How to Prevent Osteoporosis
by John R. Lee, M.D. and Virginia Hopkins
Osteoporosis is a multi-faceted disease and its causes vary from individual to individual. However, there are some things that everyone can avoid that can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Soda Pop and a High protein Diet
I believe that one of the leading contributors to osteoporosis in the U.S. is carbonated soft drinks containing phosphorous. Research has shown a direct link between too much phosphorous and calcium loss. If you're guzzling down a couple of fizzy soft drinks a day, you're most likely creating bone loss.
Our other source of excessive phosphorous in the U.S. is eating too much meat. The average American gets more than enough protein, so for most of us it can only help to cut down on our meat consumption. A recent trend among those who love food but don't love the consequences of too much fat and protein is to use meat as a garnish or flavoring in a meal, rather than as a major portion. Fill up on vegetables and complex carbohydrates (whole grains, potatoes, rice, corn, beans), and use meat to enrich your meals. Beans are an excellent and nutritious source of protein and contain many important vitamins and minerals.
Coffee, Alcohol, and Cigarette Smoking
Here's yet another good reason to either give up coffee and alcohol or use them in moderation. And do I need to tell you how important it is to stop smoking now! (It's never too late to reap the benefits of quitting smoking.) Each of these substances creates a negative calcium balance in the body. Substances called phytates and oxylates bind with calcium in the large intestine and form insoluble salts, rendering the calcium useless. The bone mineral content of smokers is 15-30% lower in women and 10-20% lower in men. Cigarette smoking is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis. Twice as many women with osteoporosis smoke as compared with women who do not have osteoporosis.
Don't take antacids with aluminum and don't use aluminum cooking pots. It has been shown that small amounts of aluminum-containing antacids increase the urinary and fecal excretion of calcium, inhibit absorption of fluoride, and inhibit absorption of phosphorus, creating a negative calcium balance. The calcium is excreted instead of being utilized.
Diuretics are medicines that cause water loss in the body. Along with the water you lose minerals, most notably calcium, magnesium and potassium. They are commonly used in conventional medicine to treat high blood pressure, swelling of the lower legs, and congestive heart disease. People who use diuretics have a higher risk of fracture. If you need to use a diuretic, try a gentle herbal one such as dandelion root in a tincture, capsule or tea.
What's so bad about fluoride? You probably think it just builds good teeth. There is good, solid scientific evidence that fluoridated drinking water increases your risk of hip fractures by 20-40%. So much fluoride has been put into our water and toothpaste over the past 30 years that levels in our water, food and drink are very high. While eating a normal diet the average person exceeds the recommended dose. There is also evidence that ingesting high levels of fluoride can cause abnormal bone growth. Please avoid fluoride, in all forms including toothpastes and mouthwashes.
You can be thankful if you live in an unfluoridated community because it's not easy to get rid of fluoride in your tap water. Distillation and reverse osmosis are the only two reliable methods for removing fluoride. Other water filters may work at eliminating fluoride for a short period of time, but fluoride binds so strongly and quickly to filter materials such as charcoal, that the binding sites become fully occupied after a short time. If you are at a high risk for osteoporosis, I recommend you spend the money on a water filter that removes fluoride.
High Dose Cortisone
A well known risk for osteoporosis is long term treatment with the synthetic cortisones such as Prednisone. Since the cortisones (or more properly, glucocorticoids) are closely related to progesterone in their molecular structure, the theory is that they compete for the same receptor sites on bone-building cells. However, while progesterone gives bones the message to grow, the cortisones give bones the message to stop growing. If you must be on a cortisone, talk to your doctor about using a low dose natural cortisone called hydrocortisone rather than the synthetic cortisones. You can refer him or her to the book Safe Uses of Cortisol by William Jefferies.
Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Testing
One of the best ways to find out if you're losing bone is to have someone measure your height, and then check it every six months or so. If you start losing height, that's a sure sign that you're losing bone on your spine. I recommend that women at risk for osteoporosis get a bone mineral density measurement as they're going into menopause. That way you'll have a baseline with which to compare later bone density tests, to measure your progress. The safest and most accurate ways to measure bone are with Photon Absorptiometry, and Dual Energy X-ray Absorbtiometry (DEXA), which is 96-98% accurate and uses very low-dose x-rays. I don't recommend CAT scans, as they use too high a level of X-rays. A newer technique for measuring bone loss is called "Urinary Excretion of Pyridinium," which measures a substance in the urine that can indicate rapid bone turnover rate.
For a detailed article on what bone density tests really mean, and how to interpret them, please check out the October 98 issue of the newsletter.
OSTEOPOROSIS PREVENTION AND REVERSAL
In a Nutshell
- If you're smoking, stop now.
- Reduce or eliminate coffee and alcohol. (No more than one cup of coffee and one alcohol drink per day. If you are at a high risk I advise elimination.)
- Get some weight bearing exercise at least one hour three times a week or 20 minutes daily.
- Avoid antacids, and hydrochloric acid (H2) blockers such as Tagamet, Zantac and Pepcid.
- Avoid prescription drugs that cause bone loss, such as diuretics and synthetic cortisones.
- If you are over the age of 50, avoid fluoride in toothpastes, mouthwash and tap water. If you live in a fluoridated community and are at a high risk for osteoporosis, invest in a water filter that eliminates fluoride.
For a more detailed osteoporosis program, please read the extensive chapter on Osteoporosis in our book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause
Note to Reader from Virginia Hopkins
Dr. John Lee was my great friend, mentor, co-author and business partner. This website is dedicated to continuing the work that Dr. Lee and I did together to educate and inform women and men about natural hormones, hormone balance and achieving optimal health. Dr. John Lee was a courageous pioneer who changed the face of medicine by introducing the concepts of natural progesterone, estrogen dominance and hormone balance to a large audience of women and men seeking answers to their hormone questions. Dr. Lee has left us a wonderful collection of writings from his newsletters that are, in large part, freely shared on this website. Enjoy!