Diet and lifestyle advice for your bones should be personalized, based on lab tests, dietary habits, and risk factors. Bone loss occurs as we age, and the impact is felt even more on those women who undergo specific cancer treatments and take medications that strip the body of vital calcium.
Before jumping on the osteoporosis medication bandwagon, consider what you can do to support your bone health naturally.
Here are my foundational osteoporosis/osteopenia recommendations, based on the latest science.
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1.Wear a weighted vest while you walk (stopping to do some jumping jacks!)
A small study of postmenopausal women found those who wore a weighted vest while participating in an exercise program that included jumping three times a week prevented significant hip bone loss. (J Ger A Biol Sci Med Sci, Sep 2000)
My favorite vest is a weighted walking vest made for women. It’s black, so it’s stylish, and you can choose 5 or 8 pounds of weight to start, with the option of adding more weight down the road. Instead of going over the head, you simply zip and go! The bonus? Compared to other vest choices, it’s reasonably priced too.
Dr Susan Brown’s book Better Bones Better Body is like the osteoporosis bible! She really explains that bone health is far less about calcium or estrogen….and more about creating that perfect acid-base balance and so much more. She gives straightforward advice about diet, exercise and other lifestyle components that put you on the right track for effective bone building. An easy read and well worth your time.
Higher acid levels increase as we age. In a clinical trial, women taking alkalinizing compounds to combat diet-induced acid loads realized significant bone mass density increases at the lumbar spine. (Nutrients, Apr 2018) The only way you will find out if you are in a more acidic or alkaline state is to test! You may be eating right or doing what you think you need to do to protect your bones. But you are an individual, and you might not be doing enough to create a more alkaline state necessary to preserve bone. These alkaline strips are so easy to read and are very responsive to urine or saliva. They will help you measure what is going on inside your body so you can make adjustments in your diet or supplement regimen accordingly.
Calcium and Magnesium. If your body doesn’t get enough calcium from food or supplements, it robs it from your bones. Postmenopausal women need 1,200 mg of calcium per day and most are lucky to meet 50% of that requirement, especially if they are eating a more plant-based diet. Supplementing with 500 mg of calcium citrate can bridge the gap. Calcium and magnesium should be taken together since magnesium ensures calcium is absorbed and utilized by the body. I recommend a formula that offers a safe amount of both minerals and is the top pick (for price and quality assurance) by an independent agency that evaluates dietary supplements, ConsumerLab.com. Take 3 veg caps per day, not 6 as recommended on the bottle, especially if you get some dairy or other dietary calcium sources.
Vitamin D. Osteoporotic fractures are more common in women who are deficient in Vitamin D, a hormone that is the most important regulator of calcium absorption. There is emerging evidence that the optimal blood level for Vitamin D3 for fracture prevention is 70-80 nmol/L. Most women will not be at that range. I recommend getting tested and until you get results, start a foundational dose of 2000 IU D3 per day. My choice is a vegan D3 derived from lichen in an organic food blend chewable without added sugar or stevia. And yes, this is a Consumerlab.com approved brand!
Take 1 chewable per day.
Vitamin K1/K2. Analysis of 19 studies on postmenopausal women with osteoporosis found that vitamin K2 (MK-7) improved vertebral bone mineral density and prevented fractures. For optimal health, both vitamin K1 and K2 are suggested. I recommend a whole food supplement that contains 100 mcg of MK-7. Consider 2 capsules per day (the label suggests 1 as the daily dose) because most research shows bone protection at 180 mcg MK-7 per day.
Collagen. The structure and flexibility of our bones depends on healthy collagen. Studies suggest collagen supports calcium absorption and encourages bone formation. Hydrolyzed collagen supplements can help with repairing existing collagen and marine-sourced collagen is best absorbed. Powders are available, but cumbersome and the taste is, well, interesting. I recommend 3 capsules per day of a Consumerlab.com approved product that passed the heavy metal test. Contains egg, chicken bone broth and fish collagen.
And there are no bones about it. Any time you choose to take supplements, check with your health care practitioner.