Osteoporosis - Osteopenia

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Get tested

At the time of writing, the gold standard osteoporosis testing method is still dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, usually abbreviated to DXA -- it used to be called DEXA.

There are less expensive and less invasive methods i.e. without the x-rays, but until we have better consensus on their reliability, stick with the mainstream on this one.

We need those accurate ‘numbers’ because, whatever is done to help, there will be no other way of knowing if it is making a true difference unless we compare ‘before’ and ‘after’ x-rays of the bones.

The following article has been developed from working with real people with actual osteoporosis or osteopenia. These are serious problems and we have certainly gone by the numbers over long time-frames to ask the question if these approaches actually work, the answer is that they can and do help...

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Vitamin D

Good vitamin D levels are essential for the health of the bones.

The best way to test vitamin D status is to look at the levels of 25(OH)D, i.e. 25-hydroxyvitamin D). If a person has any osteoporosis or osteopenia, then get the levels of 25(OH)D up to at least 60 ng/ml and preferably into the 70s or 80s.

100 ng/ml is the upper safe limit but a person has to be getting above 200 ng/ml to be running any real danger of toxicity and it is extremely rare to get even close to those levels.

Conventional medicine now usually tests for vitamin D if someone has any degree of osteopenia however, when it is at a sub-optimal level, they are still stuck with the old method of giving one massive dose of vit D once a month.

This is not ideal, people will get better results in their bone health by getting their vitamin D levels up more naturally and, by far, the best way to do this is by getting the skin exposed to the sun for a safe period of time between the hours of 10am and 2pm. This is when the UVB waves that help make the best kind of vitamin D from the sun are at their highest.

For a light skinned person, the best dose is around 10 to 20 minutes, or until the skin colours up just one shade from where it normally is. A darker skinned person may need longer but again can use their skin tone to tell when the sun has done its job. Obviously, you must avoid burning your skin in any instance but this regular exposure to midday sunlight can be of tremendous importance to arresting the decline of bone health and assisting with its regeneration.

Another option is to use Cod-liver oil. Not so long ago that would be a tough prescription but modern filtration methods now have Cod-liver oil supplements in liquid or capsule form that are easily taken and tolerated. There are other good food sources of vitamin D as shown in the picture below.

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Calcium - not by itself!

Calcium is important but taking it by itself is unnatural and potentially harmful. Recent studies have proven this but prescribing habits die hard. If you are taking Calcium by itself then stop, change direction.

There are a number of well-balanced 'bone support' supplements readily available in the commercial marketplace. Carefully look at what's available before you choose, it certainly will have some calcium in it but it will also have just as much of an emphasis on equally important bone nutrients such as Boron, Zinc, Vitamin B6 and Magnesium. etc.

In my own practice, I am less likely to recommend a mineral supplement and more likely to recommend my patients get the extra minerals they need from their diet. However, this might depend on them being open to eating more slow-cooked meat, or things like bone-broths etc. not to everyone's taste!

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Liver health

Your liver has so many jobs to do in your body that if it were a factory it is estimated it would need to cover the size of at least 3 city blocks to do its daily jobs! As well as the detoxification that the liver is famous for it is also the manufacturing plant of the body and many of the enzymes and proteins that are essential to healthy bone formation are initially made in the liver.

The liver is called 'the herbalist's favourite organ', we have some potent remedies from Nature to support and strengthen it, which clearly make a positive difference when needed. The problem is that most people don't know when their liver needs help because it hardly ever hurts.

Detoxification is a big subject with many myths and misconceptions. If it is something that you may need to direct your attention to then start by reading here.

By the way, if you have reason to believe that Fosomax type drugs you are taking for osteoporosis are giving you some unwelcome side-effects or you can just feel that they are hard on your body, then look for the best quality St Mary's thistle, it may also be called Milk thistle, product you can find and take a daily dose of it for as long as you are taking the drugs. There is nothing better than St Mary's to support a liver that is struggling to deal with the toxicity of a drug - more on it here.


Silybum marianum (St Mary's thistle)

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Tonic herbs

The great majority of people who get osteoporosis have a constitutional nature that is cooler and dryer. There is a link at the end in the section called 'constitutional medicine' that shows you how to work this out and, particularly if it turns out that you do have the 'EB' constitution, then you must try taking some tonics to see how much better they can make you feel in general,

Tonics are remedies that have an uplifting, nourishing and energising effect. They help the body to heal itself, and are the most revered of remedies in all the old cultures of medicine. Two of the best are:

Withania: more about this deep acting tonic herb from the Indian subcontinent here
Panax Ginseng: more about the 'Emperor tonic' from Chinese medicine here


Panax ginseng

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Food matters

Osteoporosis is greatly influenced by deficiency. You must ask yourself two questions:

1) Have I lost too much weight for my bones to keep their strength?

f you are too thin, you must start eating more. If you do not have enough of an appetite to achieve this, then use the reliable Gentian & Ginger tonic as talked about here.

2) Would I score myself at least 7 out of 10 for my diet?

Anything below a 7 means you must give a lot more attention to this crucial area, more here

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Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general.

Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences. There's a brief introduction here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd