If you’re diagnosed with osteoporosis, a condition marked by low bone mineral density, it’s not enough to take a bone drug or pop some calcium, says R. Keith McCormick, DC, author of the book, The Whole Body Approach to Osteoporosis. You need to root out the cause of your osteoporosis.
A number of factors can cause bones to weaken and become vulnerable to fracture. These include nutrient deficiencies, digestive troubles that hinder nutrient absorption, use of bone-robbing medications, a genetic predisposition, and conditions such as hyperthyroidism.
Important Nutrients for Bone Health
For healthy bones, calcium is important, but so are other nutrients. McCormick recommends four basic supplements as the core of your bone improvement plan:
- High-quality multivitamin for overall nutritional support.
- Bone-support supplement providing 1,000 to 1,200 mg/day of calcium and 500 to 600 mg/day magnesium (may also contain vitamin K, vitamin D, boron, silica, and strontium). Avoid supplements using calcium carbonate or magnesium oxide, less beneficial forms of the minerals, advises McCormick.
- Probiotics, containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, for optimal digestion and to reduce inflammation.
- Fish oil, 2-3 gm a day, to supply omega-3 fats that reduce inflammation and bone loss.
Additional Bone Health Supplements
Depending on your health status and how you currently supplement, you may also need:
- Vitamin D3: Test your levels. If you have osteoporosis, take 1,000-2,000 IU per day of the vitamin (or more, if needed, under a physician’s care).
- Vitamin K: Works in concert with vitamin D to build bone. For osteoporosis, take 1 mg/day for general support. (If you take an anticoagulant, no more than 100 mcg/day is advisable.) The MK-7 form of vitamin K2 (which is made by bacteria and found in meat, liver and milk) appears most helpful.
- Protein shake: Exercise to build and strengthen muscle and bone, then down a scoop of whey or hemp/pea/rice protein (20 gm) in a blender drink. Try our protein shake recipes: Chocolate-Cherry Smoothie and Mango Yogurt Smoothie.
- Broad-spectrum antioxidant: Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress and quell inflammation. Cover your bases with a broad-spectrum product because, “You don’t know who you are biochemically,” says McCormick. “Quercetin might work well for you, but vitamin C or E might work better for someone else.”
- Greens drink: Start your day with a greens drink. It will alkalinize your system and help prevent calcium from being leeched from your bones.
- pH test strips: Monitor your body’s acid/alkaline balance by checking your urine pH (above 6.6 is optimal). If you’re very acidic, a potassium supplement can help you get on safer ground quickly.
- Amino acid product: Amino acids help build muscle and bone, and also aid with hormone production. If you have problems digesting food or absorbing nutrients, you may be deficient. Take 5 to 10 grams daily of a blend, which may contain L-glutamine, L-arginine, L-lysine, L-ornithine, and glycine.
- Creatine and D-ribose: Chances are, if you’ve lost bone, you’re depleting muscle tissue, too. Creatine, an amino acid complex, and D-ribose, a natural sugar, help boost muscle growth.
- Arabinogalactan: Arabinogalactan (AG), a soluble fiber with prebiotic properties, boosts good bacteria, enhances nutrient absorption, and fights inflammation—all essential for bone health.
What is the Difference Between Osteoporosis or Osteopenia?
Osteoporosis: Bone mineral density (BMD) that, when measured on a DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan, is indicated by a T-score of less than or equal to -2.5—which is 2.5 or more standard deviations below the mean peak bone mass of a young, healthy female.
Osteopenia: BMD that, when measured on a DEXA scan, is indicated by a T-score between -1.0 and -2.5. Osteopenia is marked by lower than normal peak BMD, but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis.