Osteoporosis Diet for Healthy and Strong Bones
Eating a healthy balanced diet is essential for building strong, dense bones. Our bones grow in length until we reach our late teens. However, our bones continue to increase in density through to our late 20’s. “Bone turnover” or bone regeneration happens throughout our lives where old cells are broken down by osteoclasts and new cells are rebuilt by osteoblasts. When we are younger, this renewal is very fast but as we grow older it slows down considerably with the skeleton taking between 7 and 10 years to renew. Bone density naturally begins to deplete in our mid to late thirties but, for some, bone loss can lead to developing a condition called Osteoporosis.
What is Osteoporosis?
The word Osteoporosis quite literally means ‘porous bones.’ Bones can become fragile, breaking easily and causing significant pain and disability. The most common fractures are to the hip, spine and wrists. Spine fractures can lead to height loss, curvature and compression of internal organs causing further associated issues such as breathlessness, problems with digestion and incontinence. Many sufferers have reported that they fear everyday activities such as a tight hug or picking up a child due to the potential for breaking bones.
What influences whether or not we develop this condition?
Osteoporosis can develop due to deficiencies in diet/nutrition, genetic predisposition or physical activity. Women are more susceptible to developing osteoporosis as the reduction in oestrogen following menopause also leads to bone loss.
Diet can play a significant role in preventing degeneration of and rebuilding our bones. The following nutrients have been found to assist in this:
- Calcium is vital in building bones. Calcium can be found in a range of foods such as milk, yoghurt, cheese, salmon, sardines, kale, and broccoli.
- Magnesium needs to be paired with calcium. Increased calcium intake can deplete magnesium levels. Magnesium is equally vital for bone remineralisation and to prevent soft tissue calcification. Magnesium is available in a spray that can be absorbed through the skin which can also be helpful with reducing the pain caused by osteoporosis.
- Vitamin D increases muscle mass, bone strength and coordination. Vitamin D is in limited food products, mostly in oily fish. Your body can produce vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, but due to risks from UV rays and the need to wear sunscreen, many people supplement with Vitamin D tablets. It is best with both calcium and vitamin D to get as much as you can from diet before considering supplements
- Cut down on salt. Salt depletes calcium and therefore should be taken in moderation (no more than 2.4g a day)
- Oily fish and fish oil supplements have been shown to reduce bone loss. They contain vitamin D and essential fatty acid Omega 3.
- Soy isoflavones strengthen the bone by raising oestrogen levels but this is dependent on having the gut bacteria to convert the diadzein found in soy into equol. Only about 40% of the population have the appropriate gut bacteria which is why studies into soy’s effect on bone density are mixed.
- Nuts and seeds are rich in protein. Flaxseeds and walnuts are rich in omega 3. The potassium in almonds and peanuts work against loss of calcium through the urine.
- Avoid saturated fats, processed foods and sugar.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as it is thought that these reduce acidity in the body and contain flavonoids and phenols that have antioxidant qualities. Particular lycopene-rich fruit and vegetables that have been found to contribute to bone health (women’s lumbar and men’s hips) are: tomatoes, watermelon, peppers, pink grapefruit and guava
Supplements for Osteoporosis
Xylotene is a sweet-tasting sugar that contains two ingredients vital for bone health:
- Xylitol increases absorption of calcium and remineralisation of bones. New research is showing that xylitol produces changes in the gut bacteria that can help convert diadzein to equol (remember the soy results above) which means this could have a massive implication for other conditions that involve age-related oestrogen depletion.
- D-Xylose stimulates synthesis of Chondroitin Sulphate (a chemical that that the body produces to construct cartilage). D-Xylose is considered a helpful aid to increase calcium absorption.
Exercise & Osteoporosis
Exercise helps stem cells create osteoblasts, those bone regenerators. Without exercise, stem cells become fat cells (known as adipocytes) which can contribute to inflammation that is bad for the bones. Supervised weight-bearing and strength training has been found to help with bone mineralisation. Bones and muscles are strengthened by exercise, balance is improved and risk of falls is reduced. Many people with osteoporosis fear exercise due to risk of fracture/breaks but, in fact, an exercise program designed to meet your specific needs can actually reduce risks and help you stay mobile and active for longer.