward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

Serving: South Florida (South Fl), Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Sunrise, Oakland park, Pompano Beach, Deerfield, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Miramar, Coral Springs, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coconut Creek, Weston, Hollywood, Plantation, Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

Marianne Beck, D.C., Functional Medicine Practitioner and Director, Women's BestHealth



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