Imagine waking up to a body whose main frame is failing, growing weaker, and limiting your range of movements by the day. A tumultuous experience where the bones that supported your frame give in. A situation where a sneeze or a cough leaves you fractured. Agonizing, isn’t it?
How about the fact that your internal organs are unprotected, and your body’s natural production of red and white blood cells is hindered when this rigid organ that forms part of the vertebrate skeleton loses its strength and structure?
Well, while you are planning to participate in the upcoming marathons, there is someone whose dream for running marathons, hiking the Everest or the Kilimanjaro, and taking long relaxing walks in Bali have been thwarted by this debilitating disorder of the skeleton.
Your bones support your body’s weight. However, osteoporosis takes most, if not all of that control killing your dreams. Whether you are the one ailing from osteoporosis or you know someone with osteoporosis, you might want to read this article. We’ll take a detailed look at the condition before diverting all our attention to the treatment of the condition naturally.
If you feel that you have swallowed one too many pills and if you need a non-synthetic remedy for the pain, you couldn’t be at a better place.
Also, you might want to know that osteoporosis isn’t a disease of the elderly – it affects individuals of any age, though it is far more common in the elderly. The prevalence is higher in women. For women, it happens after menopause because of the sudden decrease in the levels of estrogen hormones. Estrogen hormone protects females against osteoporosis.
In the US alone, more than 53 million people have osteoporosis, or at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Did you know that osteoporosis is a Latin word for porous bones? If you ever have to explain the condition, you could define it a bone disease that makes bones porous. Scary, isn’t it?
Your healthy bones have small spaces, and they look like honeycombs. Despite the small spaces, your bones are the most powerful structures in the body. However, trouble starts when the sizes of the spaces in the bones increase. Because of the increase in the size of the spaces, your bones lose density and strength in the interior, while the exterior parts of the bones grow thinners and weaker. As a result, walking, running, and sometimes lifting your feet from the bed becomes unbearable. In some grim cases, the bones fracture from minor falls or knocks. As the condition deteriorates, you may have cracked bones in the hip, spine, ribs or wrists.
Besides the reduction in the bone density, the body’s ability to produce more bone reduces.
As the condition deteriorates, the bones become abnormally porous and even compressible like a sponge.
The Bone Structure
Wondering what makes normal bones strong? Calcium, collagen, and protein. The bone tissue, better known as the osseous tissue refers to a hard tissue, which is a type of connective tissue. Internally, it has a honeycomb-like matrix responsible for the bones’ rigidity. Osteocytes and osteoblasts are responsible for the mineralization of the bone – the osteoclasts are responsible for resorption of the bone tissue while the osteoblasts form the lining cells forming the protective layer of the one tissue. The mineralized part of the bone has collagen and inorganic components with various salts. The bone also has blood vessels, cartilage, periosteum, bone marrow endosteum, and nerves.
So, why is it a big deal if the bones lose their strength and if the spaces become bigger, making the bones fragile? Well, besides mobility and supporting your whole body, it performs these metabolic functions.
- The bone stores minerals like calcium and phosphorus
- It also stores fat acting as a reserve for fatty acids
- It plays a role in acid-base balance
- To detoxifies the body by storing heavy metals and other foreign elements
- It works as an endocrine organ. It controls the production of hormones like insulin, fibroblast growth factor, and osteocalcin.
- It maintains calcium balance
Difference between osteoporosis and osteopenia
In osteoporosis, the bone density reduces significantly, and the bones are susceptible to fractures, on the other hand, osteopenia, also a condition that affects the bone, is where the density of the bone is less than normal, but, not to the degree of osteoporosis.
What are the causes and the risk factors for osteoporosis?
Vitamin D Deficiency: If the body lacks vitamin D, it is unable to absorb adequate amounts of calcium from the diet. You need vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis. Note that vitamin D deficiency results not just from dietary deficiency but also from the lack of sunshine, or inability of the intestines to absorb the vitamin because of diseases like primary biliary cirrhosis and celiac sprue.
Hypothyroidism: this is a condition associated with excess production of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland. It often results from ingestion of thyroid hormone medication or Grave’s disease.
Hyperparathyroidism: this is where the parathyroid gland produces excess parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid hormone is responsible for maintaining the blood calcium levels, as well as the removal of calcium from the bones. If left untreated, too much calcium is leached from the bone causing osteoporosis.
Immobility: immobility from stroke or any other disease that affects walking increases your risk of osteoporosis.
Amenorrhea: better known as the loss of menstrual periods. This happens in young women. The condition is, unfortunately, associated with low estrogen levels and osteoporosis. Amenorrhea is common in women who go through vigorous exercises or the one with low body fat, like the ones with anorexia nervosa.
Chronic inflammations: inflammation resulting from inflammatory arthritis, liver disease, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Genetics: if you have a family history of osteoporosis, you may be at a higher risk of developing the condition. Your risk also increases if you have a personal history of getting fractures as an adult.
Inherited disorders of the connective tissue such as osteogenesis imperfecta, osteoporosis-pseudoglioma syndrome, homocystinuria, or skin diseases like Marfan Syndrome, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome could cause osteoporosis.
Age: Even though osteoporosis is common as you grow older, you can get it at any age. The reason for this is that your body breaks down bone when it grows old to make new bone. However, after your 30s, the break down takes place faster than you the body can replace the cells resulting in bones that are less dense, and more fragile.
Menopause: This is related to age. But, menopause is, on its own, a main cause of osteoporosis. At between 45 and 55 when women hit menopause, there is a sudden change in hormone levels. There is a drop in estrogen levels, and this results in increases rate of bone break down.
Even though men will continue to lose their bone density with age, it doesn’t happen as fast as it does in women. But, men and women lose bone density at the same rate after 65 years.
Race: being Caucasian or of the Asian race increases your risk of osteoporosis.
Frame: a thin and a small frame increases your risk of osteoporosis
Lifestyle: cigarette smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol. Also, a diet low in calcium and lack of exercise.
Poor nutrition resulting from chronic inflammation or the bowel disease. Also, malabsorption resulting from bowel diseases like celiac sprue that is associated with dermatitis or herpetiformis.
Chemotherapy: it can cause early menopause because of the toxicity of the chemicals on the ovaries.
Hypogonadism: associated with low testosterone levels in men.
Medications: certain medications could cause or increase your risk of osteoporosis. For example, long-term use of blood thinners like heparin, antiseizure medication like Dilantin, or long-term use of corticosteroids like prednisone increase your risk of osteoporosis.
What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?
No, you will not develop bone fractures as soon as the spaces in the bones start widening – in most cases, the symptoms surface after decades.
At the same time, you could have undetected osteoporotic fractures that don’t manifest symptoms.
Some early signs that point to osteoporosis include:
- Receding gums
- A weakening of your grip strength
- And weak and brittle nails.
But, some of the osteoporotic fractures symptoms include debilitating pain.
For spinal fractures, excruciating band-like pain that radiates from the back to the sides of your body is a common symptom.
It could also cause chronic lower back pain, loss of height, and the curving of the spine because of the collapse of the vertebrae.
Other symptoms include stress fractures or minimal trauma fractures.
Now that we have gone through all the grim details of osteoporosis, how can you treat and manage the bone disorder naturally?
REMEDIES FOR OSTEOPOROSIS
Even though the debilitating pain can render you immobile for days, and the medication prescribed too many and too bitter for you, you shouldn’t throw out the possibility of using alternative treatments to treat, manage or prevent the disorder. Essential oils might be the next best treatment for osteoporosis. We’ll explore a number of essential oils before delving on other natural remedies which could boost your bone strength.
Essential oils for Osteoporosis
Are essential oils all that? You might have heard that essential oils help with insomnia and migraines but, do they help with osteoporosis? Well, the pain relieving, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties of essential oils aid in the treatment and the management of osteoporosis.
Essential oils are complex plant concentrates that contain a mix of alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, esters, phenols, lactones, terpenes, as well as sesquiterpenes. These compounds give the oils their healing, refreshing, therapeutic, pain-relieving, and antiseptic qualities.
- Wintergreen Essential Oil
Wintergreen essential oil is popularly used to treat bone and joint diseases because of its analgesic and relaxing effects.
Its application in the treatment of osteoporosis comes from the fact that the oil overcomes the fragility of bones. It does this because of its richness in salicylate, as well as salicylic acid both of which possess powerful healing properties.
Wintergreen essential oil is also effective in treating and managing bone pain while reducing osteoporosis-induced pain.
For use, you need to rub it on the part of the skeleton that is affected.
- Krill Essential Oils
Krill essential oil comes from Krill, the oceanic powerhouses for Omega-3 fatty acids. Krill refers to a tiny organism from the cold waters in the Atlantic Ocean.
Krill essential oil doesn’t repair cracked and weak bones resulting from osteoporosis, it also improves the flexibility of your bones and joints, enhancing your mobility.
How? Well, Krill essential oil is rich in the healthy fatty acids like Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, and EPA. These fatty acids help to maintain bones and joints, and it also reduces pain.
Since the body is unable to produce its own EPA and DHA, Krill essential oil ensures that you have everything your bones and joints needs for flexible movements, among other functions. The essential oil also contains phospholipids and the carotenoid astaxanthin. These components also enhance your cognitive health, as well as cardiovascular, joint, bone and heart health.
The omega-3 from the oil gets converted to eicosanoids which are powerful hormones necessary for the release of the prostaglandins, the anti-inflammatory agents that could prevent you from osteoporosis.
- Helichrysum essential oil
This multifunctional essential oil is useful in managing osteoporotic pain thanks to its anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and its ability to dissolve blood clots.
Besides bones, it also promotes good health in joints and muscles, as well as the cardiovascular system.
You could also make a helichrysum blend by mixing it with oregano essential oil, and appropriate carrier oil. The
- Eucalyptus and Peppermint Essential Oil Blend
This blend creates a magical combination that cures most health problem. Even though it doesn’t have direct effects on the one, the analgesic properties of the bones will reduce bone disease.
For use, you have to mix equal parts of the oils with 3 spoons of the carrier oil before rubbing it on the part of the body with the bone pain.
- Lemongrass Blend
The lemongrass blend for osteoporosis contains clove, melaleuca, and eucalyptus essential oils. Its application is topical, and it also helps in healing the broken bone. This blend is soothing, and it relieves the pain from the bone fracture.
- The essential oil mixture
To overcome bone pain resulting from a fracture, you might want to apply this oil mixture on the affected area. The oils include chamomile, palmarosa, geranium, lemon, bergamot, rosewood, mandarin, ylang-ylang, and jasmine essential oils.
Using essential oils for osteoporosis
As you may already know, essential oils are potent and highly concentrated. The direct application could cause burning hence the need to dilute the oil using a carrier oil. Carrier oils are often pure vegetable oils. They make essential oils safe.
Even so, you have to test the essential oil on your skin before use, if you have sensitive skin. At the same time, you shouldn’t ingest essential oils as they are not safe.
You may, however, add the oils to a diffuser for use as aromatherapy because of the soothing effects. To treat the pain associated with osteoporosis, topical application, after dilution with the carrier oil is ideal.
Besides these essential oils mentioned above, there are other natural remedies for osteoporosis. Like essential oils should inform your doctor about any alternative form of treatment you might have in mind before you start using it.
The other alternative and natural treatment remedies for osteoporosis include:
You might have heard that tofu or soy milk help in preventing osteoporosis. Well, both are the products of the soybean which is rich in isoflavones.
Isoflavones are estrogen-like compounds that protect the bones from loss of structure. The compounds also stop bone loss.
- Red Clover
The red clover is believed to contain estrogen-like compounds. Since estrogen protects the bone, with the breakdown of bones increasing significantly after menopause, red clover could be all you need to keep osteoporosis at bay. While no scientific evidence points to the fact that red clover treats the disorder, it’s estrogen-like properties could be all you need to prevent osteoporosis.
The horsetail plant contains numerous medicinal effects. Horsetail has silicon which helps prevent bone loss by stimulating the regeneration of bones. However, no clinical trials to support the role of horsetail in osteoporosis are present.
- Black Cohosh
The Native American Medicine has uses the black cohosh as a herb and an insect-repellant for centuries. The herb contains phytoestrogens, estrogen-like compounds which could prevent bone loss, especially in women.
Your lifestyle plays a more significant role in your life than you could imagine. And, the assertion ‘you are what you eat’ couldn’t be any more accurate. Even when genetically predisposed to a disease, your lifestyle has the power to turn things around, leaving you healthier than you could be. The same applies to osteoporosis too, where you can alleviate the pain, or prevent getting osteoporosis by making some adjustments in your lifestyle.
- Eat calcium-rich foods
You wouldn’t have that rigid structure without any calcium in the body. Calcium is at the center of bone synthesis.
The only problem is that the calcium in the bones gets leached every day and you have to replenish the supply. How?
Increase your intake of dairy. You need a daily intake of about 900mg of calcium which you can easily get from your diet. A cup of milk or yogurt gives about a third of your daily recommended calcium intake. Cheese, ghee, and mozzarella are also delicious sources of calcium.
If you are lactose tolerant, you could increase your intake of vegetables like kale, okra, and broccoli. You could also have almond milk.
- Get in as much vitamin D as possible
The absorption of calcium, the bone-forming mineral depends on the availability of vitamin D. Vitamin D facilitates the metabolism of calcium. It also regulates the absorption of calcium. But, that is not all – vitamin D is necessary for the intestines to synthesize calcium-binding proteins.
With all that the vitamin does, how do you make sure that you have enough of it? Well, vitamin D’s synthesis depends on ultraviolet B rays from the sun, hence the name ‘sunshine vitamin.’ It is, therefore, unsurprising to note that people living in regions with insufficient exposure to sunlight report widespread vitamin D deficiencies.
To counter this, you can complement your dose of sunshine with a diet rich in the vitamin. You might want to eat more seafood, egg yolk from pasture-fed chicken, and wild mushrooms.
- Eat more whole foods: legumes, fruits, and legumes
Besides calcium and vitamin D, your body needs vitamin K, magnesium, boron, potassium and other nutrients for healthy bones. A wide variety of legumes, fruits, and grains will improve your general bone health.
What if you break a bone when working out? As the biggest concern to individuals with osteoporosis, as well as those predisposed to the disorder, note that you need to workout despite the condition.
Exercise is an invaluable form of treatment. And, its benefits are immense – from boosting your muscle strength and improving general bone health to improving your balance and coordination.
To prevent severe injuries, find exercises that give a perfect balance of weight and muscle strength. Opt for pilates and resistance training. You should, however, seek the guidance of your doctor if you are experiencing some bone loss already.
Yoga is ideal thanks to the bone-strengthening, yet, low-impact. It is, therefore a preferable choice for prevention and the management of osteoporosis.
Yoga poses like the tree pose, warrior pose, and the triangle pose have the potential of perking up your bone density for the hip, spine and femur bones. Not only that, the weight-bearing poses like the standing poses, arm balances, or inversions ameliorate calcium-retention in most post-menopausal women. On these accounts, yoga helps with osteoporosis.
- Snub These habits
While staying active and eating nutrient-rich foods, you could be self-sabotaging. Snub these habits to prevent osteoporosis
- Quit smoking
- Limit your intake of salt, after hitting menopause
- Cut carbonated drinks and caffeine
- You also need to mind your medication. Long-term use of corticosteroids, heparin or antacids hastens the onset of osteoporosis.’
- Reduce stress: Cortisol, the stress hormone is detrimental to your health and even worse for your bones. So, be kind to yourself. Aromatherapy using essential oils will help you manage stress keeping the body happy.
While your bone mass is determined by the number of bones in your skeletal structure, and a higher density means stronger bones, genetic factors, often influenced by medications and environmental factors determine your bone strength and whether you get osteoporosis or not. Bone density accumulates in childhood and reaches its peak at 25 years. The bone density remains steady for 10 years. After 35 years, men and women lose their bone density at a rate of 0.3 to 0.5 percent. Unfortunately for women, the rate can be as high as 30 percent at menopause.