Treament For Bone Loss

By Hans Diehl, M.D.

Several treatments for bone loss (osteoporosis) are offered:

1. Estrogen therapy. When used, it slows down bone loss, but increases the risk for uterine and breast cancer, thrombophlebitis (blood clots) and gallbladder disease. It may also aggravate diabetes and hypertension, and women sometimes face periodic uterine biopsies. Over the years, adding progesterone was designed to blunt some of these disturbing estrogen-related side effects. The results of the recent Women's Health Initiative, however, have raised so much concern about the use of these hormones, that many physicians prescribe them now only for special clinical conditions such as severe hot flashes, and even then, only for a short time. Even so, much uncertainty and confusion exists on this subject.

2. Vitamin D. The body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium, but most Americans get more than they need if they have sufficient sun exposure. Additional supplements, in general, have not proven very beneficial for bone loss treatment.

3. Calcium. Various U.S. governmental agencies have recommended 800 to 1,500 mgs a day. The World Health Organization, however, recommends only 500 mgs since calcium deficiency has never been documented anywhere in the world, even with calcium intakes of as little as 300 mgs a day.

4. Exercise. Bones will not thicken and strengthen without regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking. To retain their minerals, bones need to be pressed, pushed, pulled, and twisted against gravity. The gravity factor has been well demonstrated by the early astronauts. Even though they exercised faithfully while in space, their bones showed startling osteoporotic changes on their return. While nearly all types of aerobic exercise are beneficial to the body, what the bones need most to prevent bone loss is a good daily shake-up.

5. If you smoke and you want to help prevent bone loss, stop! It will do your bones a big favor.

6. Medications, such as Fosamax, which is currently under investigation because of excessive jaw fractures. Many of these drugs increase bone density but do not necessarily decrease bone fractures.

7. To prevent bone loss, reduce the amount of animal protein, salt and caffeine in your diet. Osteoporosis appears to be a disease of affluence and excess, rather than one of deficiency. Osteoporosis is a rather complex disease largely related to our dietary lifestyle. The Standard American Diet, high in animal protein, salt, phosphorus (meat, certain soft drinks), and caffeine, causes calcium to be leached from the bones and excreted in the urine. These lifestyle-induced calcium losses seem to override any amount of calcium consumed or swallowed.

Use It or Lose It!

In its efficiency the body deposits minerals when there is extra demand placed upon the bones. Exercise stresses bone structure, producing small electrical charges that can cause calcium and other minerals to be drawn in and held. "Use it or lose it" is an adage that certainly applies to keeping bones strong.


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