What is osteopenia?
Osteopenia is a disease in which bone mineral density (BMD) is lower than normal. However, it is not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis, but if left untreated, it can lead to osteoporosis. BMD is a measure of the mineral content of bone. A low mineral content increases the risk of the bone breaking. With osteopenia, the fracture risk is low. Everyone loses bone mass as they age. Women are more likely to get osteopenia than men because they have a lower peak BMD and they have hormonal changes that speed up the process. There are no symptoms.
Is there a natural way to treat osteopenia?
Yes there is. Diet and exercise plays a big role in preventing bone loss as well as increasing bone mass. In addition, you should limit salt, sugar, refined grains, soft drinks and protein. All of these promote calcium excretion. Calcium is one of the important minerals needed for strong bones. Protein is a vital nutrient for the body so you want to include the proper amount in your diet while getting it from healthy sources such as skinless white-meat, low-fat dairy products, beans, nuts and eggs. Coffee and alcohol should also be limited. More than one cup of coffee per day and more than three alcoholic beverages a week can increase your risk of bone loss. Lastly, do not smoke. Smoking also affects calcium levels.
Natural Ways to Treat Osteopenia
Nutrients important for strong bones include calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin D and boron.
About 99 percent of the calcium in the body is in the bones (and teeth). Once calcium is deposited in the bones, it does not stay there forever. If you do not consume enough calcium to provide that one percent needed by the rest of the body, it will borrow it from the bones. Therefore, it is important to meet your daily requirements. Foods rich in calcium include dairy products and green leafy vegetables.
Bones also depend on magnesium to keep them strong. About 75 percent of magnesium in the body is in the bones. Like calcium, this mineral will also leave the bones when there is a deficiency in the rest of the body. Spinach and pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of magnesium. Other foods include kelp, summer squash, turnip and mustard greens, broccoli and halibut.
Vitamin K is needed to convert inactive osteocalcin, a noncollagen protein, to its active form. Osteocalcin is needed to anchor calcium molecules and hold them in place within the bone. Rich sources of vitamin K are dark green leafy vegetables. Other good sources are whole wheat, oats and asparagus.
Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the intestines and maintains adequate serum calcium concentrations. Foods high in vitamin D include salmon, sardines, shrimp, vitamin-D fortified milk, cod and eggs. This vitamin/hormone can also be obtained from sun exposure.
Boron is needed to activate certain hormones, including estrogen and vitamin D. Fruits and vegetables are the main dietary sources of boron.
Exercise is critical in maintaining healthy bones. One hour of moderate exercise three times a week has been shown to prevent bone loss and increase bone mass in postmenopausal women. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, stair climbing and dancing create stress on the bones, stimulating new bone growth. Resistance exercises like lifting weights also stimulate bone growth by muscle pulling against the bone.
So is there a natural way to treat osteopenia? Most definitely. Living a healthy lifestyle, eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet and regular exercise can help strengthen bones.
Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (1998)
Web MD: Osteopenia - https://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/tc/osteopenia-overview
WHFoods: Magnesium - https://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=75
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